During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, Republican Senator Mike Lee grilled Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas for failing to defend Border Patrol agents from the debunked accusation that they “whipped” Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas in September.
The agents were photographed spinning their reins in an effort to keep fleeing migrants away from their horses. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and other prominent members of the administration joined congressional Democrats in condemning the Border Patrol agents as inhumane and racist as the images went viral on social media.
Lee argued that the unfounded allegation, which began in the press and was fueled by members of the Biden administration, hurt the morale of border personnel as they work to combat the steepest rise in illegal immigration in the nation’s history.
“Why on earth did you not defend them? Has anyone in your department ever become aware of how one uses split reins when riding a horse?,” Lee asked Mayorkas in outrage.
“Number one: I put one-hundred percent and I’m incredibly proud to do so. Number two: I stand with the men and women of our department through and through, and I will not prejudge facts before…,” Mayorkas replied before Lee interjected.
“Did you defend them when they were being attacked for whipping people, which they were not?,” the senator demanded.
Mayorkas responded: “Senator, what I said quite clearly is that the independent investigation will determine the facts and those facts will drive the outcome. Nothing less and nothing more.”
In late September, before Mayorkas had gathered all the evidence, he condemned the agents and said their actions exemplified America’s “systemic racism,” adding that it does not “reflect who we are, who we aspire to be for the integrity and values of our truly heroic personnel in the Department of Homeland Security.”
Lee called the secretary’s condemnation of the agents “nothing short of morale crushing,” especially considering it came as Border Patrol agents were struggling to address a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Del Rio.
“If you want to maintain, or obtain, operational control of the border, which you do not now have, this is not a way to get there,” Lee asserted.
Lee’s questions came after Senator Chuck Grassley pressed Mayorkas about recent reports that the Biden administration could compensate migrant families separated under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy with up to $450,000-per-person in legal settlements.
Mayorkas dodged on the issue and referred the questions to the Department of Justice, which he says will be adjudicating these federal tort claims.