The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to make an announcement in the coming days chastising border patrol agents who reined in Haitian migrants with rope last fall.
The news comes as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has launched an investigation into the manufacturing of a coin memorizing a photo of a white patrol officer on a horse chasing a Haitian migrant toting a rein in hand.
The original image captured by independent journalist Paul Ratje sparked outrage in September. The border agents were trying to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
The controversial actions, also captured on video, led to an unresolved investigation by Border Protection. Civil rights and immigration advocates say it exemplifies the unfair treatment of Haitians who have suffered through devastating natural disasters and political unrest.
Others compared the images to slave patrols. President Joe Biden called the images “horrible” and “outrageous” and vowed to punish those involved.
Border Protection assistant commissioner Luis Miranda said any employee found selling the coins will face “appropriate action.”
The agency’s chief counsel also will “send a cease-and-desist letter to any vendor who produces unauthorized challenge coins using one of CBP’s trademarked brands.”
“Reining it in since May 28, 1924,” the coin reads on one side. “Yesterday’s border is not today’s border.”
“You will be returned,” the rim of the coin says.
According to the Miami Herald, 41 of the “challenge coins” were recently sold on eBay for $15.19 each, and images of yellow and black coasters showing a man on horseback with reins chasing a family of three also have surfaced.
The seller, identified as Andy Christiansen, has no plans to stop selling the coins and claim they are a popular item that’s been “flying off the shelf”.
“It’s strictly a business for me,” he told NPR.
At one point, interest in the coin drove the price up to nearly $500 each.
“The images depicted on this coin are offensive, insensitive, and run counter to the core values of CBP,” Miranda said. “This is not an official CBP coin.”
Tess Hellgren, an attorney for the migrant Ratje identified on the coin, called it a “celebration and commodification of racist violence.” The man, Mirard Joseph, has since been deported to Haiti and has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government.
“On behalf of Mirard Joseph and the 15,000 Haitian asylum seekers who faced cruelty and brutality in Del Rio, we continue to seek justice in court via Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden,” Hellgren said.
Guerline Jozef, co-founder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said that profiting off the treatment of Haitians is “outrageous” and “beyond inhumane.”
“The fact they have created merchandise depicting the likeness of people who suffered cruel and inhumane treatment should not be tolerated by DHS or the Biden administration,” she said.