Democrats want answers after CBP failed to interview corralled Haitian migrants – The Hill

A trio of Democratic senators is asking Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leaders to explain their failure to interview any Haitians as they conducted a review of an incident in Del Rio, Texas in which agents on horseback were seen corralling migrants in September of last year.
CBP’s Office of Personnel Responsibility (OPR) issued a more than 500-page report in July on an incident in which photos showed horse patrol officers chasing migrants and pushing them back across the border after some 15,000 Haitian migrants had camped out under a bridge near Del Rio.
The report determined there were “failures at multiple levels of the agency, a lack of appropriate policies and training, and unprofessional and dangerous behavior by several individual agents,” according to a CBP statement at the time.
But the months long investigation failed to incorporate any testimony from Haitians present at the scene, with CBP Commissioner Christopher Mangus saying due to “the challenging nature of the scene, these individuals could not be located.”
A Thursday letter spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned why OPR was unable to secure an interview with a single Haitian migrant in Del Rio that day, even as 11 have filed a suit against the U.S. government and could be contacted through their attorney.
“​​The apparent failure of CBP OPR to interview any member of a group of individuals who were directly and crucially involved in the incident means that CBP OPR has released a report based on an inadequate and incomplete investigation. These deficiencies in the investigation also raise concerns as to what additional information CBP OPR may have excluded. There were more than 15,000 migrants present on September 19. Failing to interview a single one of these individuals raises serious questions as to whether the full scale of actions by Border Patrol agents was documented in this report,” Warren wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill and signed by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
The report came after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promised a review of the incident would be completed in “days not weeks.”
But the review lingered both in terms of the duration of the investigation and its public release three months after its completion.
The letter goes on to note complaints from immigration and human rights advocacy groups about the legitimacy of the report.
“Conducting interviews with those involved would have allowed OPR to determine whether other CBP personnel, in addition to the four HPU agents the report has already identified, committed inappropriate or unlawful actions. This report will stand as the government’s official record of the day’s events; it is important that all efforts are made to ensure it is complete and fully documents the experiences of victims of, and witnesses to, CBP personnel’s actions,” the trio wrote.
“It is imperative additional action is taken to ensure that the legitimacy and credibility of the report is not further questioned.”
Mangus said at a July press conference announcing the report that although “efforts were made to locate and interview the Haitian migrants directly involved in this incident, given though the thousands of migrants present and the challenging nature of the scene, these individuals could not be located.”
He also said that “discussions are also ongoing” with attorneys representing the Haitians that filed suit.
Since Del Rio, the Biden administration has operated 240 flights to Haiti, repatriating nearly 25,000 Haitians to a country in a deep economic, political and humanitarian crisis.
After months of criticism from advocates – and with worsening conditions in Haiti – the Biden administration’s Haitian repatriation stream has slowed to a trickle, with no repatriation flights to Haiti in October, a first since June of 2021.
But Haitians have also more or less abandoned the practice of entering the country between ports of entry – in September nearly 5000 Haitians presented themselves at land ports, while fewer than 200 were apprehended crossing the border.
Those changes make a repeat of Del Rio less likely, but advocates remain unsatisfied with the repercussions of that investigation.
CBP did not immediately respond to request for comment on the letter or the fate of the four officers involved in the incident.
It remains unclear what disciplinary actions the four officers faced, even as the report detailed one agent grabbed a migrant by their shirt and spun them around and in another case an officer made disparaging remarks about Haiti.
“One BPA [Border Patrol agent] acted in an unprofessional manner by yelling comments related to a migrant’s national origin and sex, stating in part, ‘Hey! You use your women? This is why your country’s shit, you use your women for this,’” the report found. 
“The same BPA acted in an unsafe manner by pursuing the individual he had yelled at along the river’s edge forcing his horse to narrowly maneuver around a small child on a slanted concrete ramp.”
In a press conference with reporters the day of the report’s release, Magnus said the officers are still facing proposed disciplinary action and are afforded the chance to reply and said he would not be able to release the details until they are finalized.
Rafael Bernal contributed.

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