Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisted Sunday that the mounted border agents under investigation for their treatment of Haitian migrants would receive a fair hearing, despite President Biden’s declaration that “those people will pay.”
Mr. Mayorkas said his department would rely on the facts as determined by an independent investigation, even though he said last week that the images of the agents swinging their reins as they sought to deter migrants crossing the Rio Grande “horrified us.”
“The facts that are determined will drive the outcome. Nothing less and nothing more,” Mr. Mayorkas told CNN “State of the Union” anchor Jake Tapper. “What those images suggest, what they appear to portray, was horrifying, and that I think deserves attention. That is quite different than fact determinations.”
“I served as federal prosecutor for 12 years, and we conducted independent investigations despite what appearances might have been and the public outcry about them,” he added.
Stoking the outcry were Mr. Biden and other Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who called the agents’ behavior “horrible.”
Rep. Maxine Waters of California accused the agents of “whipping” migrants and said it was “worse than what we witnessed in slavery,” while others have countered that the agents are not assigned whips and that they swing their reins to control the horses.
Coming to the defense of the agents was Mr. Tapper, who said that some of the initial descriptions of last week’s incident were “patently false” and noted that the agents ride horses because there are no roads in many areas along the border.
The Biden administration on Friday suspended the use of horses by border agents pending the results of the investigation.
“Can the border patrol count on you and President Biden, who has said that people will pay, to come to a determination based on the facts and not based on Twitter outrage?” said Mr. Tapper.
“They sure can, and let me say something about that, Jake, because I’ve worked very closely with the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for many years, and they are heroic, what they do,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “I saw their heroism displayed in Del Rio, Texas, last Monday when I was there on the ground, and that is emblematic of who they are, their commitment to this country, their talent and tireless dedication to mission.”
Mr. Tapper noted that the agents, who have been assigned to administrative duties, have “saved the lives of migrants trying to cross the river.”
“The nice words you’ve said about them, you should probably share with President Biden, not just with me today,” the CNN anchor said.
Mr. Mayorkas also said that an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 of the 17,400 immigrants who are in the country illegally are waiting for their cases to be heard by an administrative judge have been released into the U.S.
“They’re released on conditions. Approximately, I think it’s about 10,000 or so, 12,000,” said Mr. Mayorkas under grilling from “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.
About 5,000 are still being processed by the department, which means the number of those released could grow, and 3,000 are in detention.
Mr. Mayorkas said that “it could be even higher. The number that are returned could be even higher. What we do is we follow the law as Congress has passed it.”
About 30,000 Haitian migrants have come across the border since Sept. 9. At one point, an estimated 15,000 migrants were living under the bridge in makeshift tents and structures, as shown in viral television footage, but the latest shots show the Del Rio camp has been entirely cleared.
“If, in fact, someone is not expelled under the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control, then they are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “They have an opportunity to make their claim for relief to a judge as the law requires.”
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