In an exclusive interview with KTSM, photographer Paul Ratje said he never observed any whipping incident, and neither did his colleagues.
“I’ve never seen them whip anyone,” Ratje said. “He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”
In the photos and some footage, the agents were swinging straps or reigns when they were rounding up the Haitians, one of whom attempted to run and fell into the river.
Ratje acknowledged some of the migrants “started running, trying to go around the horses.”
The photos and footage sparked immediate fury throughout the week of how the illegal asylum seekers were being treated in Del Rio, Texas. The Haitians were fleeing from their country out of poverty, hunger, political dilemmas, street crimes, and remnants of the devastating earthquakes.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas later explained after viewing the photos and footage that the purported whip was in fact horse reins. But he also ensured a rigorous investigation and potentially disciplinary action, should anything untoward had occurred.
As of Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the images were horrific, but she would not assert anything, noting a potentially different scenario than what had been perceived.
“I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate. But I don’t have additional details,” she said. “… I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”
Likewise, as a result of the criticisms, the DHS on Thursday had temporarily stopped border patrol agents in Del Rio from using horses to conduct their duty.
As of Friday morning, one week after the massive influx of illegal asylum seekers gathering under the International Bridge, Mayorkas announced the area had been vacated of the migrants.
“As of this morning, there are no longer any migrants at the camp underneath the Del Rio international bridge,” he said, according to The Guardian.
By providing 17 repatriation flights, the U.S. had deported 2,000 Haitians. Around 8,000 others had voluntarily returned to Mexico, and another 5,000 were being processed by Homeland Security agents
Regarding those moved to other border agencies to process their status, Mayorkas said some would also be returned to their homeland.
“If any of the exceptions apply they will not be returned to Haiti but placed in immigration enforcement proceedings,” he said.
“Some of them are detained, some of them are placed on alternatives to detention. We remain in touch with them, we monitor them to ensure their appearance in court at the designated time,” the homeland security chief added.