On Friday, the photographer credited with capturing the now widely circulated images of Haitian migrants evacuating a U.S. migrant camp said Border Patrol agents never used whips on the migrants. Instead, he says the images were “misconstrued,” as the agents have been accused of using their horses’ reins as whips to prevent migrants from crossing the Rio Grande into Del Rio, Texas.
Paul Ratje, the New Mexico photographer who took the photos in mid-September, spoke to KTSM and explained what he saw at the border. “Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses, and that’s kind of when the whole thing happened,” Ratje said. He added that neither he nor his colleagues witnessed Border Patrol agents using whips. “I didn’t ever see them whip anybody, with the [reins]. He was swinging it. …That’s something that can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture,” he continued.
The images resurfaced as Del Rio has been flooded by migrants allegedly seeking asylum in the U.S., many of whom camped out under the Del Rio International Bridge over the weekend. As of September 16, 14,872 migrants had been staying at the bridge, according to Brandon Judd, the President of the National Border Patrol Council.
The Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said 600 Homeland Security employees were sent to Del Rio to help remove migrants from the states. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the U.S. is on pace to have migrants transferred out of the U.S. in a reasonable amount of time. “We’re achieving our goals; we’re getting there and getting to a point where we can manage the population here,” he said. “We are already seeing a quickly diminished [population] and will continue to see that over the coming days.”
Mayorkas and Ortiz both indicated that they didn’t see anything wrong in the images and videos from the alleged whipping incident on September 17, nonetheless, U.S. officials said they plan to launch a full investigation into what has taken place at the border.
The Department of Homeland Security already banned the use of horses in Del Rio. President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday that “there will be consequences” as a result of the Border Patrol’s use of horses. “It was horrible, what you saw to see them treat people like they did. Those people will pay, there’s an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. …It’s an embarrassment, but it’s beyond an embarrassment –it’s dangerous, it’s wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are,” the president said.
The Department of Homeland Security said nearly 6,000 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp, and that among the removed, 1,949 have been returned to Haiti on 17 deportation flights. Those flights, the department says, will be continued.
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON POST
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