The head of the Border Patrol union is accusing the Biden administration of using a controversy over agents on horseback blocking Haitian migrants to “deflect” from its own handling of the crisis at the border, while saying the furor is “completely and totally demoralizing” for agents.
“They know that what is taking place under the bridge is very embarrassing to them so they are trying to deflect,” Brandon Judd, head of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News in an interview. “That’s the administration trying to deflect off themselves for their failures which led to the catastrophe that’s taking place under the bridge.”
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. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
Judd was referring to a controversy, fueled primarily by liberal activists and Democratic lawmakers, about images that emerged Sunday of Border Patrol agents blocking migrants in Del Rio from entering the U.S.
Agents were surged to the area to tackle the wave, which saw more than 14,000 migrants camped under the bridge last week, and led to the administration increasing deportation flights. Judd has said previously that Border Patrol warned the administration about the potential crisis months ago, but no action was taken.
After the images emerged, some falsely claimed that the agents in the images were using “whips” to hit migrants, a narrative seized on by a number of Democrats. Meanwhile the White House called the images “horrible and horrific” while Vice President Kamala Harris called for an investigation and described the images as “troubling.”
But Judd pointed out what were misidentified by many in the media and on Capitol Hill as “whips” were in fact long reins, which are used to control the horse in riverines, and said that no migrants were hit or injured during the incident.
“What they were holding were reins, they were not whips, those reins are used to control the horses,” he said. “The agents also have to protect the migrants from the horses they can’t let them close if they try and so they will twirl the reins in their hands, but they do not hit them nor were any of those migrants hit by any object, let alone by a whip or a rein”
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared to initially refute the claims being made by some in the media on Monday as she stood alongside Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz – who noted the use of long reins and how they are necessary to control the horse.
But by Tuesday, after the White House weighed in, Mayorkas said the images “troubled me profoundly.” The agents involved have since been shifted to desk duty as the investigation continues. Judd said he was not surprised by Mayorkas’ change in attitude.
Sept. 20, 2021: Mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents watch Haitian immigrants on the bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ((Photo by John Moore/Getty Images))
“He has to toe the line or he’s out of a job, so of course he’s going to say what the White House wants him to say once they’ve made their official statement,” he said.
Later, on Thursday afternoon, the White House announced that Mayorkas had told civil rights leaders that Border Patrol use of horses was being suspended in the Del Rio Sector.
Judd told Fox News before that announcement that he welcomed an investigation because he believes it will show the agents did nothing wrong.
“I know that it’s going to show there is no wrongdoing, there was no policy violation, they did not hit any one of the migrants, none of the migrants were injured in that incident and they were deployed to do exactly what they did, they followed their training, the same training being given to all horse patrol agents under the Biden administration,” he said.
Additionally, he emphasized the dangers that face Border Patrol, noting recent violent episodes by migrants on both a transport bus and a deportation flight, and that agents were sandwiched between a migrant camp behind them and a number of migrants in front of them.
“In law enforcement where officers are injured the most or even killed is in a moment’s notice, everything happens very very quickly, so when you’re in an enforcement posture, you have to be quick, you have to be decisive and you have to take proper action and in this case they did take proper action,” he said.
Multiple Border Patrol agents have spoken to Fox News expressing their dismay at the administration’s response to the controversy. Judd said the incident makes agents, who work 10 hours a day and six days a week in many cases, wonder why they put on the uniform.
“When you don’t have the backing of your management, it comes to the point where you wonder why you’re working,” he said. “This is the White House, this is the President of the United States, and when you’re being criticized for doing the job that he supposedly wants you to do, it becomes completely and totally demoralizing.”
Fox News’ Peter Hasson contributed to this report.