Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has finally crossed the line into infamy. No, it is not because of the record level of border crossings with millions pouring into the country. It is not the obvious lack of confidence of the rank and file officers in Mayorkas. It is not even past controversies like his Orwellian “Disinformation Governance Board.”
No, it is because Mayorkas betrayed not just his agents but his oath to “well and faithfully discharge” the duties of his office in his handling of the “whipping scandal.” Some of us previously criticized Mayorkas for his failure to protect the agents falsely accused of whipping migrants along the Texas-Mexico border, even after the President promised that they would be punished before any investigation. Mayorkas joined in with the chorus of critics condemning the agents as an example of “systemic racism” in the government.
Now, according to newly acquired email records, it appears that Mayorkas knew hours before he made those statements that the story was false and that the photographer who took the photos expressly denied that any whipping occurred. Nevertheless, he supported President Biden’s and the media’s narrative and threw these agents under the proverbial bus.
What is interesting about this new evidence is that there is no good spin for a secretary known for almost planet-sized shifts. Either Mayorkas saw the email or he made little effort to discover the truth before trashing his own agents. The email went to various subordinates at the department and was based on public accounts. It would take willful blindness to avoid learning of the true story.
The level of duplicity in Mayorkas’ conduct is breathtaking. These mounted agents were ordered to the water’s edge to stop a huge influx of migrants from Haiti. Some of us contested the narrative early in the scandal, noting that the video refutes the false image created by the photos. The agents were clearly using the reins to direct their skittish horses, not whip migrants.
However, for many in politics and the media, it did not matter because it played into a racial-justice claim of the “whipping (of) Haitian asylum seekers.”
Democratic leaders joined the media and the mob. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) condemned “the inappropriate use of what appear to be whips by Border Patrol officers on horseback to intimidate migrants.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decried “images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol — including the use of whips.”
Vice President Kamala Harris emoted on “The View” about how the brutality “invoked images of some of the worst moments of our history, where that kind of behavior has been used against the Indigenous people of our country, it has been used against African Americans during times of slavery.” Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) described the incident as “worse than what we witnessed in slavery” and “white supremacist behavior.”
However, it was the statement of the President that was most disturbing: “It was horrible what — to see, as you saw — to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now, and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.”
According to the new evidence acquired by the Heritage Foundation, the Administration was already aware that day that the whipping story was false. Shortly, after the President’s comments, on Sept. 24, 2021, Marsha Espinosa, assistant secretary of DHS public affairs, emailed Mayorkas and cc’d other DHS leadership, to make sure that they saw public stories refuting the claim.
Yet two and a half hours after receiving that email, Mayorkas went to the White House to support the President’s clearly false narrative. Indeed, the cabinet member who wanted a “Disinformation Governance Board” knowingly pushed disinformation impacting the lives and livelihoods of agents who serve under him.
Mayorkas declared how “Our nation saw horrifying images that do not reflect who we are. We know that those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.”
When later asked about “the whipping… the whips, the horse whips” by a reporter, Mayorkas again said that “that is something that horrified us all.”
Mayorkas continued to support the narrative and how conduct of the agents “defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people.” He then promised swift justice with an investigation that would take “days, not weeks.”
In a column, I wrote that the opposite would be true. Because the claim was false and the President would be contradicted, the agency would drag out the investigation and then charge the agents with some minor violations to cover for the President.
That is precisely what occurred under Mayorkas. The agents were quietly cleared of the whipping allegations but found in violation of department regulations. The President, Mayorkas, and the media were all covered. The only people punished were the innocent agents who spent a year under suspension and had their personal and professional reputations shredded by the President of the United States and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
However, the agents simply do not matter in Washington nor does the due process or basic fairness denied to them by their leaders. They are just some grunts on mounts to be used by the powerful as they see fit. We expect them to answer the call to the literal river’s edge, but they remain expendable to political expediencies.
The innocence of these agents was immaterial when they became useful cutouts for a narrative of systemic racism. In the end, they had to be punished for something.
President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas did not even have the decency to apologize to these agents and their families. They are props, not people.
I have stated that I do not agree that the utter failure of Mayorkas to secure the border is grounds for impeachment. He is clearly following a lax policy of President Biden but such bad policy choices are not matters for impeachment in my view.
If there is any measure of decency and responsibility left in Washington, Mayorkas would resign. Ironically, he did precisely what the agents were accused of doing. He and the President flogged these agents in public because they did not warrant any respect or consideration. To use his own words, that is something that should horrify us all.
This column also appeared in Fox.com