President Joe Biden has slammed the border agents who rounded up Haitian migrants from horseback in Del Rio, Texas as people tried to enter the US after fleeing natural disasters and political turmoil in Haiti.
“It’s horrible what you saw. To see people like they did, with horses, running them over, people being strapped, it’s outrageous,” Mr Biden said on Friday.
“I promise you – those people will pay,” he added. “There is an investigation underway right now and there will be consequences.”
“It’s an embarrassment,” the president said. “It’s beyond an embarrassment. It’s dangerous, it’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world. It sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are.”
An investigation has begun following video footage emerging earlier this week showing border agents on horseback aggressively trying to push back migrants, and at times swing long reins towards people on the ground.
Administration officials and congressional Democrats have shared their anger over the behaviour of the border agents. The Department of Homeland Security has suspended the use of horse patrols for the time being.
US Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility is leading the investigation and it’s expected to be finished next week.
“Of course I take responsibly,” Mr Biden told reporters. “I’m President.”
Democratic California Representative Maxine Waters said during a press briefing on Wednesday: “What we witnessed takes us back hundreds of years. What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery.”
“Cowboys with their reins, again, whipping Black people, Haitians, into the water where they’re scrambling and falling down when all they’re trying to do is escape from violence in their country,” she added.
“I’m pissed. I’m unhappy and I’m not just unhappy with the cowboys, who were running down Haitians and using their reins to whip them,” Ms Waters said. “I’m unhappy with the administration.”
The White House has faced criticism for continuing its deportations of Haitian migrants, but has defended the policy, arguing that they are trying to install an “orderly and humane process”.
“Our policy process has continued to be the same with Haiti as it is for anybody coming through an irregular migration across our border,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday.
A large number of the migrants trying to enter the US are being removed under Title 42 – a policy that began under the Trump administration and that allows the US to expel migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum if they pose a public health risk. During the pandemic, Title 42 have blocked many from entering the US at the southern border.
Some Democrats have urged the Biden administration to put a stop to the removals of Haitians as their country faces multiple crises – an earthquake recently killed more than 2,000 people and caused widespread devastation, the country has not managed to take control over the spread of Covid-19 and has a very low vaccination rate, and political chaos has gripped the country since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on 7 July.
The US Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned on Wednesday, laying out his outrage at the handling of the crisis in a scathing resignation letter.
“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” he wrote.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price fired back, saying in a statement: “It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation. He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead.”