Homeland Security Probing Treatment of Haitians at U.S. Border
(Bloomberg) -- The Department of Homeland Security is investigating a heated confrontation between border patrol agents on horseback and Haitian migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, according to people familiar with the matter, has seen video of the agents, wearing western hats and chaps, chasing migrants into the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas, with one of the agents waving what looks like a rein or whip and others shouting and pointing at Mexico.
One agent rides up to a group, some carrying children, and insults them and Haiti. A woman and child rush to get out of his way. Other migrants fall into the river as the horsemen advance.
The department released a statement on Monday night saying it did not “tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter and has alerted the DHS Office of Inspector General.”
Mayorkas, according to the statement, “has directed that personnel from the Office of Professional Responsibility be on site full-time to ensure that the responsibilities of DHS personnel are executed consistent with applicable policies and training and the department’s values.”
Some of the migrants had been in Latin American countries for some time before trying to reach the U.S. The latest influx has coincided with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July and a major earthquake in August that further traumatized the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Thousands of the migrants have set up an improvised camp under a bridge in Del Rio. The camp has drawn sharp criticism of President Joe Biden and his immigration policies both from civil liberties and human rights groups and conservatives, including former President Donald Trump.
A White House official said Monday night the administration was trying to respond to the crisis by providing support to the migrants at the border but also by flying them back to Haiti under Title 42, which allows for expulsion over the threat of bringing communicable disease into the country.
Earlier Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “this is clearly a very challenging circumstance on the ground” and that American policy was to treat people “humanely.”
The State Department said Monday night that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry about “about cooperation to repatriate Haitian migrants on the southern border of the United States.”
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