Del Rio: Anger as border boss defends using ‘whips’ in round-up of Haitian migrants: ‘We were protecting horses’

Rebuttal from vice president of union follows concerns from Biden administration figures about ‘troubling’ images

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 22 September 2021 13:37 BST

US officials to probe whip-like cords used against migrants

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The second-in-command at a union for US Border Patrol has tried to defend the use of horse reins around migrants in Del Rio, Texas, where tens of thousands have arrived from Haiti.

Recent images from Del Rio have hown migrants fleeing Border Patrol agents on horseback who are wielding their reins like whips, with a Reuters witness catching an agent unfurl and swing one in front of migrants.

Footage has also shown a Border Patrol agent appear to threaten migrants with a horse rein brandished like a whip, which has been condemned by both Biden administration figures and critics of the Democrat.

The vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, Art Del Cueto, has however defended the Border Patrol agents for trying to control the flow of migrants into Texas.

He told Fox News on Tuesday that agents “were not whipping anyone” and were “[not] assigned whips,” and referred to the horse reins as a form of protection for the agents, horses and Haitians.

“What they do is a training technique that has been shown to them to make sure that no one takes over their horse,” Mr Del Cueto told the right-wing network.

“It was to protect the horse, to protect the rider, and to protect the individual that was trying to cause chaos and knock down that rider from that horse.”

Mr Del Cueto went on to allege that agents “twirl” the horse reins to ensure “everything was done correctly”, and that concerns about Border Patrol agents in Del Rio were falsified.

The union vice president also accused the Biden administration of failing to adequately respond to the crisis, after Biden administration figures appeared to hit out at images of migrants threatened with whips.

An agent for US Border Patrol tries to stop a migrant entering the US

Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, has said he would investigate the “facts” of what had happened in Del Rio in recent days. As has vice president Kamala Harris said she is as "deeply troubled” and would speak with Mr Mayorkas.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also waded-in, and said on Tuesday that she “can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate”, and that footage of migrants getting rounded-up was “horrible to watch”.

More than 10,000 Haitians have assembled underneath the International Bridge since the start of last week, and some 6,000 are still at a temporary camp.

Migrants interact with Border Patrol agents

Texas governor Greg Abbott has said the numbers could have reached as high as 16,000, before the White House began to repatriate a number of Haitians back to the country, beset by an earthquake and the assassination of a president within two months.

This article was amended on 23 September 2021 to clarify that the images appeared to show the agents brandishing their reins as whips. It had previously referred to ‘whips’. The article also previously stated that recent images appeared to show migrants being whipped but, while that was claimed by some, the Independent has been unable to verify this. A reference to the ‘use of horse reins on migrants’ has been changed to the ‘use of horse reins around migrants’.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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