Washington, DC – The National Police Association filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on Wednesday against two federal agencies to get copies of communications, investigations, and other records associated with accusations that mounted border patrol agents were “whipping” migrants trying to illegally cross the border from Mexico.
The complaint filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on June 15 alleged that the federal agencies have failed to respond to a February request for the records about the investigation.
NPA said in a press release on June 16 that the investigation into the allegations border patrol agents had been whipping people at the border were quickly proven false but the agents remain on administrative duty pending the conclusion of an investigation that should have cleared and returned them to full duty months ago.
The national police organization claimed in its press release that President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to find a way to punish the border patrol agents even though they did nothing wrong.
“Recent media reports indicate the Administration is planning to charge the agents with ‘administrative violations’ to save face and prevent the need to admit the whipping accusations were false, defamatory, and unconscionable,” National Police Association spokeswoman Betsy Brantner Smith said.
“We believe our lawsuit will result in DHS and CBP conforming to the law and handing over the communications and documents that prove the Administration knew their accusations against these agents were false and took no corrective action,” Brantner Smith explained.
The controversy erupted after Al Jazeera and Reuters released footage of mounted agents trying to push back undocumented Haitian immigrants who were illegally crossing the U.S. border near Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 19, 2021, CNN reported.
None of the photos or videos show agents using their reins to strike migrants.
The videos showed Border Patrol agents on horseback trying to stop a flood of illegal immigrants as they crossed from Mexico into the United States.
Al Jazeera reported that the migrants were actually trying to return to their families that were camping under a bridge near the entry point in Del Rio, but they had gone back to Mexico to shop for groceries and were returning to their illegal encampment when the agents tried to stop them.
The video showed the migrants completely ignored the commands of the mounted agents to turn back.
One video showed some of the men crossing over were standing behind groups of women and children for protection from the agents trying to protect the border.
At times, the scene became chaotic as Haitian immigrants tried to dodge the agents on horseback that were blocking their path.
Video showed the agents racing back and forth on their horses along the riverbank in an effort to stop the breach.
But after the videos were released to the public, there was a massive outcry by viewers who thought they were seeing whips in the hands of the law enforcement officers, CNN reported.
The chief of the U.S. Border Patrol has said agents do not carry whips, and that what was seen in the video were reins as the border patrol struggled to control their mounts along a riverbank with men, women, and children darting between them.
For all you Twitter warriors out there: these are NOT whips. And no, Border Patrol agents are NOT "whipping" people.
They are REINS… Stay with us here, like a steering wheel is used to drive a car, the reins are used to “drive” the horse.
Thanks for coming to our TED talk. pic.twitter.com/r0n2kXHqvy
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) September 21, 2021
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas initially said he supported the border patrol agents struggling to stop the influx of illegal immigrants, FOX News reported.
Mayorkas told reporters that the images being circulated depicted the reins on the horses, not whips, CNN reported.
But under extreme pressure from Democrats, the Homeland Security secretary changed his tune the next day.
“I was horrified by what I saw,” Mayorkas told CNN. “I’m going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people.”
He told an outraged congressional committee that the border patrol agents featured in the videos of the altercation with the Haitian migrants had been taken off the front lines, FOX News reported.
Mayorkas said the agents had been put on desk duty pending an investigation into the incident.
An administration official argued that nothing has been done to penalize the accused border patrol agents because they were not stripped of their badges, guns, or police powers, FOX News reported.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz has backed his mounted agents and repeatedly tried to explain to officials and the media that there were no whips used on migrants and that long reins are used to control the horses.
Chief Ruiz met with multiple congressional committees, including the Congressional Black Caucus, to answer questions about the incident and his agency’s policies, FOX News reported.
A source with inside information on the investigation into the incident told FOX News that U.S. Department of Justice investigators were looking into potential civil rights violations by the border patrol agents since it didn’t appear they would be able to prosecute them for violating agency policy.
A senior White House official told FOX News that the Biden administration thought the mounted border patrol officers who used their reins to drive their horses should face a suspension of at least a few days with pay.
The lawsuit filed by NPA alleged that DHS and CBP violated FOIA by failing to issue a determination on its findings within the time period allowed by law, according to the press release.
The complaint also accused the federal agencies of failing to conduct a reasonable search and failing to produce responsive, nonexempt records.