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CBP report finds 'no evidence' of border agent whipping Haitian migrants, despite viral photo

Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico
Daniel Becerril
A U.S. border patrol officer grabs the shirt of a migrant trying to return to the United States on the banks of the Rio Grande, after having crossed from the United States into Mexico to buy food on September 19, 2021.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigation found several faults in the U.S. Border Patrol’s handling of last September’s arrival of tens of thousands of Haitians at the Del Rio border.

While the investigation resulted from an image that seemed to depict a Border Patrol officer whipping an asylum-seeker, the CBP report released on Friday said there is no known evidence this happened.

Investigators found “failures at multiple levels of the agency.” The findings also included a lack of appropriate policies and training.

The report cited inadequate leadership and multiple instances of agents using “inappropriate and denigrating” language toward some Haitians at the border.

Additionally, they concluded that several individuals acted dangerously and unprofessionally during the incident. Four of these people are being considered for disciplinary actions, including one agent that shouted derogatory remarks at asylum-seekers regarding their sex and country of origin.

Last September, tens of thousands of Haitian migrants suddenly arrived at the Del Rio border, overwhelming state and local authorities.

Outrage over a photo that seemed to show an officer on horseback whipping a migrant while the agent surveyed the river led to the investigation. However, the report did not find evidence of agents whipping asylum-seekers despite the circulated image.

According to immigration experts, last September’s sudden influx of Haitians at the border was due to pandemic-caused immigration delays.

Also, the earthquake in 2010 led to the continuous displacement of many Haitians, many of which arrived at Del Rio.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Border and Immigration News Desk, including the Catena Foundation and Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

Carolina Cuellar reports for Texas Public Radio from the city of McAllen where she covers business and border issues. Her position is made possible by Report For America — a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.