Acting CBP chief 'shocked' by images of Border Patrol on horses, as administration doubles down

Del Rio residents decry ‘tragic’ crisis at the border

Lee and Najla Weathersbee, residents of Del Rio, express their fears as thousands of migrants wait at the border to enter the U.S.

FIRST ON FOX: The acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told staff in an email Friday that he is “shocked” by images that show Border Patrol agents on horseback blocked Haitian migrants in Del Rio – just hours after President Biden repeated a false claim that the images show migrants being “whipped” and promised to make them “pay.”

“Along with many of you, I was shocked by the images from Del Rio of Horse Patrol Units that have dominated the media in recent days,” acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in the email. “What those images appear to portray is terrible and is not who we are.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

Miller was referring to images that show agents on horseback last week blocking Haitian migrants from entering the U.S. Initial claims that agents were using “whips” were debunked by officials and agents, who noted the migrants were using long reins to control the horse, and were twirling their reins to move the horse forward.

Since then, additional video has emerged which also fails to show agents using whips or migrants being whipped. Meanwhile, the photographer who took the initial images that sparked the “whips” claim said: “I’ve never seen them whip anyone.”

But Democrats and activists promoted the narrative, with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claiming that the images “painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.” Mayorkas also claimed that his initial comments on Monday, in which he appeared to back agents alongside Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, were made before he actually saw the pictures.

Meanwhile, President Biden went all in on the “whip” claims.

“To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped – it’s outrageous,” Biden said, making a whipping motion with his hand. “I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.”

The comments infuriated Border Patrol agents, who accused Biden of tainting the ongoing investigation and fumed at a lack of defense by leadership.

“Nobody was struck by a rein, not one person was struck by a rein, not one person was run over by those horses. They used the tactics they were trained to use, to do the job [Biden] sent them out to do — these are executive branch employees,” Brandon Judd, head of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News on Friday. “He sent them out there to do the job, and now he’s criticizing them because his base wants them to.”

Miller’s comments were more muted than Biden’s inflammatory remarks and avoided any claims about “whipping,” but he did not divert substantially from the narrative from the administration.

In his email, he said that he requested the investigation and promises: “As the facts are established, we will take the appropriate action.”

“We all agree that any abuse — regardless of whether it is verbal or physical — is unacceptable. As we await the outcome of the investigation, I want to reiterate the importance of holding ourselves to the highest standards. Let me be clear, that is what we have overwhelmingly seen in Del Rio. I am immensely proud of our workforce, and I know who we are.”

In the email, he goes on to tell staff that they have “risen to the challenge under extraordinary circumstances” in the face of the migrant crisis in Del Rio — which saw DHS surge resources and agents, including the horse patrol units it would condemn and suspend just days later. CBP announced Saturday that it is reopening the port of entry in Del Rio.

Miller noted there were now no migrants under the bridge, where there had once been approximately 15,000, and told staff that the agency had their backs.

“Time and time again you are asked to rise to the occasion, and you get the job done” he said. “We are here for you.”

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