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A small group of Haitian migrants aboard a private bus contracted by the federal government who were being taken from an encampment near Del Rio, Texas, rebelled during the ride and took control of the vehicle before escaping, law enforcement officials said.
The large white bus was en route to San Antonio, Texas, officials said, when it was overtaken on Monday afternoon at some point during the normally two-and-a-half-hour journey from the border city, the Washington Examiner reported.
The migrants were initially picked up from encampment, where more than 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants had assembled over the past week. Thousands more still remain there and are waiting to be taken into custody under the watchful eye of Border Patrol and Texas law enforcement officers.
The incident was reported to the Examiner by two federal law enforcement officials, the outlet said.
“They did break out of the bus, and they did escape,” said a senior federal law enforcement official in confirming the incident to the outlet on Tuesday.
“It is not clear which federal agency, Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was overseeing the transport. CBP initially apprehends, transports, and processes illegal immigrants, while ICE is responsible for longer-term detention and removal from the country. Neither agency responded to requests for comment,” the Examiner reported.
SOURCES: Haitian migrants revolt while in custody and seize control of privately contracted bus, escape federal custody https://t.co/uDr5hWZidg
— Anna Giaritelli (@Anna_Giaritelli) September 21, 2021
That said, ICE told a local media outlet that “several noncitizens attempted to flee the contracted bus.”
“The safety of our personnel and the people in our custody is of utmost priority, the individuals, noncitizens are all back in our custody,” an ICE spokesperson told KVEO.
The migrants on board had been picked up from the makeshift migrant camp, where thousands are waiting to be taken into custody.
"They did break out of the bus, and they did escape."
It is not clear which federal agency was overseeing the transport.https://t.co/nFBLpeKGVR
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 21, 2021
“A small group of Haitian migrants fought with federal agents Monday pm aboard a bus in South Texas, forcing the driver to pull over, according to Kleberg Co sheriff’s deputy Jaime Garza. 2-3 passengers briefly escaped but were recaptured by USBP agents and deputies,” Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff posted on Twitter.
Update: A small group of Haitian migrants fought with federal agents Monday pm aboard a bus in South Texas, forcing the driver to pull over, according to Kleberg Co sheriff's deputy Jaime Garza. 2-3 passengers briefly escaped but were recaptured by USBP agents and deputies.
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) September 21, 2021
News of the bus incident and near-escape comes as the White House lashed out at the Border Patrol over tactics agents employed to prevent Haitian migrants from crossing illegally into the U.S. from Mexico.
“Pictures emerged on Monday of agents on horseback appearing to use the reins or lariats to strike at migrants and block their paths with the animals. Some Democrats and the media accused agents of ‘whipping’ migrants, although this has been denied by Border Patrol,” the Examiner reported separately.
However, even before an investigation has been conducted, the agents were already being condemned by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“I was horrified by what I saw. We will let the investigation run its course, but the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly,” Mayorkas told CNN. “One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child. That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require. … We will not tolerate mistreatment.”
DHS Sec. Mayorkas on troubling viral videos of Border Patrol being aggressive with Haitian migrants:
"One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child. That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require … We will not tolerate mistreatment." pic.twitter.com/fpkNrDv90w
— The Recount (@therecount) September 21, 2021
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also condemned the Border Patrol though she, too, said she didn’t have the full details yet.
“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate.”
But while the administration appeared quick to judge the actions of the agents, a senior federal law enforcement official who is at the border defended their actions, saying that those on horseback are very highly trained.
The official said that regarding the incident in question, “the agent was acting in a way to keep migrants from continuing forward, said the official,” the Examiner reported. “The agent performed a ‘twirl of the reins’ to keep people back from the horse for their safety, and no one was whipped.”
The Biden administration restarted repatriation flights back to Haiti on Monday after reports and video went viral online showing the thousands of Haitians who had gathered under and near the international bridge near Del Rio.