President Joe Biden will visit the besieged southern border on Sunday, but it is not clear if he will meet with Border Patrol agents or if he will address or apologize for a false claim he made in 2021 when he accused agents of having “strapped” Haitian migrants.
Biden said on Thursday that he will visit El Paso, Texas, where he will assess border enforcement operations and meet with local elected officials and community leaders. He made the announcement during a White House speech *in which he unveiled a slew of measures, including an expanded parole program and a plan to increase returns to Mexico, to deal with the ongoing border crisis.
However, there could be a cloud hanging over the visit with regard to comments he made in September 2021, when he accused agents of having whipped migrants and promised that “they will pay.”
Biden had spoken out after an incident in which Border Patrol agents on horseback were dealing with a surge of more than 10,000 migrants predominantly from Haiti.
Photographs of migrants encountering agents zipped around social media as some Democrats and media commentators incorrectly interpreted as showing agents using whips or whipping migrants who were trying to cross the river. In fact, the agents were using split reins to control their horses.
But the incident steamrolled and the conduct of the agents saw condemnation from various administration officials, including, ultimately, Biden.
“To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped — it’s outrageous,” Biden told reporters, 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.”
The comments outraged Border Patrol agents at the time, given that it was already clear from video and basic knowledge of operations that no whipping was involved — with many fearing that it was placing political pressure on investigators to fault the agents with something.
But the administration did not back down and the investigation dragged deep into 2022, as the agents involved were put on desk duty.
Ultimately, the Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility’s investigation found that there was no evidence that agents struck migrants and noted that they do not (and did not) carry whips. The probe did find multiple infractions, but they were a far cry from Biden’s claim that migrants were whipped. CBP said that an agent was found to have used “denigrating and offensive” language against migrants regarding national origin and gender and was also accused of having maneuvered a horse around a child in an “unsafe manner.”
The report also faults agents for using an “unmoderated” tactical radio, of having insufficient training for the situation, and for an “unnecessary use of force” to drive the migrants back.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News that the incident shows a disregard for the rule of law from the president and a fear of upsetting a left-wing base that dislikes law enforcement.
“If he cared about the rule of law, he would recognize that what he did was wrong. And in recognizing that what he did was wrong, he would make it right,” Judd told Fox News Digital in an interview. “And he refuses to do that. And that’s politics. He knows darn good and well that if he were to make right his wrong, his base would be extremely upset with him.”
When asked if the incident still mattered to the men and women who patrol the border on the front lines, Judd said “absolutely,” accusing Biden of a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset when it comes to agents.
“What we know is that if we do something that gets called into question by his base, he’s going to come after us. That’s what we know. And that’s what was shown through this incident. And the fact that he hasn’t apologized clearly shows that he’s still of that mindset,” he said.