After days of controversy surrounding a false report that border patrol agents on horseback in Texas used whips to drive Haitian migrants away from the border, the Biden administration on Thursday banned the use of horses in Del Rio, Texas.
During the daily White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said images of border patrol agents confronting illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande were "horrible and horrific." She told reporters that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spoke with civil rights leaders Thursday morning and informed them "that we will no longer be using horses in Del Rio."
"That is something, a policy change, that has been made in response," said Psaki.
This policy change was made in response to a lie.
On Monday, The El Paso Times first reported that a mounted U.S. Border Patrol agent swung a "whip" at Haitian migrants who were attempting to cross the Rio Grande river and illegally enter the United States near Del Rio, Texas, where thousands more migrants were encamped under a bridge.
"As the Haitians tried to climb onto the U.S. side of the river Sunday afternoon, the agent shouted: 'Let's go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!'" the Times reported.
The article stated: "The agent swung his whip menacingly, charging his horse toward the men in the river who were trying to return to an encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio after buying food and water in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico."
This report was accompanied by photographs of mounted border patrol agents confronting the migrants, which went viral after many people, including politicians, claimed the agents were wielding "whips" against the Haitians.
The images inspired outrage and the White House was forced to address the controversy on Monday, when Psaki was asked repeatedly to comment on "photos of border agents on horseback using what appear to be whips on Haitian migrants."
"I have seen some of the footage. I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don't have additional details," she told reporters. "I don't think anyone seeing that footage would think it's acceptable or appropriate."
But the photos were misleading. Border agents are not equipped with whips and it quickly became apparent that the photos were showing the horses' reins, which were not being whipped at migrants as claimed on social media.
A photo taken from a different angle definitively proved that the image generating the most controversy did not show an agent whipping a migrant.
As the facts became clear, reporting on the incident dropped the term "whip" in favor of "whip-like cord" or "horse reins."
The El Paso Times has since updated its article with a "clarification" stating "our reporting team witnessed at least one agent on horseback swing his reins like a whip." But a Border Patrol source that spoke to Townhall writer Julio Rosas explained that some agents will spin their horses reins to deter people from getting too close to the animal, which could harm them.
Nevertheless, Democrats like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection of committing "human rights abuses." Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said the incident was "worse than slavery."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: "The images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol—including the use of whips—are unacceptable."
After initially pushing back on the claims that border agents were whipping migrants, Mayorkas bowed to public pressure and said he was "horrified" by the images and that DHS would launch an investigation to determine what happened.
"One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child. That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require. Please understand, let me be quite clear, that is not acceptable. We will not tolerate mistreatment, and we will address it with full force based on the facts that we learn," Mayorkas said.
Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector use horses obtained from the Bureau of Land Management to secure the border. According to BLM, the horses "enable the Rio Grande Valley Sector to gain better operational control over the border, thus providing greater security to the United States."
"Due to the rugged and remote terrain, the Border Patrol is responsible for securing, horses meet the agency's needs by being capable of working in areas virtually inaccessible to motorized vehicles," an article on the BLM website explains.
And now, the Biden administration has deprived CBP agents in Del Rio, Texas of valuable tool to secure the border because outrage on social media ignited by false reporting apparently dictates administration policy.