Federal officials are investigating an incident captured on video in which a Border Patrol agent slammed a migrant to the ground in El Paso, Texas, Customs and Border Protection said Saturday. Over the past few 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 occurred Friday morning outside a shelter housing newly arrived migrants. They said Border Patrol agents apprehended a migrant using “excessive force.”
Surveillance video shared with CBS News appears to show a Border Patrol agent seeking to take custody of a suspected migrant outside a building. After appearing to push the migrant near the building, the agent grabbed the migrant and slammed him to the ground, the video shows. The agent then appears to handcuff the migrant, who remains on the ground, while another agent observed the apprehension.
The 38-second video, which depicts onlookers observing the incident, does not show what led up to the apprehension or subsequent events.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection confirmed the video showed a Border Patrol agent making an arrest. The agency said its Office of Professional Responsibility was “reviewing the incident.”
“Although, at the moment we do not have all the details of what occurred during this incident, CBP takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, investigates thoroughly, and holds employees accountable when policies are violated,” the agency said.
Volunteers said the incident was alarming.
“Today, an individual receiving services at the Welcome Center, located at 201 E. 9th Avenue, was apprehended in front of the facility by Customs and Border Protection officials with what seems to us to be excessive force. To our knowledge, this is an isolated incident. However, it raises our concerns for the well-being of the individual taken into custody and all the guests receiving services in our homeless programs,” said Ray Tullius, founder of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, the group that shared the surveillance video outside one of its shelters.
President Biden is set to visit El Paso Sunday alongside Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Earlier in the week, Mr. Biden unveiled a new strategy toby expelling migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua to Mexico if they seek to enter the southern border unlawfully and allowing some nationals of those countries to enter the U.S. legally if a U.S.-based individual applied to sponsor them.
The incident outside the El Paso shelter also comes amid ramped-up efforts by Border Patrol to apprehend migrants on the streets of the Texas border city who evaded apprehension. Hundreds of migrants have been sleeping on the city’s streets because of depleted shelter space and because El Paso officials have barred migrants who evaded Border Patrol apprehension from federally funded housing facilities, including a convention center now housing migrants.
Many of those migrants are Venezuelans who said they evaded detection, instead of surrendering to border officials, after entering the U.S. illegally because they feared being expelled back to Mexico.
Customs and Border Protection confirmed it had increased the number of Border Patrol agents patrolling El Paso in “response to migrants evading apprehension.”
“CBP, which is responsible for securing the U.S. border between ports of entry, uses a 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.
But the incident being investigated could be at odds with Biden administration policy that generally bars immigration arrests “in or near a location that would restrain people’s access to essential services or engagement in essential activities.”
An October 2021 memo by Mayorkas instructed CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to refrain from apprehending migrants in or near these so-called “protected areas,” which include shelters.
“We can accomplish our enforcement mission without denying or limiting individuals’ access to needed medical care, children access to their schools, the displaced access to food and shelter, people of faith access to their places of worship, and more,” Mayorkas wrote in the 2021 memo.