U.S. will investigate incidents in which border agents were dispersing Haitians

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security pledged Monday to swiftly conduct an investigation into “extremely troubling footage” showing Border Patrol agents riding on horseback dispersing Haitian migrants. It also stated that disciplinary action could be taken as a result of the internal probe.

The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t tolerate abuse of migrants while we have them in custody. A spokesperson for the department said that they take such allegations seriously. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility has begun an investigation into the matter and has notified the DHS Office of the Inspector General.”

Homeland secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed personnel from the department to go to Del Rio in Texas to make sure that their duties are “consistent” with policies, training, and Department values.

News outlets captured videos and photos of Border Patrol officers on horseback pursuing migrants crossing the Rio Grande, near Del Rio. This small community is located in southwest Texas. Some footage of Border Patrol officers on horseback swinging the lariats (a rope that horse riders use to stop migrants crossing into Haiti) fueled fears that they were whipping and threatening to whip these desperate migrants.

Haitian Migrants Photo Gallery
U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, September 19, 2021. Felix Marquez / AP

In one video, a mounted agent is heard telling a migrant who huddled with a group of women and children, “This is why your country’s sh, because you use your women for this.” He was repeatedly stopped by the officer.

The collection of videos and photos caused a lot of controversy. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, called the video collection “horrific” at a Monday briefing, saying that “I don’t believe anyone would consider it acceptable or appropriate.” “

Congressman Bennie Thompson (Democratic chair of House Homeland Security committee) said that the treatment of Haitian migrants in deplorable conditions was disturbing and against U.S. policy.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security committee said that mistreatment of Haitian migrants was “disturbing” and against U.S. values.

“I urge Secretary Mayorkas immediately to act to hold the responsible accountable and make sure that all migrants receive treatment in line with law and basic decency. This Administration has made this promise since day one,” Thompson stated.

Advocates were also concerned for the safety of asylum-seekers.

“The sight of Border Patrol officers riding horses after black immigrants was disturbing,” stated Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is leading a lawsuit to stop the expulsion of migrants’ families. In just days thousands of migrants from Haiti crossed the border to Mexico near Del Rio. This overwhelmed U.S border officers and prompted them to set up a temporary migrant processing camp under an international bridge.

Mexico Border Migrant Camp
Migrants wade across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, to Mexico, to shop for food and supplies before returning back to the US side of the border on Sunday, September 19, 2021. Felix Marquez / AP

The rapid arrival of thousands of migrants, coupled with the emergence of the massive encampment, prompted the Biden administration to surge hundreds of border agents to Del Rio and to announce a blitz of deportation flights to Haiti, a country reeling from political turmoil, widespread insecurity, crippling poverty and a deadly earthquake in August.

“This movement is distinct from other large migrations of migrants we have seen,” Mayorkas stated during Monday’s press conference in Del Rio.

Gelernt was an ACLU lawyer who expressed concern over the U.S.’s deportation of Haitians including young families and their inability to apply for asylum.

The Biden administration has been using a public health authority, colloquially known as Title 42, to “expel” migrants without allowing them to apply for U.S. protection. The policy was first instituted in March 2020, but the Biden administration has kept it, citing the continued spread of the coronavirus and a 21-year high in migrant apprehensions.

Last week, the ACLU convinced a judge to bar the government from using Title 42 to expel families with children. The judge suspended his order until September, and the Biden administration appealed.

” “The dramatic situation of Haitian families on the Del Rio bridge illustrates what has so far been mostly out of sight,” Gelernt said to CBS News.

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