A “challenge” coin commemorating the horrific treatment of Haitian refugees at the southern border last year is circulating among Border Patrol officers, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
The coin memorializes a photograph of a Customs and Border Patrol officer on horseback grabbing a Haitian refugee’s shirt, according to a photograph obtained by the Herald.
Video taken last September, when more than 10,000 Haitians set up camp at the border near Del Rio, Texas, as their home country fell into political and social crisis, showed mounted Border Patrol officers charging at refugees, including children. One officer was shown on video telling a group of Haitians: “This is why your country’s shit.”
Dozens of copies of the coin were recently sold on eBay by a seller in Utah for $15, the Herald reported; the item is no longer available for bidding, but at least one other seller still has a listing up for the same coin. The side showing the migrant being grabbed says “Honor will always be first,” and the flip side of the coin, showing a CBP officer on horseback, reads: “Reining it in since May 28, 1924” (when CBP was established by Congress) and “Yesterday’s border is not today’s border.”
“You will be returned” is also inscribed on the rim of the coin.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it is investigating, will take “appropriate action” if it finds CBP officers were involved in the making or distribution of the coins, and will send cease-and-desist letters to any sellers, a spokesperson told the Herald.
“The images depicted on this coin are offensive, insensitive, and run counter to the core values of CBP,” CBP Assistant Commissioner Luis Miranda told the Herald. “This is not an official CBP coin.”
Following the September incident, the Biden administration announced that CBP officers would no longer use horses, and said there would be an investigation into what happened. “I promise you, those people will pay,” President Joe Biden vowed at the time. “There is an investigation underway right now and there will be consequences.”
Nine months later, the results of such an investigation have not been released. The agents were cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the New York Post reported in March. But “multiple” officers are set to be disciplined with “administrative violations” in the coming days, Fox News separately reported Tuesday night.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News about either the coin or the investigation.
As many as 16,000 Haitian migrants amassed at the border last fall in hopes of obtaining asylum in the United States, but the U.S. government ultimately deported most of them to Haiti. Between 2018 and 2021, fewer than 5 percent of Haitian asylum-seekers were granted asylum, the lowest rate out of 84 countries, the Associated Press reported last year.
In December, the nonprofit Haitian Bridge Alliance and several refugees filed a class-action lawsuit against the Biden administration, alleging “physical abuse, racial discrimination, denial of basic necessities and medical treatment, and a complete failure to process asylum claims.”
The lead plaintiff, Mirard Joseph, is the man who was grabbed and dragged by the CBP officer in the photo depicted on the coin. Joseph 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.”
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.