- BBC News World
The White House called the scenes “terrible.”
Videos and images of several United States border agents on horseback chasing and charging migrants with an apparent cordon near the Rio Grande, in an area near the small municipality of Del Rio, in Texas, unleashed a new controversy in the country.
The scenes took place in the midst of a new immigration crisis at the border, which led to up to 12,000 migrants – mostly Haitians – being held in a makeshift camp under a bridge that connects Del Río with Ciudad Acuña, in Mexico, last week.
“To prevent injuries from heat-related illnesses, the shaded area under the Del Rio International Bridge is serving as a temporary stop site while migrants wait to be taken into the custody of the USBP (US Border Patrol).” said that body in a statement last week in the face of criticism of the precarious situation of migrants.
The US government began Sunday to deport hundreds of them and closed the Del Rio border crossing, prompting hundreds of other Haitians to return to the Mexican side amid uncertainty.
Since they settled under the bridge, some migrants have crossed into Mexico to buy food and water for themselves and their families, which were in short supply on the American side, and return to the makeshift camp.
The photographer Paul Ratje, from the AFP Agency, took the image near a boat landing on the river, in an area where migrants were trying to enter or return to the United States.
“I arrived at the place and everyone was crossing there,” the photographer told the newspaper The Washington Post. “Suddenly some policemen appeared and started trying to get people to leave. Then border agents came on horseback and started trying to get people to leave.”
According to the images, the agents were carrying instruments that some present described as “whips”, although the authorities assure that they are “reins” that the guard uses to “ensure control of the horse.”
“There was a continuous flow and [los agentes] They said, ‘No, you can’t come in. Back to Mexico’. But people said ‘but my family is there,’ “Ratje told The Washington Post.
In this context, one of the officers on horseback momentarily caught a man who appeared to be carrying bags of food.
But in the end, despite the intervention of the patrol, the migrants managed to cross the river and reach the camp, according to US media.
Border agents patrolling on horseback It is not unusual, due to the geography of the terrain, among other causes, and generally the guard exhorts migrants to return to Mexico, explained Nick Miroff, a reporter for The Washington Post, specialized in immigration.
“In this case, that request was not particularly successful, in part because the migrants were trying to return with food,” he said.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “I don’t think anyone who sees those images thinks it is acceptable or appropriate.”
“I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make it appropriate.” “(The agents) shouldn’t be able to do it again.”
According to Psaki, it is a recording “obviously horrible”.
Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, for her part, described the actions of the border agents as “human rights abuses” and as “cruel, inhuman and a violation of national and international laws.”
The Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, Alejandro Mayorkas, assured that the events would be investigated, describing the situation of the migrants as “challenging and heartbreaking”.
However, he issued a warning: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your trip will not be successful and you will be putting your life and the lives of your family in danger.”
On Monday afternoon, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement and said the entity “does not tolerate the abuse of migrants.”
“The recordings are extremely worrying and the facts available from the full investigation, which will be carried out quickly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions that will be taken, “said DHS.
The head of the US Border Patrol, Raúl Ortiz, said the incident was being investigated to make sure there was no “unacceptable” response from the police, reports Reuters.
In addition, he added that the agents were operating in a difficult environment, trying to ensure the safety of migrants while searching for potential smugglers.
A new border crisis
The situation presents a new political and humanitarian challenge for the administration of President Joe Biden, which vowed to be more “humane” toward migrants and those seeking asylum than its Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Despite the latest crises that have hit Hatí – the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the earthquake that devastated the southwest of the country – the vast majority of Haitians on the US border left their nation years ago, since the 2010 earthquake that left some 200,000 dead, reports BBC Monitoring.
They have been living and working in South America for some time, in countries like Brazil or Chile.
In these last two days, there are already 560 migrants who have arrived in Haiti as part of the thousands that still remain in the Texas camp, reported the EFE Agency.
This Monday 233 deported Haitians arrived, 45 of them children and 45 women. Almost all deported women had a child or a baby in arms, according to the same source.
In addition to those already deported, more than 6,000 Haitians have been transferred to other immigration processing centers, according to US authorities. also for their deportation.
Under the border bridge in Del Rio, Texas, Haitians claimed upon arrival in Haiti that they were mistreated by US border agents.
“They treated Haitians like thieves. Haitians are not thieves, but people seeking a better life. They did not treat people from other nations that way. It’s racism, “a woman in her 30s who said she lived in Cap Haitien told EFE.
Miroff, de The Washington Post, said the area under the bridge looked like “a small city, with its own emerging economy, frequently focused on food.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.