History Repeats Itself: US Border Agents Whip Migrants

US border agents on horseback have been seen chasing and driving Haitian migrants back to a river like cattle near the Rio Grande in Texas. Causing public outcry, border patrol agents were seen whipping them. A depiction that some are associating with the dark history of slavery in America.

In one image, one border patrol agent leans over his saddle to grab the shirt of a man trying to get away. In several photos, the migrants are carrying plastic bags and bundles of their possessions in their hands. As the Haitians tried to climb onto the U.S. side of the river Sunday afternoon, an agent shouted: “Let’s go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!”

The pictures taken by AFP photographer Paul Ratje show Haitians crossing the border to get food for their families, and finding themselves blocked by the horses. “Some of the migrants started running to try to get around the horsemen, and one of the agents grabbed the Haitian in the picture by the shirt and he ended up swinging him around while the horse trotted in a circle,” he stated.

Some 14,000 mainly Haitian migrants have gathered in a makeshift camp under a bridge connecting Del Rio to Mexico’s Ciudad Acuña on the US-Mexico border. They are seeking asylum and desperately fleeing Haiti. The AP has reported that more than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed on Monday 20 from the camp.

Authorities have been able to expel refugees using Title 42, a coronavirus public health order. This title was adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and allows migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum.

Reactions 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the images “horrific” and Democratic lawmakers demanded accountability. “I’ve seen some of the footage, I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don’t have additional details, and certainly, … I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate,” Psaki pronounced.

Nevertheless, she reiterated the U.S. stance towards migrants and declared that now is “not the time to come,” citing the state of the U.S. immigration system and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Homeland Security has promised in a statement to investigating the matter. Alejandro Mayorkas says that, although the officers were trying to manage the migrants crossing the river, the alleged abuse would be investigated.

US Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said that the incident was being investigated to make sure there was not an “unacceptable” response by his officers. These officers have been placed on administrative duties while the investigation is open.

According to reporter Bill Chappell from NPR, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is demanding accountability for the incident with a statement on Tuesday 21 remarking that agents must be punished if they’re found to have behaved or spoken inappropriately toward the migrants.

This rights group also called for changes in how the agency works. “Border Patrol must end the use of horse-mounted agents in Del Rio, Texas,” the ACLU chapter said. “The images circulating from the border are vile and unacceptable.”

As of right now, top Border Patrol official and head of the National Border Patrol Council, Brandon Judd has accused Psaki and the White House of “perpetuating the narrative that police are bad” and pushing incorrect information.

Speaking to the Epoch Times he voiced that agents did not round up Haitian refugees with whips, being falsely accused by multiple media outlets and officials. He added that it is part of a “very liberal narrative of defunding the police,” and that his agents feel abandoned by the administration, noting that the Haitian camp has turned into a “war zone refugee camp.” He also pointed out that a situation like this would have “never happened with the Trump administration.”

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