Border Patrol chief publicly backs agents falsely accused by Biden of whipping Haitian migrants

The head of U.S. Border Patrol on Wednesday backed his agents who were deployed on horseback to handle a crisis at the border in Del Rio in 2021 — some of whom were falsely accused by President Biden and other top Democrats of whipping migrants. Chief Raul Ortiz spoke at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday in McAllen, Texas and in his opening statement made a direct reference to the 2021 incident where agents encountered predominantly Haitian migrants trying to cross into the United States. “As a former horse patrol agent, I can attest to how vital horse patrol units are in responding to remote and harsh locations. Last year’s [sic] mass migration event in Del Rio was chaotic. We had over 20,000 people show up in one place in a short period of time. Even so, we were able to provide food, water and medical care without a single loss of life,” he said. BORDER PATROL CHIEF FUMED AT BIDEN ADMIN’S HANDLING OF WHIPPING CONTROVERSY, EMAILS SHOW The crisis began in September 2021, when thousands of migrants camped out under the International Bridge in Del Rio. As they moved back and forth across the river, they encountered agents on horseback. Photographs from the incident were misinterpreted by commentators, reporters and some Democrats as showing the agents whipping migrants. In fact, the agents were using reins to control their horses, were not carrying whips and did not whip anyone.  Democrats and top officials demanded action based on the false narrative, which was even fueled by the president himself. “To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped — it’s outrageous,” Biden told reporters, making a whipping motion with his hand. “I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now, and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.” HOMELAND DEMS BOOKED TRAVEL, CALLED WITNESSES BEFORE PULLING OUT OF BORDER HEARING, REPUBLICANS SAY  Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas did not explicitly endorse the whipping claims, but deferred to an ongoing investigation while condemning the images. “Our nation saw horrifying images that do not reflect who we are. We know that those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism,” Mayorkas said at a press conference. The subsequent investigation, which did not reveal its findings until the summer of 2022, found “no evidence” that agents struck migrants and found that they were not carrying whips, but it still faulted agents on more minor infractions. An agent was accused of using “denigrating and offensive” language against migrants regarding national origin and gender, and of having maneuvered a horse around a child in an “unsafe manner” – while agents were said to have used “unnecessary use of force” to drive the migrants back. On Wednesday, Ortiz said he was proud of what his agents did that day, and took responsibility for what took place. CBP FINDS ‘NO EVIDENCE’ BORDER PATROL AGENTS WHIPPED HAITIAN MIGRANTS BUT STILL SEEKS TO DISCIPLINE THEM “I remain proud of the work of our horse patrol units and what we did in Del Rio. As the chief of the Border Patrol, I am ultimately responsible for all operational decisions. To that point and as a senior field commander during that response, I accepted and continue to accept full responsibility for the actions taken,” he said. Ortiz had previously backed his agents in other settings. In 2022 he had expressed confidence that the agents would be exonerated. Fox News also reported on emails from around the time of the incident, obtained by the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project via FOIA, where Ortiz had fumed over the administration’s failure to support agents. “This horse business is awfully negative but there are great efforts occurring and we aren’t highlighting any of them,” he said in a furious email. “Everyday we are providing lifesaving efforts to migrants under the bridge.” “Our agents are being assaulted and we aren’t saying a word,” Ortiz said. Ortiz then also noted incidents in which Haitian migrants on removal transportation had hijacked buses and attempted to escape as well as the long hours they were putting in. “The bus contractors and pilots are dealing with Haitians escaping or trying to overrun drivers and we stay quiet. Agents and pro staff are working 14 hour days in difficult conditions, nothing said,” he said. 
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