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September 22, 2021

Pressley, Oversight Committee Demand Answers on Border Patrol Agents’ Abusive Conduct Toward Migrants and Deportations to Haiti

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and Co-Chair of the House Haiti Caucus, along with Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Reps. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), sent a letter to Troy A. Miller, the Acting Administrator of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), demanding a briefing and answers regarding press reports of the inhumane treatment of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, by Border Patrol agents on horseback. 

“Such abusive conduct is unacceptable and raises troubling questions about culture, training, and discipline within CBP,” wrote the Members.  “In addition, reports that thousands of migrants are being deported to Haiti despite turmoil in that country raise serious concerns about whether the federal government is failing to treat migrants—including those fleeing violence, political instability, and natural disasters—with respect and dignity and affording them a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum.  We write today to urge immediate action by CBP to address these concerns.”

The Committee has an ongoing investigation of misconduct by Border Patrol agents in secret Facebook groups as well as CBP’s disciplinary process.  In today’s letter, the Members urged CBP to examine broader issues of culture and training within the agency that may have contributed to this conduct. 

The actions of agents at the Del Rio border appear to violate CBP’s Standards of Conduct.  The agency’s Table of Offenses recommend discipling agents for “[f]ighting, threatening, attempting to inflict or inflicting bodily harm to another; engaging in dangerous horseplay, any violent act, language, gestures, or conduct toward members of the public.” 

The Members also asked CBP to end its use of Title 42 to deport migrants to Haiti “at a time when the country is still reeling from multiple crises, including the assassination of Haiti’s president this July and an earthquake last month.” 

“In the words of the late Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, ‘We’re better than this.’  We expect CBP to take immediate action to ensure that all migrants are treated humanely and with respect,” the Members added

As an initial step, the Committee requested a briefing and a written response by September 24, 2021. 

Last week, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07) led 54 of their colleagues on a letter calling on the Biden Administration to immediately halt deportations to Haiti and take urgent action to address the concerns of the Haitian Diaspora after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti last month. The lawmakers’ letter followed the Administration’s resumption of deportation flights to Haiti and as thousands of Haitian migrants continue to await an opportunity to make an asylum claim at the border. 

Massachusetts is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora community in the country, with approximately 46,000 Haitians and Haitian-Americans living across the state and over half in the Boston metropolitan area. Additionally, Massachusetts is home to more than 4,700 Haitians with Temporary Protected Status. 

In May, on Haitian Flag Day, Reps. Pressley, Levin, Clarke and Demings announced the formation of the House Haiti Caucus, a Congressional caucus dedicated to pursuing a just foreign policy that puts the needs and aspirations of the Haitian people first. 

In July, the lawmakers issued a statement condemning the assassination of President Moïse and calling for swift and decisive action to bring political stability and peace to Haiti and the Haitian people. Later that month, the lawmakers wrote to DHS Secretary Mayorkas calling on him to take a series of steps to support the Haitian diaspora following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.