Border Patrol agents seen on horseback confronting Haitian refugees have been removed from regular duty during an investigation into their actions, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers Wednesday.
Videos showed law enforcement officers on horseback using aggressive tactics when confronting migrants in Del Rio, Texas. Some agents appeared to be swinging long reins.
Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee that he shared their outrage over the images and vowed to "pull no punches" in punishing anyone found to have acted outside the rules, The Washington Times reported.
"The individuals, during the pendency of the investigation, are not conducting law enforcement duties to interact with migrants, but rather are conducting administrative duties," said Mayorkas, who didn’t say how many agents were being probed.
"I want to assure you that we are addressing this with tremendous speed and tremendous force. The facts will drive the action we take."
He added, "It will be completed in days – not weeks."
Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., the committee's ranking member, described conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border as "absolutely out of control."
"To me, it's unbelievable what's going on at the border," Katko said, USA Today reported.
When asked about the videos while visiting the border Monday, Mayorkas said it seemed agents were trying "to ensure control of the horse."
Then on Tuesday, Mayorkas said he was "horrified" by the videos that appear to show law enforcement officers on horseback using aggressive tactics when confronting migrants.
"I was horrified by what I saw," Mayorkas said on CNN. "I'm going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people."
Thousands of migrants have gathered in a temporary site under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas as they wait to be processed by immigration authorities.
The migrants are mostly Haitians, with Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans also present, Reuters reported.
A Reuters video shows officers at the water's edge, twirling long reins as migrants crossed the border at the Rio Grande shoreline. An officer's horse can be seen nearly charging into one of the migrants, who falls back and into the water.
An Al Jazeera video shows a law enforcement officer on horseback swirling the long reins near a group of migrants.
"You use your women? This is why your country's sh*t, because you use your women for this," a person on horseback can be heard yelling, according to a tweet by an Al Jazeera reporter.
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