After closing its investigation of a false allegation that Border Patrol agents whipped Haitian migrants in Texas in September 2021, Justice Department officials didn’t notify the targets of the probe—and opted to say little to the media about the once-hyped matter.
But department officials did want to notify Al Sharpton.
Emails obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project discovered the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division closed the matter on March 11, 2022. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
The Border Patrol agents who were falsely accused of whipping weren’t notified that day.
Three days earlier, on March 8, 2022, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Robert Moossy Jr. emailed Justice Department colleagues: “We are near signing and officially closing the Del Rio [Customs and Border Protection] matter – We are just awaiting a final draft of the closing memo from [the U.S. Attorney’s Office], and then the criminal section chief will sign it, officially closing. Likely tomorrow. … Given the high-profile nature of this matter, I think we should discuss whether we need an outreach or media plan for our decision.”
A message on March 10, 2022, from Aryele Bradford of the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs to Justice Department colleagues suggested who Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke should notify about the department’s decision not to prosecute the case.
“Below is a list of stakeholders that AAG Clarke could connect with on this matter,” Bradford wrote. The list included “National Action Network: Al Sharpton.”
The list also included staffers from other liberal activist organizations, such as the Haitian Bridge Alliance, ACLU Texas, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the UnDocuBlack Network.
That same email said, “Attached is a draft press release from [Civil Rights Division] with a signoff from [the U.S. Attorney’s Office]. Please provide your edits. Below is a list of stakeholders that AAG Clarke could connect with on this matter.”
However, the next day in a 2:20 p.m. email, Dana Iverson, principal deputy director in the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, told her colleagues the department decided against making a formal announcement the probe was closed.
“Closing the loop here after a bunch of phone conversations,” Iverson wrote. “We are going to follow regular practice for cases we have not previously acknowledged were open and not do an affirmative press release or statement. The drafted release is very helpful and [Office of Public Affairs] will use the content to background any reporters.”
A search of press releases from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas from March and April of 2022 shows nothing about the Border Patrol agents’ case.
Iverson asked that morning, “Just for our awareness, who are the others in the district that will be notified?”
U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff for the Western District of Texas, replied, “We want to alert BP [Border Patrol] sector chief and the agents that referred the case along with our Del Rio chief.”
Moossy emailed that he would notify Matt Klein, assistant commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
In September 2021, media coverage first focused on claims by Democratic politicians that Border Patrol agents on horseback assaulted Haitian illegal immigrants with whips. The Department of Homeland Security suspended use of the horse patrol, and the agents were placed on administrative leave.
After the media coverage in September 2021, Customs and Border Protection referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
President Joe Biden said it was a case of “people being strapped,” adding: “It’s outrageous, I promise you: Those people will pay.” The president said there is an “investigation underway now, and there will be consequences.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the images from Del Rio were “horrifying” and “do not reflect who we are.” He also said the actions “painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said, “What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible.”
The Justice Department and Sharpton’s National Action Network did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal for this article, but it appears the Justice Department followed through with the determination not to publicize its decision not to prosecute.
It wasn’t until July 8, 2022, that Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility released a report that admitted there was no whipping.
“The investigation concluded that there is no evidence that any migrants were struck by reins and no evidence that any migrants were forced to return to Mexico or denied entry into the United States,” the CBP report says, but added: “Several agents engaged in unprofessional or dangerous behavior, including one instance in which an agent used denigrating and offensive language.”
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