US Border Patrol coins under investigation

The photograph encapsulates the intensity of the clashes between Border Patrol agents and Haitian immigrants desperate to enter the United States last September.

An officer on horseback bends down, grabs a man by the shirt as a rein dangles.

Now, an image mirroring the September 19 photo taken by AFP’s Paul Ratje has appeared on a “challenge coin” commonly collected by officers, law enforcement officials and aficionados.

“Whipping ass since 1924” is written along the edge of the coin.

The Times obtained photos of the room. Its other side says “Haitian Invasion” with crossed swords and the words “US Border Patrol”, “Horse Patrol Unit” and “deflect allegations for years”.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes Border Patrol, is investigating whether the coin and a similar coin, which was advertised online, were sold by someone in the agency. . It is not known who produced the coins or how widely they were distributed.

If the pieces are linked to Border Patrol agents, they could become the latest example of what immigrant advocates have said is a prevalence of offensive humor in the ranks, after Facebook posts mocking migrants and deceased lawmakers surfaced in 2019.

Some critics have raised the issue of racism against black immigrants. And the head of CBP strongly denounced the coins.

One coin depicts a migrant caught by a Border Patrol agent on horseback.

An image of a coin being investigated by Border Patrol.

“These exhibits anger me because the hateful images they contain have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement. “Those who make or share these deeply offensive pieces harm and distract from the extraordinarily difficult and often vital work that Border Patrol agents do every day across the country.”

Immigrant advocates were also outraged by the piece and the apparent lack of empathy for Haitian migrants it indicates.

“I think it’s a testament to how ingrained anti-black racism is in the very fabric of our country’s system,” said Guerline Jozef, head of the Haitian Bridge Alliance in San Diego. “To make people who might be associated with CBP feel emboldened enough to etch the likeness of an abused or mistreated human being as a symbol of what the department stands for…. We take these exhibits as an endorsement of what happened.

“Challenge coins” have long been a part of law enforcement culture, including at the Department of Homeland Security, which includes CBP. They are usually innocuous, honoring employees or special events, former officials said, and are sometimes traded with members of other agencies.

A former senior DHS official, John Sandweg, said he received a coin with a buffalo on it after visiting a DHS office in upstate New York and another with a photo of a border tunnel commemorating a drug task force.

But coins depicting Haitian immigrants crossed a line, he and another former DHS official said. The other room under investigation contained the same image of the migrant and the officer on horseback, with the words “honor will always come first”.

“It’s just grossly inappropriate,” said Sandweg, a former senior attorney for the Department of Homeland Security and acting chief of immigration and enforcement under President Obama. “This kind of thing tarnishes the reputation of the department where a few bad apples are doing things that really shock the conscience and go so far beyond what is appropriate and acceptable. This damages the reputation of the whole department.

“It’s a shame it was done,” said Gil Kerlikowske, who served as head of US Customs and Border Protection under Obama. “This kind of preposterous humor permeates … many professions, including law enforcement groups.”

Both Kerlikowske and Sandweg said “challenge coins” are a big part of DHS culture and are generally meant for camaraderie and celebration.

Sandweg said that when he visited local DHS offices, he sometimes received a coin celebrating that location, including Buffalo’s. Other coins were distributed to remember special occasions or to honor staff members.

Corporate offices, such as those of the DHS Secretary or the ICE Director, also made their own parts to distribute to employees.

Sandweg said part designs are often decided in a local office and then sent to part manufacturers. Government funds can be used if the coin is for an honorary award, he said.

“Almost no control is exercised over the design of the parts,” he added. “There is no doubt that the use of an official seal in conjunction with this message violated DHS policy, but there has never been much guidance or oversight on what the coins may say. Of course, no one has ever been so stupid and misguided to create a piece like this.

The “Haitian Invasion” piece has come to the attention of CBP officials in recent weeks, a source familiar with the matter said.

In addition to the internal investigation, cease and desist letters will be sent to vendors who produce unauthorized challenged parts using a CBP trademark.

CBP is also investigating the actions of Border Patrol agents who have targeted Haitian migrants, such as in the incident depicted in the exhibits.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promised to release the results of that investigation.

The Biden administration’s decision to begin the mass deportation of Haitians in September has alarmed immigrant advocates and prominent Democratic politicians.

Thousands of Haitians have been expelled and continue to be expelled from the country.

This typified, for many, the White House’s turn to restrictive policies in a political crisis, this time sparked by media coverage of Haitians camping under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

Since September, the administration has relied heavily on the Title 42 policy, which cites the pandemic, as justification for deporting Haitians and others arriving at the border.

Border Patrol agents have long faced allegations of excessive force. Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that will prevent the agents from being prosecuted over such allegations.

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