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Psaki Accuses Border Patrol of Using ‘Brutal and Inappropriate’ Methods against Haitian Migrants

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki accused Border Patrol agents of using “brutal” methods against migrants crossing the Rio Grande into Texas, during a press briefing at the White House.

Psaki said officials had watched “horrific video of the CBP officers on horses using brutal and inappropriate measures against innocent people.” Psaki noted that there is an ongoing “independent investigation” of the incident, and that officers involved “were placed on administrative leave and will not be interacting with any migrants.”

Journalist April Ryan also asked Psaki about border agents using “reins or whips, whatever, with the intent to lash, to hurt people, to keep them away from the border.” Psaki reiterated that the investigation into the agents’ conduct was ongoing, adding later that President Biden was “horrified” at the footage.

Multiple outlets reported that Border Patrol officers on horseback were using whips to corral Haitian migrants crossing into Del Rio, Texas. However, video of the incident appears to show agents wielding reins without striking migrants. Around 14,000 migrants arrived in Del Rio last weekend, while the number was reduced to 8,600 by Tuesday, according to a Val Verde County official.

Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz suggested on Monday that agents were using longer reins in order to maintain control of their horses in difficult terrain.

Controlling 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,” Ortiz told reporters at a press conference.

“I’m pretty sure and confident that that’s exactly what was happening,” Ortiz added, “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.”

One unnamed Border Patrol agent told Townhall’s Julio Rosas that mounted agents often swing their reins, as they can be seen doing in the video, to keep people from getting too close to their horses, which could result in injury.

The Border Patrol union blasted Psaki and Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday for condemning the officers’ actions.

Psaki and Mayorkas made “irrational claims about being horrified by images that show Border Patrol agents on horseback using authorized equipment and techniques to deter and prevent a large group of people from illegally entering the United States in Del Rio, Texas,” the union said in a statement.

“The shameless hypocrisy demonstrated by Psaki and Mayorkas in criticizing the agents in the field who were left to deal with this unstable situation without any sensible strategic plan by the Administration is far more horrific,” the statement added.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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