Washington, DC – The White House quickly condemned members of the U.S. Border Patrol for attacking undocumented immigrants at the border and called for an investigation after reporters mistook the flying reins of agents on horseback for whips.
“For all you Social Media Warriors out there: these are NOT whips. And no, Border Patrol agents are NOT ‘whipping’ people,” the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) wrote in a post to its official Facebook page on Monday night.
“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,” the FOP clarified. “Thanks for coming to our TED talk.”
Controversy erupted on Monday when 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, 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.
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
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.
Border Patrol agents on horseback were seen using whips and horses to block the path of incoming asylum seekers during one of the busiest immigration seasons in decades. pic.twitter.com/kuooFgnBD8
— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 20, 2021
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.
Border patrol is mounted on horseback rounding up Haitian refugees with whips.
This is unfathomable cruelty towards people fleeing disaster and political ruin. The administration must stop this. pic.twitter.com/BSjT91NSj0
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) September 20, 2021
But U.S. Border Patrol agents do not carry whips, the agency has confirmed.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the videos horrible to watch at her daily press briefing on Monday, NBC News reported.
“I have seen some of the footage,” Psaki told reporters. “I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don’t have additional details.”
“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it’s acceptable or appropriate,” she added.
Vice President Kamala Harris also weighed in, FOX News reported.
“What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible,” Harris told reporters. “And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there. But human beings should never be treated that way. And I’m deeply troubled about it. And I’ll also be talking to Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas about it today.”
VP HARRIS: "What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were is horrible…Human beings should never be treated that way."
"…As a member of the Western Hemisphere, we've gotta support some very basic needs…" pic.twitter.com/Q8l5S6W8gi
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) September 21, 2021
Mayorkas has already said that the images being circulated depict the reins on the horses, not whips, CNN reported.
“[B]ut we are going to investigate the facts to ensure that the situation is as we understand it to be, and if it’s anything different we will respond accordingly,” he promised.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the long reins that are seen in the footage are used to ensure control of the horse, according to CNN.
Chief Ortiz said the mounted patrol units have played an important role in the agency’s response to the crisis in Del Rio.
“As you know, we have about half of this area locked down, and we’re working on trying to get the other side of the bridge completely locked down,” he said.
The chief said he had asked the horse patrol unit to do an assessment of the situation on the border on Sunday, CNN reported.
“As was witnessed in the video and some of the pictures, the migrants were going back-and-forth,” Chief Ortiz explained. “We do not know who are the smugglers or who are the migrants, so it’s important that those Border Patrol agents maintain a level of security for both themselves and for the migrant population.”
He said operating on horseback on the riverbank is difficult and agents work hard at maintaining control of the horses “so we do not get in a position where we injure a migrant as they’re trying to make that treacherous trek across that river is probably more important than anything,” CNN reported.
“And I’m pretty sure and confident that that’s exactly what was happening, but we will certainly look into the matter, to make sure that we do not have any activity that could be construed as a response to a law enforcement effort that is unacceptable,” the border patrol chief said.
He refused to comment on the allegations the reins had been used as whips, according to CNN.
“You’re assuming facts that have not yet been determined,” Chief Ortiz said.