Speed Reads

'Reining It In'

DHS investigating Border Patrol 'challenge coin' showing horseback agents accosting Haitian migrants

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is investigating a "challenge coin" that depicts white Border Patrol agents on horseback appearing to use their reins as whips to drive back Haitian immigrants seeking asylum in Del Rio, Texas, last September, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday. "Images of the incident led to a public outcry and national scandal." President Biden demanded accountability and the Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation into the treatment of migrants in Del Rio.

The unofficial U.S. Border Patrol "challenge coin," a token of memorabilia, is inscribed with the words "Reining It In Since May 28, 1924" and "Yesterday's Border Is Not Today's Border" on one side, and "You will be returned" on the rim, the Herald reports. The side with the infamous whip image reads: "Honor Will Always Be First." 

"The images depicted on this coin are offensive, insensitive, and run counter to the core values of CBP," CPB assistance commissioner Luis Miranda told the Herald. "This is not an official CBP coin."

The CPB's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating who minted the coins, and any agents found to be selling them will face "appropriate action," Miranda said. It isn't clear how many coins were made, but at least 41 were recently sold on Ebay for $15.19 apiece. 

The date on on the unofficial challenge coin marks the enactment of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which founded the U.S. Border Patrol — and also "drastically cut the total number of immigrants allowed in each year and effectively cut off all immigration from Asia," marking the "start of a dark chapter in the nation's immigration history," Smithsonian Magazine reports.

The level of disrespect for Haitians the coin represents is "unprecedented, outrageous, and intolerable," Marleine Bastien, a longtime Haitian and immigration advocate in Miami, tells the Herald. "President Biden promised to get to the bottom of this, but there was not any action or repercussions," and "now the Border Patrol is so emboldened that they are making a mockery of the suffering of Black refugees. They are so proud of their criminal behavior that they immortalized it with a coin."

The agents who chased the Haitians on horseback have been reassigned and barred from interacting with migrants, and "multiple" agents involved in the incident will be charged with civil "administrative violations" in the coming days, Fox News reports, citing a federal source.