President Joe Biden on Friday vowed the border agents on horseback who nearly ran down migrants will ‘pay’ and face the consequences of their actions.
The president called the photos of agents on horseback chasing down migrants ‘horrible to see.’
‘It was horrible what to see, as you saw, to see people treat like they did – horses running them over, people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay. There will be investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences. It’s an embarrassment. But beyond an embarrassment is dangerous, it’s wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world, and sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the agents will not continue to use horses at the border as part of their patrols as the administration struggles to contain fallout from the photos.
Progressive Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus were particularly outraged by the images, comparing them to slavery.
White House officials have publicly condemned the photos and officials met with black lawmakers to reassure them they were taking the matter seriously. But Friday marked Biden’s first public comments on the situation.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki revealed on Thursday that Mayorkas promised civil rights leaders that horses would no longer be used.
‘The secretary also conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we would no longer be using horses in Del Rio,’ Psaki said during her daily press briefing. ‘So that is something – a policy change that has been made in response.’
‘We feel those images are horrible and horrific,’ she reiterated from her comments in previous days. ‘There is an investigation the president certainly supports overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, which he has conveyed will happen quickly.’
President Joe Biden vowed the border agents who ran down migrants will ‘pay’ and face the consequences of their actions
Civil Rights leaders and progressive politicians erupted after images emerged of Border Patrol agents lashing horse reins in the direction of migrants while ramping up deportation and deterrent efforts
Images emerged earlier this week of U.S. Custom and Border patrol agents on horseback using their reins to chase after migrants, the majority of who were Haitians. Critics compared the photos – there was no video footage – of images of slavery, accusing agents of whipping people.
Representative Maxine Waters said on Wednesday that the actions portrayed in the images were ‘worse than slavery’.
Agents insist they were not using whips against the migrants, 15,000 of whom set up a makeshift camp underneath and around the Del Rio International Bridge over the last few weeks.
They argued they were only using the reins to ward off immigrants.
U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote resigned on Wednesday, claiming: ‘I will not be associated with the United States [sic] inhumane, counterproductive, decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti’
Mayorkas said Thursday that as many as 2,000 Haitians had been released into the US pending hearings – but failed to reveal where a further 3,000 are.
Mayorkas appeared on CNN Thursday evening and said that up to 15 per cent of the total 15,000 immigrants had been released.
However, he failed to say where a further 3,000 missing migrants are.
It came after the DHS revealed Thursday that of the 15,000 total; 1,401 were sent back to Haiti on 12 flights, 3,206 remain in custody, and 5,000 are camped out beneath the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
This left 5,000 unaccounted for. Mayorkas has now indicated that 2,000 have been released, but mystery still surrounds the whereabouts of the further 3,000.
Mayorkas was asked repeatedly about how many Haitians have been released into the US pending the outcome of their immigration proceedings – and repeatedly declined to provide a specific numerical figure.
‘We believe it is a very small percentage of the total that assembled in Del Rio Texas, and that will be removed,’ Mayorkas responded, on a day when the US special envoy for Haiti resigned in protest of US policy on deportations.
The squalid border camp which held up to 15,000 at one point last weekend has now shrunk to under 3,000, as immigration officials rushed to release thousands of migrants into the US, but another camp is growing across the Rio Grande in Mexico.
The camp had swelled to some 15,000 migrants at one point, with thousands seen wading across the Rio Grande River daily. Many are Haitians who were previously granted asylum in Chile, with some Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans also present.
Mexican forces have surrounded a second camp that is growing on the Mexican side of the border, where some migrants are gathering to assess their chances of successfully entering the US illegally.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) is starting to return migrants to the southern Mexican city of Tapachula so they can file asylum applications there.
‘We’re not taking them out of the country,’ INM chief Francisco Garduno told Reuters. ‘We’re bringing them away from the border so there are no hygiene and overcrowding problems.’
Telling migrants eyeing the U.S. side of the border that it would be better to process claims before the media disappeared from Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna, INM agents swept through the camp on Thursday beseeching them to go back to Tapachula.
‘We’re giving you this option,’ INM official Montserrat Saldana told a cluster of migrants circled around her. ‘All of you who cross the river are going straight to Haiti.’
Meanwhile, US special envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote resigned on Wednesday because he didn’t want to be involved with the ‘inhumane’ deportation of Haitian migrants.
‘I will not be associated with the United States [sic] 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,’ Ambassador Foote wrote in his resignation letter.
In the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foote said another reason for his resignation is that his recommendations to help Haiti have been ‘ignored and dismissed’.
‘Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,’ Foote continued, ‘and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that DHS will no longer allow the use of horses in Del Rio after outcry over images showing agents on horseback appearing to use whips on a crowd of migrants
Migrants, many from Haiti, are seen in an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge near the Rio Grande, Thursday, September 23
A State Department spokesperson accused Foote of ‘mischaracterizing the circumstances of his resignation’ and said some of his ideas were deemed ‘harmful.’
‘[A]ll proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process,’ a statement from the spokesperson reads. ‘Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process.’
‘For him to to say that his proposals were ignored is simply false,’ the person added.
The statement claims: ‘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.’
Psaki reiterated the sentiments from the statement during her Thursday briefing, saying: ‘I’m not going to detail that further.’
Foote blamed Biden for making things worse in Haiti by backing the ‘unelected’ leader after the coup, claiming that ‘picking the winner’ will produce ‘catastrophic results’.
‘Last week, the U.S. and other embassies in Port-au-Prince issued another public statement of support for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry as interim leader of Haiti, and have continued to tout his ‘political agreement’ over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society,’ he wrote.
Foote added: ‘The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner – again – is impressive.’
‘This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results,’ he said. ‘The negative impact to Haiti will have calamitous consequences not only in Haiti, but in the U.S. and our neighbors in the hemisphere.’
This year alone, around 1.3 million migrants were apprehended by Customs and Border Protection.