U.S. Customs and Border Protection are investigating an unofficial challenge coin memorializing the mistreatment of Haitian migrants at the border in Del Rio, Texas last year.
The coin depicts an image of a Border Patrol agent on horseback pulling on a Haitian migrant’s shirt. According to the Miami Herald, which first reported the news on Tuesday, 41 coins were recently sold on eBay for about $15. The coin, which is currently still on sale, has inscriptions saying “Yesterday’s Border Is Not Today’s Border” and “Reining it in since May 28, 1924” on one side, and “You will be returned” along the rim.
“The images depicted on this coin are offensive, insensitive, and run counter to the core values of CBP,” Luis Miranda, an agency spokesperson and assistant commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement to CNN. “This is not an official CBP coin.”
“The CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is investigating whether or not it is being sold by anyone at CBP, and will take appropriate action if so,” Miranda continued. “The CBP Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) will also send a cease-and-desist letter to any vendor who produces unauthorized challenge coins using one of CBP’s trademarked brands.”
Last year, more than 10,000 Haitian migrants set up camp at the border near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, in hopes of obtaining asylum in the United States. A video and several photos surfaced online in September, showing Border Patrol officers on horseback pushing and charging at Haitian refugees, including children. The images led to a public outcry, highlighting the long history of discrimination and anti-Black U.S. policies faced by Haitian immigrants.
According to AP News, between 2018 and 2021, only 4.62 percent of Haitian migrants were granted asylum by the U.S. — the lowest rate among 84 countries. “Over and over, the U.S. has passed immigration legislation that excluded Black immigrants and Haitians, and promoted policies that unfairly jeopardized their legal status in the country,” AP News reported.
The Biden administration condemned the September incident, announcing that CBP officers would no longer use horses, and there would be an investigation into what happened, according to NBC News. However, the Biden administration has been criticized for sending thousands of Haitian migrants back to Haiti, as the country continues to struggle with a humanitarian crisis.
CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility has been investigating the September incident, but results of the investigation have not been released. According to the New York Post, some Border Patrol agents were cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but many remain under an administrative investigation that could lead to disciplinary action.
CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus told CNN on Thursday that the challenge coins upset him “because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency.”
Mirard Joseph, the man who was grabbed and dragged by the U.S. Border Patrol officer in the photo depicted on the challenge coin, said the incident “was the most humiliating experience of my life,” according to court documents. “The second most humiliating moment was when they handcuffed and chained me to go back to Haiti.”