What’s the problem at the border? Is it the squalid migrant encampment under an international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, that grew to some 15,000 Haitians over the past week in what can only be described as a humanitarian disaster?
Is it the ad-hoc response of the Biden administration, which hastily deported hundreds of Haitians to Port-au-Prince even as it released thousands more with nothing more than a request to report to federal immigration authorities within 60 days?
Is it the ensuing chaos from such policies, which prompted a group of Haitian migrants in federal custody, fearing deportation, to forcibly to take control of a bus that was transporting them to San Antonio, and escape?
Or, zooming out from the Haitian encampment, is it the record numbers of illegal immigrants being arrested along the southwest border, which is on track to exceed 1.6 million this fiscal year, a new all-time record?
According to the White House, it’s none of these things. The real problem at the border, it seems, are the horses.
I’m not kidding. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who performatively decried images of mounted Border Patrol agents confronting illegal immigrants in Del Rio as “horrible and horrific,” announced Thursday that Border Patrol agents will no longer be allowed to use horses in Del Rio.
Why? Because activists in the corporate press pushed a false narrative that the mounted agents were “whipping” migrants. They weren’t, they were using split reins to control their horses and keep migrants from getting too close to the animals, as is standard practice.
But it doesn’t matter. Narrative triumphed over reality. Images of mounted Border Patrol agents trying to deter Haitians from illegally crossing the border triggered a moral panic in Washington.
Rep. Maxine Waters declared that it was worse than slavery. A contingent of the Congressional Black Caucus marched down to the White House and issued a set of demands, including the banishment of horses from the border. Rev. Al Sharpton showed up in Del Rio (where he was reportedly shouted down by protesters).
What had been a migrant crisis of the administration’s own making was transformed, overnight, into a race issue. In the end, the race hustlers got the horses banned.
What will banning horse patrols accomplish? Nothing, of course. It will only hamper the Border Patrol, which ingeniously uses horses to patrol dense riverbanks in rough country, where SUVs and ATVs often can’t go. (For more on the horse patrols, check out this short video by Kelsey Harkness of the Daily Signal.)
To understand why the White House would ban horse patrols, you have to understand that the administration’s entire approach to the border is pure theater. They are concerned with optics, not reality.
So, for example, when images of a sprawling migrant encampment under a bridge in South Texas begin to dominate the news cycle, the overwhelming imperative is to clear the camp by any means available, even if it sows chaos and confusion, and even if it means telling bald-faced lies about what’s happening there.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas kept insisting this week that the border was closed and that those who cross illegally will be deported. But of the 15,000 Haitians who were encamped under the bridge as of last Saturday, only about 1,400 have been deported. As of this writing, about 3,800 people remain at the camp, which means about 9,800 have been released into the United States since Saturday.
Most of these people are being released with a “notice to report,” which is not the same as a “notice to appear” before an immigration judge, but a directive that the migrant, on his own initiative, contact an immigration office within 60 days to request a court date. If that’s what the Biden administration means when it says it’s securing the border, then I’ve got some horsewhips to sell them.
Of course, the Biden administration isn’t securing the border and has no interest in doing so. For Democrats and the White House, the appalling migrant encampment in Del Rio is a problem only because it exposes, to a gaping world, how out of control the southwest border really is.
That Biden’s own policies created that encampment, and will doubtless create others, does not factor into the administration’s thinking. The important thing, the overwhelming imperative, is to get those images out of the news cycle — not to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the Rio Grande.
Keep that in mind the next time you see the outrage machine fired up in Washington over the border. The point is not to control the border, but to manage the images coming from it. If that means getting rid of the horses, then the horses have to go.