Homeland Security issued a statement Tuesday defending the lengthy delay in the investigation into Border Patrol agents accused of whipping Haitian migrants in Texas in September, saying the probe is following the “customary process.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had promised Congress the results would be released within “days” of the Sept. 19 incident, but the probe has now gone well beyond that deadline.
In an unsigned statement, his department didn’t give any new deadline but sought to explain why it has taken so long.
Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, initially asked the department’s inspector general to investigate, but that review was declined. So CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility took over, reviewing videos and interviewing those involved.
Even when the initial investigation is done, any agents who face discipline have a chance to respond. The department said timelines for the process are set by the labor-management agreement between agents and CBP, which seemed to signal any public announcement is still far off.
“DHS remains committed to conducting a thorough, independent, and objective investigation. DHS will share information, as available, consistent with the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and individuals’ privacy,” the department said.
The incident came as the Border Patrol fought to control an unprecedented surge of Haitian migrants into Del Rio, Texas, in September. More than 10,000 crossed the Rio Grande and set up a migrant camp on the U.S. side of the river.
Agents on horseback were deployed as part of the response.
One video and some photos taken of one tense encounter showed an agent reining his horse, and many who saw the images said it appeared the agent was whipping a Haitian migrant. President Biden even weighed in, calling the images “horrible” and vowing “those people will pay.”
But one of the photographers present said nobody was whipped and what was really happening was migrants were dodging the horses and the agents were swinging the reins but weren’t targeting the migrants.
Tuesday’s defense of the investigation delay came just minutes before Mr. Mayorkas was slated to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he may face questions over the delay.
Mr. Mayorkas initially sided with agents, saying they appeared to have been acting to control their mounts.
But he said he made those comments without seeing the videos or photos. He also received a talking-to from Vice President Kamala Harris, who demanded a sterner line.
After that intervention, his tone shifted. Mr. Mayorkas said he would “pull no punches” in disciplining people once the review was finished. And he promised it would be done in “days.”