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House GOP leaders question discipline for Border Patrol agents

Customs and Border Protection process will result in ‘an uninformed and potentially unfair result,’ they write

Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. James R. Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Mark E. Green, chairman of the Homeland Security committee.
Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. James R. Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Mark E. Green, chairman of the Homeland Security committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photos)

A trio of House Republican leaders raised concerns Friday that border agents would be unfairly disciplined for their treatment of Haitian migrants while on horseback after an incident in 2021 got widespread attention.

Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. James R. Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Mark E. Green, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said they had heard that potential disciplinary action against the agents involved would be decided by a “senior executive with no Border Patrol or law enforcement experience.”

If Customs and Border Protection proceeds with this, it “will result in an uninformed and potentially unfair disciplinary decision,” the three committee leaders wrote acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller in a letter first obtained by CQ Roll Call.

The letter comes more than a year after images of horseback border agents using their reins and appearing to whip Haitian migrants in South Texas went viral in September 2021, prompting widespread condemnation and backlash.

The images were released amid a sharp rise in migration from Haitian citizens in Texas’ Del Rio sector, resulting in as many as 15,000 migrants crowded under the international bridge at once in dangerously high temperatures.

President Joe Biden called the agents’ conduct “outrageous” and promised “there will be consequences” for those involved. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also called the images “horrifying” at the time and pledged an investigation.

But in July 2022, CBP released a report after its investigation that found several Border Patrol agents used undue force against the Haitian migrants, but there was “no evidence” that any agents on horseback struck them with reins.

The report took issue with the conduct of a few agents, finding that one “acted in an unprofessional manner by yelling comments related to a migrant’s national origin and sex” and by “forcing his horse to narrowly maneuver around a small child on a slanted concrete ramp.”

Additionally, multiple agents on horseback “used force or the threat of force to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande River despite the fact they were well within the territorial boundary of the United States,” according to the report.

According to Comer, Jordan and Green, CBP “has yet to announce any closure of the incident in response to the findings” nearly a year after this report was released.

The lawmakers accused the agency of adopting this disciplinary process to “protect” Mayorkas, Biden and other officials who spoke out against the images after they were released.

The Republicans also threatened to launch an investigation of the disciplinary process if CBP moved forward with it.

“If CBP decides to pursue this unprecedented process for Border Patrol agent discipline, we may be forced to examine the unusual nature of these disciplinary proceedings and whether the disciplinary decision was made based on proper considerations,” the letter states.

The letter is part of House Republicans’ mission to ramp up oversight of the Biden administration, particularly when it comes to its immigration and border policies. The Judiciary, Oversight and Homeland Security committees have all held hearings this year examining the status of the southwest border, which saw record-high levels of migration last year.

House Republicans have also filed resolutions to impeach Mayorkas, who they say has failed to sufficiently enforce the nation’s immigration laws at the border.

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