A Republican congressman representing the state of Texas said that the Customs and Border Patrol agents photographed literally whipping Black Haitians who were crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. were “doing God’s work” in a CNN interview on Tuesday. The photos showing the agents on horseback attacking the unarmed people carrying takeout containers (and at least one baby) have been widely condemned and compared to paintings of slave catchers whipping the Africans we enslaved.

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“It’s a very desperate situation, and they’re doing God’s work, fighting everything they can,” said Rep. Tony Gonzales.

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Haitian asylum seekers have been entering the U.S. in significant numbers through Mexico following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, leading to widespread political unrest, as well as yet another devastating earthquake that left even more people without homes. This has led to what the Department of Homeland Security is calling a “crisis” at the border, with thousands of Haitian individuals and families huddling under bridges in photos reminiscent of the similar crisis that occurred after thousands fled Honduras and Guatemala for asylum in 2017 and 2018.

With the U.S. still lacking the infrastructure to house these thousands in spite of having years to get a clue, these latest asylum seekers fleeing their countries largely due to problems caused by the U.S. have been largely left on their own to try and survive. Rather than doing what they can to help melt these overwhelmingly peaceful and desperate families, border agents approached a group carrying food with extreme and disturbing violence.

Even the DHS, which has gained a reputation for being unsympathetic toward migrants and is generally responsible for many atrocities committed against them, called the footage of this assault “extremely troubling” and has vowed to investigate what happened. Republicans, meanwhile, are busy insisting that the objects used to hit the asylum seekers were not technically whips, on in the case of Gonzales, claim that the border agents were doing the right thing.

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“The last thing any of us want to see is the mistreatment of anyone, to include migrants, but when you have tens of thousands of people and only hundreds of Border Patrol agents it creates a very desperate situation,” said Gonzales.

It remains unclear as to why he thinks whipping people is an appropriate response to a desperate situation unless your preferred solution is to make it all Mexico’s problem when that country has an even worse record of human rights abuses against migrants than the U.S. does. At best, Gonzales appears to be arguing that the whip-happy border agents that appear to be gleefully attacking families with babies did it because they’re stressed out.

On the topic of “God’s work,” actual Christians may be aware that the Bible, while being no stranger to unnecessary violence, is full of commands for people to treat strangers as neighbors, invite them into one’s home, and take care of them when they’re in need. It’s enough to make some wonder which Bible Republicans like Gonzales are supposedly reading.

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*First Published: September 22, 2021, 12:17 pm