The Border Patrol agents who were pictured blocking migrants on horseback in Del Rio and who President Biden promised would “pay” as he echoed false claims the agents “strapped” migrants — could get little more than a few days suspension, if the investigation turns out as some senior administration officials hope.
The agents are at the center of a Department of Homeland Security investigation after images emerged which Democratic lawmakers and left-wing activists claimed showed them using “whips” against migrants. Officials and agents quickly noted that the agents were in fact using long reins to control their horses, and were twirling them to move the horse forward, not to attack migrants.
Since then, video has emerged supporting that claim, while the photographer behind the original images has said he did not see migrants whipping anyone. But the administration has doubled down, with DHS Secretary Mayorkas claiming the images “conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.” Biden, meanwhile, added fuel to the fire of the claims the agents were whipping, and even running down, migrants.
“To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped — it’s outrageous,” Biden said on Friday, making a whipping motion with his hand. “I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.”
Exactly what those consequences will be is up for debate. Despite the angry rhetoric from the White House, senior administration officials told Fox News that the investigation should produce little more than a suspension of a few days with pay for the agents — and should be a “non-issue.”
An official told Fox News that this was the first time the horse unit was assigned to the bridge, and their first exposure to the migrant surge — where more than 15,000 migrants were gathered at the bridge.
The agents are said not to have had clear rules of engagement, but listened to the radio and went to help other agents who needed it and prevent the migrants from crossing.
“They did their job,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who backed the agents in a press conference alongside Mayorkas, has briefed several congressional committees last week — including the Congressional Black Caucus. However, the key interview will be conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility — which is in charge of the investigation. Fox has learned that six agents are under investigation.
A source familiar with the investigation told Fox News that a team of investigators from the Department of Justice are investigating potential civil rights violations in Del Rio. The DHS Office of Inspector General could also be involved.
However, a senior administration official told Fox News that they believe the agents should only face a possible suspension for several days with pay.
Any attempt to fire the agents is expected to be opposed by Ortiz, who reiterated last week that he backs the use of horse patrols across all relevant sectors of the border.
Those with knowledge of the matter say that investigation could rest on what the agents said, rather than what they did. One agent was filmed saying: “You use your women?, this is why your country’s sh–, because you use your women for this.”
However, “yelling at people is not a crime,” the official said, adding that the National Border Patrol Council had sent in lawyers and the men are “well represented.”
They also noted that despite a massive crush of tens of thousands of migrants, not one agent nor one migrant was hurt — a feat they described as “incredible.”
Also challenged was the claim by Mayorkas that the agents had been shifted to administrative duty. While the agents are not interacting with migrants, as Mayorkas said, one official noted that they did not lose their badge or their gun, and they are simply looking after the horses.
“Either you are riding the horse or taking care of the horse and that is what they’re doing for the last few days…looking after the horses,” the official said.