Photographer Denies Border Patrol Agents Whipped Haitian Illegal Immigrants
13:22 GMT 25.09.2021 (Updated: 13:24 GMT 06.08.2022)
Up to 15,000 Haitian citizens waded across the Rio Grande from Mexico to the US this month, founding a squatter camp under a road overpass in the town of Del Rio, Texas, and prompting a major political row between the White House and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The photographer, whose images of mounted US border patrol agents confronting illegal immigrants was compared to slave-driving, has denied they whipped the Haitian men.
Paul Ratje's photos taken at the Mexican-US border in Del Rio
, Texas, have been seized upon by top members of the ruling Democratic Party and some journalists. But the snapper said the officers were twirling the reins of their horses and were not lashing the Haitian immigrants wading across the Rio Grande River.
"I’ve never seen them whip anyone", Ratje told NBC affiliate KTSM in El Paso on Friday. "He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture".
The photojournalist said he was standing on the Mexican bank of the river when he took the pictures. "Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses", he explained.
On Thursday, reporter Yamiche Alcindor from publicly-funded broadcaster PBS pressed President Joe Biden's spokeswoman Jen Psaki on why the White House had not yet condemned the actions of its border police.
"These are images that are traumatizing Haitian Americans that he promised to treat respectfully and with humanity", Alcindor asked. "Why isn't the president telling people himself these images that people say look like slavery are wrong?"
25 September 2021, 10:27 GMT
Biden's administration moved swiftly to crack down on the immigrants by deporting many of them to Haiti — following months of criticism over the record numbers of undocumented migrants across the Mexican border in the wake of relaxed asylum-seeker
But on Friday, the president said the border patrol agents in the images would "pay" for the controversy, while Vice-President Kamala Harris said she was "deeply troubled" by it.
Customs and Border Protection officers, who are federal employees answerable to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), were angered that Washington had thrown them under the bus amid Democrat infighting.
"This whole situation is blowing up and even liberals are turning on this administration", one agent told Fox News, adding that Harris "is placing blame on agents to deflect because she and Biden are not going to change how they are handling this".
DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas
said on Friday that the makeshift camp under the river bridge at Del Rio, which had held thousands of migrants, had been cleared. He added that the agents photographed had been placed on administrative duties.
“The agents involved in these incidents have been assigned to administrative duties and are not interacting with migrants while the investigation is ongoing”, Mayorkas told reporters at the White House.