Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

"An embarrassment": Biden condemns Border Patrol for using horses to deter Haitian migrants

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24.
President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday condemned Border Patrol officers for using horses to deter Haitian immigrants from an encampment under the international bridge earlier this week, but took responsibility for the actions and said an investigation is underway.

Why it matters: Photos of patrol officers charging their horses at immigrants prompted criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

  • The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrols in Del Rio, which has been used since the inception of the Border Patrol in 1924, according to the New York Times.
  • Customs and Border Protection's Office of Professional Responsibility launched an investigation into the incident on Monday.

What they're saying: "It's horrible what you saw. To see people like they did, with horses, running them over, people being strapped. It's outrageous. I promise you those people will pay," Biden said in his first comments on the incident.

  • "It's an embarrassment. It's beyond an embarrassment. It's dangerous. It's wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world. It sends the wrong message at home. It's simply not who we are," Biden added.
  • Worth noting: AFP photographer Paul Ratje took the photos and later told KTSM he didn’t witness agents using reins as whips. Another reporter on the scene, Martha Pskowski of the El Paso Times, said that reins were swung like a whip by at least one agent.

The big picture: Haitian migrants have been attempting to seek refuge in the U.S. since the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and a massive earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people set off major social, political and economic instability in the country.

  • More than 10,000 migrants, primarily from Haiti, have been staying in a crowded temporary camp with poor conditions under the international bridge in Del Rio.
  • The U.S. started ramping up deportation flights back to Haiti and other countries last week, which was condemned by the UN.
  • The Biden administration's special envoy for Haiti resigned from his position Wednesday, writing in his resignation letter that he "will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees."

Go deeper ... By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from multiple media outlets who were at the scene on what they witnessed happen.

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