Advocates correctly noted this past summer that the government probe into the mistreatment of Haitian migrants at Del Rio last fall was deeply flawed. A sham, to be exact. That’s because investigators looking into the abuses neglected to interview even one single Haitian migrant as part of their 500-page report.
Lawmakers in a letter to border officials are echoing these concerns, saying the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Personal Responsibility, which carried out the deeply flawed probe, “released a report based on an inadequate and incomplete investigation.”
They note that CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus had claimed during a press conference that investigators hadn’t been able to locate any victims to interview. But Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bob Menendez, and Ron Wyden note that investigators included a lawsuit launched by victims as an exhibit in the report. While some victims sued under pseudonyms, some are named. Why weren’t they interviewed?
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“OPR conducted 30 interviews with Border Patrol management officials, Border Patrol agents, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, reporters present on the day, and other personnel,” lawmakers wrote. “However, during the nearly 10 months between the September 2021 incident and the July 8, 2022 report, not one migrant who was present in Del Rio on September 19 was interviewed by OPR for the investigation, as far as can be determined by OPR’s report.”
They note that investigators must have been aware of the existence of a number of victims because pages and pages of the lawsuit, launched by Haitian Bridge Alliance and other partners, are included in their report.
“The inclusion of named individuals who were reportedly present and involved in the day’s event as an exhibit in the report raises questions about why CBP declined to conduct any interviews with these individuals,” lawmakers continued, “and about Commissioner Magnus’s claims that CBP was unable to find individuals to interview.”
Following the deeply flawed report’s release this past summer, Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, had noted that numerous witnesses were made available to be interviewed, including Mirard Joseph, the migrant from the infamous photograph depicting him and an agent on horseback. “The agency chose not to interview any Haitians who witnessed abuse from CBP officers,” she said. “This investigation was not about truth or justice.”
Lawmakers said in their letter that ”[f]ailing 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,” and noted the concerns expressed by Haitian Bridge Alliance and other advocates. They also made public the fact that they had made a private inquiry to border officials, but received no response.
“There have been calls that this investigation was a ‘sham’ and is part of a larger issue of inaction by the federal government to take seriously the human rights concerns of migrants,” lawmakers said. “It is imperative additional action is taken to ensure that the legitimacy and credibility of the report is not further questioned.”
While the government’s report said border agents used “unnecessary” force and derogatory language against migrants, investigators claimed they found “no evidence” that agents “struck, intentionally or otherwise, any migrant with their reins.” But Patrice Lawrence, executive director of the UndocuBlack Network, said “[t]he actual people that endured this abuse have not been interviewed. Instead, these individuals, in mass, were deported.”
Lawmakers’ public letter tells Magnus and OPR Assistant Commissioner Matthew Klein to detail efforts to locate and interview victims by no later than Nov. 28. Any response to lawmakers will include little to nothing from Magnus, who was essentially forced out of CBP last week, with no reasoning given. Investigators from the probe confirmed that agents used “unnecessary” force and derogatory language against migrants. Were any of them fired too?
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