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White House Calls Apparent Use of Whips at Border 'Horrific'

Border Patrol says matter is being looked into
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2021 6:27 PM CDT
White House: Use of Whips at Border 'Obviously Horrific'
Migrants wade back across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021.   (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

(Newser) – White House press secretary Jen Psaki says that images of federal agents apparently using whips on Haitian migrants at the border are "obviously horrific" and that the administration is trying to learn more about what happened. "I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don't have additional details," Psaki said Monday, per NBC. Disturbing images captured by photographer Paul Ratje on Sunday appeared to show Border Patrol agents on horseback swinging whips and charging at migrants.

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The El Paso Times reports that one agent "swung his whip menacingly" at migrants wading across the Rio Grande and shouted: "Let's go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!" Psaki said it is understandable that people are outraged by the images, per Politico. She said that if whips or similar objects were used against migrants, "of course they should never be able to do it again."

Homeland Security head Alejandro Mayorkas, however, said Monday that the facts haven't been determined. He said agents use long reins, not whips, to control their horses. US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, speaking at the same press conference, said that horse patrols are an important part of the government response to the border situation, but that the matter will be investigated to ensure "we do not have any activity that could be construed as a response to a law enforcement effort that is unacceptable," per Axios.

Officials say the number of migrants camped under a bridge in the border community of Del Rio, Texas, peaked at nearly 15,000 Saturday. Three planes carrying migrants back to Haiti left San Antonio on Sunday and officials say more than 6,000 people had been removed from the area as of Monday, the AP reports. Mayorkas, calling it a "challenging and heartbreaking situation," warned migrants not to come to the border. He said he has asked the Defense Department to assist the operation. (Read more US-Mexico border stories.)

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