Border patrol tactics against Haitians in Del Rio spark outrage, protests
Photographer who took viral images says he ‘never saw agents’ whip migrants
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Some photographs of U.S. Border Patrol officers on horseback confronting Haitian migrants near the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas spark outrage. Even the White House calls them “horrible”.
Many who have seen the footage on social media say they appear to show officers dressed in cowboy hats whipping migrants of color. But the photographer who took the now-viral photos last Sunday says it doesn’t.
âSome of the Haitian men started running, trying to get around the horses, and that’s when it all happened,â said Paul Ratje, a photographer based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, who took the images.
The American authorities restrict access to the media in areas where they carry out coercive actions. Ratje, however, stood on the Mexican side and had an amazing view of the events.
âI’ve never (seen) them whip anyone. [â¦] (The agent) was swinging (the reins) that for some it can be misinterpreted when you look at the photos, âRatje told KTSM.
Nonetheless, the show of force on the banks of the Rio Grande, which included officers swinging the reins a few meters from the migrants and pushing their horses towards them, is prompting protests. Advocacy groups say the thousands of Haitians who have crossed or are attempting to cross the border should be treated as refugees, not criminals.
In El Paso, activists are organizing a âMarch for Dignityâ Thursday at 11:15 am demanding accountability from US immigration authorities. Protesters plan to march from downtown San Jacinto Plaza to the Paso del Norte International Bridge and then hold a press conference at the corner of Aoy and Stanton streets.
âThe abuses we are witnessing against Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio are heinous,â said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights. âWe demand that President Biden and Secretary (of Homeland Security) Mayorkas investigate the events against Haitian immigrants and hold the border patrol and all parties involved accountable. “
March organizers include Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA), Border Agricultural Workers Center, and Proyecto Mujeres Fronterizas. Some members of El Paso City Council and the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, Mark J. Seitz, are expected to attend.
“We call on Congress to ensure that these horrors at our border never happen again by enacting border patrol accountability legislation to end abuses and protect the rights of all migrants, regardless of race or country. ‘origin,’ Garcia said.
Other groups go further.
The Defund Hate coalition calls on President Biden to fund U.S. Customs and Border Protection – the Border Patrol’s parent agency – and its sister agency ICE.
âFor years, black and brown migrants have spoken out against cruelty and physical abuse by ICE and CBP. The disturbing images that surfaced yesterday of border patrol officers on horseback brutalizing [â¦] Black migrants near Del Rio are a reminder that anti-black and white supremacist violence is at the heart of ICE and CBP’s mission, âthe group said in a statement.
The League of United Citizens of Latin America (LULAC) also calls for accountability.
âThe scenes of CBP officers on horses grabbing and rounding up fleeing refugees are shameful and are not images of a country that has historically hosted the congregated masses of the world. LULAC puts the management of this situation at the feet of the Biden administration, and we must do better, âsaid LULAC National President Domingo Garcia.