DHS’ statement said OPR “has followed customary process in its investigation of this matter,” including a review of footage and “the interview of witnesses, employees, and CBP leadership.” It is not clear of any of these witnesses are Haitian migrants themselves. Advocates in September filed a civil rights complaint urging a stop to the deportation of migrants who were witnesses to abuses.
“Once completed, the results of the investigation will be provided to CBP management to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate and, if so, the specific discipline to be imposed,” the statement continued. “At that time, the employees will be afforded due process, including an opportunity to respond, and any corrective actions will comport with applicable laws and regulations. The disciplinary process, which is separate from the fact-finding investigation, is subject to certain timelines established in CBP’s labor-management agreement with the employees’ union of the United States Border Patrol.”
This is where advocates worry, because accountability for people mistreated by border agents has frequently been blocked by both the border union and CBP leadership itself. While dozens of agents were implicated for their involvement in a racist, horrific Facebook group where posters mocked the death of a migrant child in U.S. custody, just two—two—agents were ultimately fired.
“Documents and information obtained by the committee show that CBP determined that 60 Border Patrol agents engaged in misconduct related to secret Facebook groups during the Trump administration, and were subject to discipline,” the House Oversight and Reform Committee said last month. “However, CBP significantly reduced the punishments imposed on most of these agents.” The report said that the Border Patrol union (which has ties to white supremacist rag Breitbart) invoked arbitration for an agent who posted a sexually violent image of a member of Congress, likely Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
CBP’s Discipline Review Board had recommended that agent’s removal. The agent not only came back to work, but was awarded back pay for their 60-day suspension.
In response to outrage over Del Rio, CBP had said it was temporarily stopping horse patrols. “DHS remains committed to conducting a thorough, independent, and objective investigation,” Tuesday’s statement continued. We’ll see. “DHS will share information, as available, consistent with the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and individuals’ privacy.”
“We are disappointed to see @DHSgov treating Del Rio as a one-off, and not a direct consequence of systemic violence targeting Black migrants,” the Texas Civil Rights Project tweeted. “Black migrants are more likely to be deported & face harsher consequences in their deportation, and less likely to have their DACA accepted. @DHSgov needs to take a deeper look at how they treat Black migrants, not conduct a superficial investigation.” Haitian Bridge Alliance, one of the fiercest advocates for Haitian migrants, responded with a tweet featuring Mayorkas’ quote. “We are still awaiting a decision,” the group said.