News4Jax is running a viral social media claim through the Trust Index about U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents allegedly whipping Haitian migrants along the Rio Grande as they tried to get into the United States. The dramatic scene has drawn widespread condemnation from the White House, politicians and the public.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is pledging to swiftly conduct an investigation into what happened, calling this incident along the Rio Grande “extremely troubling.”
But are horseback mounted CBP agents really using whips to corral a large group of migrants? The News4Jax Trust Index team is giving this claim a rating of not true.
This is the reason why:
A video originally captured by Al Jazeera shows U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback trying to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande on Sunday. But it’s an image captured by photographer Paul Ratje that’s led to widespread criticism.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley tweeted: “Use of whips on refugees? Disturbing and unacceptable. This must end immediately.”
Use of whips on refugees? Disturbing and unacceptable. This must end immediately. https://t.co/C28fk2QFqL— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 20, 2021
The Intercept journalist Ryan Devereaux tweeted: “Border Patrol agents on horseback cracking whips and charging into crowds of Haitian asylum seekers in Texas, shouting at them to go back to Mexico.”
Border Patrol agents on horseback cracking whips and charging into crowds of Haitian asylum seekers in Texas, shouting at them to go back to Mexico — strong reporting from @psskow on the situation in Del Rio/Ciudad Acuña https://t.co/ZVeS6j3gnM— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) September 19, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “The images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol—including the of whips—are unacceptable.”
The images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol—including the use of whips—are unacceptable— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 21, 2021
They are fleeing violence and natural disaster and seeking protection in our country
The Administration must uphold our refugee laws and stop Title 42 deportations
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, however, denied that Border Patrol agents used whips, explaining to reporters that agents use long reins to control their horses — and not whips — and saying that reigns were being held by CBP agents. Mayorkas also added that a full investigation is warranted.
“One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child. That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require. Please understand, let me be quite clear, that is not acceptable. We will not tolerate mistreatment, and we will address it with full force based on the facts that we learn,” Mayorkas said.
Ratje, the photographer who took the controversial photo, also weighed in on what happened, telling NPR and a news station the following about what he captured with his lens: “Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses, and that’s when the whole thing happened. I never saw them whip anyone. The agent was swinging the reigns that to some can be misconstrued when your looking at the pictures.”
The News4JAX Trust Index team also looked deeper into CBP policy, which says: “Whips are not issued or authorized for use.”
USA Today reports a retired CBP agent told The Arizona Republic that the CBP agent may have been trying to keep the migrants from getting too close to the horses because, if someone gets close enough to control the horse’s head by grabbing the reins, that could lead to serious injury or death of the agent or the migrant.
So, does how CBP agents handled this situation deserve an investigation? The answer is yes. But to the claim that horseback mounted CBP agents were seen whipping Haitian migrants trying to get into the U.S., the News4JAX Trust Index Team rates this claim as not true.