The head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Friday said there was "no evidence" that Border Patrol struck Haitian migrants with their reins or used whips in Del Rio, Texas, last year, implicitly rebuking the false claim made by President Biden and other top Democrats — even as the agency recommended punishment for the agents for infractions such as "offensive" language and unnecessary force.

"[DHS' Office of Professional Responsibility] found no evidence Border Patrol agents involved in this incident struck anyone with their reins intentionally or otherwise," CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said at a press conference, in which he also said that agents were not carrying whips.

Agents have been under investigation since Sept. 20, the day after agents on horseback dealt with migrants coming across the river in Del Rio. The incident made headlines as reporters and lawmakers saw the reins the agents were using and misinterpreted them as whips. It was a claim quickly debunked, but repeated by the President days later.

"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."


While the core complaint against the agents was found to be false, the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility found multiple infractions, but ones that were a far cry from Biden's claim that migrants were whipped. Magnus said that an agent was found to have used "denigrating and offensive" language against migrants regarding national origin and gender, and was accused of having maneuvered a horse around a child in an "unsafe manner."

Haitian Migrants Del Rio border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021.  (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

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.

Magnus did not say what the recommended punishment for the agents will be. But multiple federal sources had told Fox News that CBP’s proposals include suspensions of up to 14 days for the agents who were on horseback when they were involved in the incident. Magnus claimed that the report showed "failures to make good decisions at multiple levels."

The controversy began when agents were dispatched to deal with the Haitian migrant crisis near a river in Del Rio in September last year, where more than 10,000 migrants were camped under a bridge.

As migrants tried to enter the U.S. across the river from Mexico, agents stopped them. Images soon circulated on Twitter of the agents trying to block migrants from entering the U.S., and in one case grabbing a migrant’s shirt. 

However, the images caused a firestorm when media outlets and Democratic lawmakers misidentified the agents’ split reins, which they use and twirl to control and direct the horse — and falsely claimed the agents were using "whips" on the migrants.

Nancy Pelosi talks inflation, gas prices

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., condemned what she described as "the inappropriate use" of what appears to be "whips by Border Patrol officers."  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned what she described as "the inappropriate use of what appear to be whips by Border Patrol officers on horseback to intimidate migrants." Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer decried "images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol — including the use of whips."

However, the photographer who took the images said that he didn’t see anyone being whipped. But that didn’t stop both Vice President Harris and President Biden from promoting the claims — which infuriated Border Patrol agents who bristled at the false claims and what they saw as influencing the investigation.


"The moment he made that statement, the moment he said that those agents would pay, the moment he convicted those agents without any evidence, without any investigation, there could be no doubt in anybody's mind that these investigators were going to come back with some sort of charge against the agents," National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told Fox News Digital in June. "They had no choice." 

"The president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, said that they would pay, and now they're paying," he said.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas initially backed the agents, noting the use of reins to control the horse, but soon changed his stance, calling the images shocking and launching an investigation. The agents were shifted to desk duty and have remained there since.

Mayorkas promised the investigation would take "days, not weeks" but the investigation dragged on for months. The Office for Inspector General did not recommend criminal charges and the matter was passed to the Office of Professional Responsibility to look for administrative charges. Magnus on Friday bemoaned how long the investigation took to complete.

On Friday, Republicans slammed the conclusions by CBP, with Rep. John Katko, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, calling them "nothing more than a desperate attempt by the Biden administration to justify their initial knee-jerk rush to judgment that these Border Patrol agents were guilty of criminal conduct.


"Thus, they set out on a mission to save face and make an example out of these Border Patrol agents, who were only attempting to manage the untenable humanitarian and security crisis President Biden handed down to them," he said. "As part of its justification, this insufficient report from DHS cites the negative impact that ‘significant media attention’ had on the department as the rationale for punishment. Let’s be clear: negative media attention, much of which was brought on by statements coming from those within the Biden administration itself, is not justification for vilifying these agents who have committed their lives in service to this nation’s homeland security.

"Months ago, these agents were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by DHS’ Office of the Inspector General and the [OPR] through investigations," he said. "Border Patrol agents are leaving in record numbers and experiencing devastating impacts on their mental health as a result of the Biden Border Crisis. This is not what they signed up for. Our Border Patrol agents deserve better than this. Full stop."