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4 border agents face discipline over ‘dangerous’ horseback behavior in Del Rio, Texas

July 8, 2022 Updated Fri., July 8, 2022 at 2:06 p.m.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 19, 2021.   (Getty Images North America)
A U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 19, 2021.  (Getty Images North America)
By Michael Wilner, Syra Ortiz-Blanes and Jacqueline Charles Miami Herald

Border patrol agents on horseback who corralled Haitian migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, in September, “acted inappropriately during the incident” and endangered migrants with unsafe maneuvers, according to an internal review published Friday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Four agents could be disciplined over their roles in the event, according to the department, but it said in a statement that the disciplinary process is underway and that proposed disciplinary actions are “pre-decisional.”

The incident led to a national outcry as images emerged from Del Rio of white Border Patrol agents, mounted on horses, appearing to use their reins to control the movement of Black migrants. While the report found that “there were failures at multiple levels of the agency” during the episode, “the investigation found no evidence that agents struck any person with horse reins.”

“The investigative findings show that the agency failed to appropriately task, supervise, and exercise command and control over the Horse Patrol Units in Del Rio,” the report concluded. “Several Border Patrol agents used force or the threat of force to attempt to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande River toward the U.S.-Mexico border, though there is no evidence that any migrants were forced to return to Mexico or denied entry to the United States.”

The Office of Professional Responsibility at the Department of Homeland Security “found multiple instances in which Agents acted inappropriately during the incident, including one Border Patrol Agent who was found to have used denigrating and inappropriate language and to have maneuvered his horse unsafely near a child,” the report added.

In response to the episode, the agency said it will be revising the policies for the use of horse patrol units.

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