DEL RIO, Texas – President Joe Biden’s administration is investigating U.S. Border Patrol agents’ use of apparent whips on Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A mounted U.S. Border Patrol agent swung his whip “menacingly” while charging his horse toward Haitian migrants who were crossing the Rio Grande on Sunday afternoon, El Paso Times Reporter Martha Pskowski reported.
“Let’s go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!”
The agent shouted at the migrants who had left relatives at the improvised encampment where thousands are waiting in Del Rio, Texas. Some had crossed to buy food and drinks at Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and were returning to the encampment, according to Pskowski.
Paul Ratje, a photographer for AFP Getty Images, captured the moment a U.S. Border Patrol agent grabbed one of the Haitian migrants from his horse. Reuters reported one migrant fell as he tried to dodge, and others shielded their heads with their hands. Videos show the agents’ deterrence.
“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate,” Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, told reporters on Monday.
During a news conference near the encampment, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said misinformation about the availability of temporary protected status was driving the “heartbreaking situation.”
He also said the agents weren’t using whips, but rather long reins that are used to control their horses.
Still, the use of how those long reins were used against the migrants is being highly criticized.
Homeland Security later released a statement saying the images were “extremely troubling” and promised “ appropriate disciplinary actions.”
Haitians in the southwest side of the country endured a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14. A political crisis unraveled after President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7. There has been increased gang activity during the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned,” Mayorca said. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”
The U.S. expulsion flights of mostly men to Haiti were expected to continue on Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense were assisting. There were some Haitian families with relatives in South Florida who were allowed to stay to apply for asylum.
A couple who identified as John and Julia said in Creole they had arrived at the crowded encampment under the bridge last week after paying human traffickers about $7,000. She said she is 7-months pregnant. He said he was hopeful about their future.
More reporting from the border
Torres contributed to this report from Miami.