Photographer behind controversial migrant photos claims agents weren’t whipping anyone

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The photographer behind now-famous images depicting Border Patrol agents on horseback appearing to chase migrants with whips says things are not exactly what they seem when it comes to his photos.

The photographs, which were taken Sunday, appear to show agents on horses with whips in hand. The photos caused outrage, as they appear to show Border Patrol agents whipping migrants from certain angles. But photographer Paul Ratje said he and his colleagues never saw agents whipping anyone.

“Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,” Ratje said.

Ratje is a photographer based in Las Cruces, and has been in Del Rio since Friday. He said took the photographs from the Mexican side.

“I’ve never seen them whip anyone,” Ratje said. “He was swinging it … but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”

The migrant camp, under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande, became the latest flashpoint for U.S. authorities seeking to stem a flow of migrants fleeing gang violence, extreme poverty and natural disasters in their home countries. The incident prompted widespread outrage, and is currently under investigation. The agents have been assigned to administrative duties and the Department of Homeland Security said it has suspended the use of horses in Del Rio.

The photos drew immense criticism from many on social media, and the White House said it will investigate. White House press secretary Jen Psaki called images “horrific.”

Vice President Kamala Harris was also asked about the photos and called them deeply troubling. Harris also said there will be a thorough investigation into how agents are treating migrants.

The migrant camp has shrunk considerably since surpassing more than 14,000 people on Saturday, with many of them expelled and many others released in the U.S. with notices to report to immigration authorities.

Only 225 migrants remained in the camp where almost 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants had gathered just days ago hoping to seek asylum, the top elected official in Val Verde County said Friday.

County Judge Lewis Owens told The Associated Press in a text message that he’s been told all of the migrants will be removed by the end of day on Friday — a dramatic change last week, when the number peaked as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing between Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

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