After receiving public outcry and backlash over videos and photos circulating on social media showing how mounted agents chased down and used their reins to whip at Haitian migrants, who were trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration has decided to halt Border Patrol agents to use horses in Del Rio, Texas.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in a briefing that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told civil rights leaders Thursday that the administration “would no longer be using horses in Del Rio.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond on the matter.
Psaki, when asked why the president has not publicly denounced the images, said the change in policy shows that Biden finds the photos “horrific.”
“I think people should take away that his actions make clear how horrible and horrific these images are, including an investigation, including a change of policy, including conveying clearly that this is not acceptable, and he’s not going to stand for this in the Biden-Harris administration,” she said.
On Monday, Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz denied accusations that agents had been using “whips.” They said that agents were wielding reins to control their horses.
The images received harsh criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
In a tweet, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, D-N.Y., had condemned the Border Patrol’s action, saying, “It doesn’t matter if a Democrat or Republican is President, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants… Immigration should not be a crime, and its criminalization is a relatively recent invention. This is a stain on our country.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., agreed with Ocasio-Cortex, saying: “These are human rights abuses, plain and simple. Cruel, inhumane, and a violation of domestic and international law. This needs a course correction and the issuance of a clear directive on how to humanely process asylums seekers at our border.”
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters that she was “deeply troubled” by the photos and is supportive of a “thorough investigation,” because “human beings should never be treated that way.”
The policy followed after the Biden administration received outrage over how it handled the 10,000 Haitian migrants who attempted to cross the Rio Grande to enter the U.S. from Mexico since September.
According to Psaki, 3,206 Haitians national were moved to Customs and Border Protection custody to be placed in removal proceedings or expelled through Title 42 of the law during (Donald) Trump’s era that rejects some migrants the chance to apply for asylum.
Recently, the Biden Administration appealed a federal judge order to stop the use of Title 42 which appalled immigration advocates and progressive Democrats who were hoping that the policy ends.
At least 1,401 Haitians have been sent back to Haiti via repatriation flights that started Sunday while less than 5,000 migrants stay under the bridge in Del Rio on Thursday, Psaki said.
Meanwhile, U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned from his post after what he calls “inhuman” treatment of Haitian migrants.
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed,” Foote said in a resignation letter on Wednesday, obtained by NBC news.
Psaki said Foote had “ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure” but “he never did so.” She also said that there had been “disagreements” within the Biden administration across its policy response to the growing number of Haitian migrants.