After images surfaced of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing Haitian migrants with whips near the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security suspended the use of mounted agents.
“We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily. We’ll prioritize other methods for identifying individuals who might be in medical distress,” a DHS official told CNN.
The Biden Administration has received backlash over its handling of an influx of 14,000 migrants, most of them Haitians, who have arrived at the border over a span of a week this month.
President Joe Biden’s special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, who was recently appointed over the summer, abruptly resigned, saying he could not support the administration’s “inhumane” treatment of migrants.
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed,” Foote wrote.
Before images showed agents on horseback chasing down and aggressively confronting Haitian migrants, The New York Times reported that thousands of migrants were being help at temporary camps under poor conditions in Del Rio, Texas, as they awaited processing.
Now, as Biden moves to deport thousands of Haitians fleeing violence, political instability, and the aftermath of an August earthquake, critics have said his handling of the situation is an extension of Trump-era policies.
Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act, which gives federal health officials powers to limit the spread of disease during a pandemic, was invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020. The act can be used to essentially seal the northern and southern borders.
The Biden Administration has kept Title 42 in place, although scientists have said it’s unlikely to slow the spread of the virus, and have used the measure to expel tens of thousands of adults and families, citing public health. Critics say Biden is using Title 42 to deport migrants under the guise of public health without making the matter an immigration policy issue.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters criticized the handling of migrants on Wednesday. “I’m unhappy with the administration. We are following Trump politics. He is the one who does not follow the Constitution and would not allow those seeking refuge to be able to petition to get into the country,” she said.
Biden acknowledged that the images showing the controversial interactions between Border Patrol agents and migrants are “horrible” on Friday.
“It’s horrible what you saw. To see people like they did, with horses, running them over, people being strapped, it’s outrageous,” the president said at a press conference
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki rejected the idea on Thursday that Haitian migrants are being treated differently than migrants from other countries.
“Our policy process has continued to be the same with Haiti as it is for anybody coming through irregular migration across our border,” she said. “There is a process that is in place, that people — whether they’re coming from Haiti or any part of the world — go through.”
The statement came after “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin noted on Tuesday that the administration has requested to receive 95,000 Afghans by September 2022.
Hostin questioned, “if you can bring 95,000 Afghans here, why are you sending 86 Haitians back on an airplane to a country that has been devastated?”
The number of Haitian migrants at the border has dropped significantly over the past several days. The New York Times reported that about 2,000 migrants were deported on chartered flights, while thousands more have been released into the U.S. and arrived by bus to Texas shelters.