The long-promised internal report on the mistreatment of Haitians at Del Rio last September states that Border Patrol agents used “unnecessary” force against migrants, used derogatory language against some, and that investigators found “no evidence” that agents “struck, intentionally or otherwise, any migrant with their reins.” Four agents have been referred for possible discipline, though it has not yet been finalized, The Los Angeles Times reports.
“The report showed there were failures to make good decisions at multiple levels of the organization,” Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement. “Several agents engaged in unprofessional or dangerous behavior, including one instance in which an agent used denigrating and offensive language.”
But as The New York Times notes, CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility carried out its probe and released the 500-page report without actually interviewing any victims or migrant witnesses. Instead, “an agency official said that declarations in a civil suit against the government brought by some of the migrants were closely examined,” the report said.
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“Guerline M. Jozef, the president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an advocacy organization, said without interviewing the victims of the incident in Del Rio, the findings of the internal review ‘lack any credibility,’” The New York Times report continued.
“’If C.B.P. is truly committed to the fair and just treatment of all people, as C.B.P. Commissioner Chris Magnus proclaimed today,’ she said, ‘then they must do an unbiased and credible investigation into the excessive force used against Haitian migrants, which starts with interviewing the victims of the abuse and other migrant witnesses.’” Haitian Bridge Alliance said in a tweet that “[t]here can be no real investigation of Del Rio that does not include the voices of those directly impacted—Haitian migrants.”
”CBP deliberately chose to exclude directly impacted Haitian migrants’ testimony from their investigation,” Innovation Law Lab said in a tweet. “They silenced the voices of Black migrants in 500 page report about an incident that involved massive anti-Black racism.”
Following the Del Rio abuses, as well as the mistreatment of African migrants, advocates had urged the Biden administration to halt deportations so that victims and migrant witnesses could testify in any investigations. Mirard Joseph, the migrant from the now-infamous images at Del Rio, was among the thousands of migrants sent back to Haiti. “They finally called us, I thought we would be processed, but they took us to be deported,” he said in a February tweet from Justice Action Center. The report also said that one 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 Washington Post reported that investigators further determined that no migrants were “denied their legal right to seek asylum in the United States,” but that’s just not true. “Thousands of Haitians were as a matter of fact expelled from Del Rio without a chance to seek asylum,” tweeted American Immigration Council Policy Director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “But from the perspective of the federal government, anyone expelled under Title 42 has no right to seek asylum. By that argument they have tried to define away asylum.”
While the Biden administration finally moved to end Stephen Miller’s anti-asylum Title 42 order earlier this year, anti-immigrant Republicans went to court to block the administration. A real fear now is that a small group of Senate Democrats may help congressional Republicans continue the anti-asylum policy indefinitely.
Just four agents in the Del Rio abuses have been referred for possible discipline, though as previously noted, it has not yet been finalized, and the department has acted before to lessen the severity of punishment of agents facing discipline. While dozens of agents were found to have “engaged in misconduct” for their participation in a racist and violent Facebook group, “CBP significantly reduced the punishments imposed on most of these agents,” the House Oversight and Reform Committee said in October.
The report said that despite the Discipline Review Board finding that the 60 agents had “committed misconduct by violating CBP’s Standards of Conduct … CBP reduced proposed disciplinary measures for almost all of these agents, who continue to work with migrants.” The report said that dozens “found to have committed misconduct” continue to “work in positions of power over migrants, including families with children.”
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