Federal officials are investigating a videotaped incident in which a Border Patrol agent punched a migrant to the ground in El Paso, Texas, Customs and Border Protection said Saturday. In recent months, the border city has struggled to accommodate tens of thousands of migrants fleeing economic collapse, poverty and authoritarian rule.
Local volunteers in El Paso said the incident happened outside a shelter for newly arrived migrants on Friday morning. They said border police agents used “excessive force” to detain a migrant.
Surveillance video shared with CBS News appears to show a Border Patrol officer attempting to detain a suspected migrant outside a building. After seemingly pushing the migrant near the building, the agent grabbed the migrant and slammed him to the ground, video shows. The agent then appears to handcuff the migrant, who remains on the ground while another agent watches the arrest.
The 38-second video, which shows bystanders watching the incident, does not show what led to the arrest or subsequent events.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the video showed a border guard making an arrest. The agency said its Office of Professional Responsibility was “reviewing” the incident.
“Although we do not have full details of what happened during this incident at this time, CBP takes all allegations of wrongdoing seriously, investigates thoroughly and holds employees accountable when policies are violated,” the agency said.
Volunteers said the incident was alarming.
“Today, a person receiving services at the Welcome Center at 201 E. 9th Avenue was arrested outside the facility by Customs and Border Protection officers with what appeared to be excessive force. To our knowledge, this is one However, it raises our concern for the well-being of the person being held in custody and any guests receiving services in our homeless programs,” said Ray Tullius, founder of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, the group that shared this Surveillance video outside one of his shelters.
President Biden will visit El Paso Sunday along with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Earlier in the week, Mr. Biden unveiled a new strategyby deporting migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua to Mexico if they attempt to enter the southern border illegally, and by allowing some nationals of those countries to enter the US legally if a US resident applies for a visa guarantees.
The incident outside the El Paso shelter also comes amid increased efforts by Border Police to arrest migrants on the streets of the Texas border town who have evaded arrest. Hundreds of migrants have slept on the city streets as space for shelters has been exhausted and El Paso officials have locked out migrants who evaded arrest by border police from state-funded housing facilities, including a convention center that now houses migrants are accommodated.
Many of these migrants are Venezuelans, who said they evaded detection rather than surrendering to border officials after entering the US illegally over fears of being deported to Mexico.
Customs and Border Protection confirmed that it has increased the number of Border Patrol agents patrolling El Paso “in response to migrants who evade arrest.”
“CBP, which is responsible for securing the US border between ports of entry, uses a multi-layered approach that includes patrolling the border itself, nearby areas and neighborhoods, and conducting checkpoints — both stationary and temporary,” the agency said in a statement.
However, the incident under investigation could conflict with the Biden administration’s policy, which generally prohibits immigrant arrests “in or near locations that would restrict people’s access to essential services or participation in essential activities.”
An October 2021 memo from Mayorkas ordered the CBP and immigration and customs agencies not to detain migrants in or near these so-called “protected areas,” which include shelters.
“We can fulfill our enforcement mission without denying or restricting individuals’ access to needed medical care, children’s access to their schools, displaced persons’ access to food and shelter, believers’ access to their places of worship, and more,” wrote Mayorka’s 2021 memo.