(Trends Wide) — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in the Del Rio, Texas sector, a Homeland Security official told reporters on Thursday after the impressive Images from the scene will elicit bipartisan criticism of the Joe Biden administration’s management of the crisis on the US-Mexico border.
An investigation was launched after a video surfaced earlier this week showing Border Patrol agents mounted on horseback and aggressively confronting migrants, mostly Haitians. Several senior administration officials, as well as Democratic congressmen, have expressed outrage at the images, taken by Al Jazeera and Reuters, which appear to show law enforcement officers on horseback, as well as some officers wielding long reins near the migrants. who crossed the border near Del Rio.
“We have temporarily stopped using horse patrol in Del Rio. We will prioritize other methods to identify people who may be in medical danger,” the DHS official said.
The official also told reporters Thursday that the department had no intelligence information to suggest there would be a surge of migrants in the sector as seen in the last week. As of Thursday, an estimated thousands of migrants remain on the Del Rio Bridge in a crowded makeshift camp. They sleep on the ground, surrounded by growing piles of trash, exposed to the elements and without much food or water, hoping to be processed by the overwhelmed US Border Patrol.
Government officials responded publicly to widely shared images of Border Patrol agents confronting Haitian immigrants.
Secretary of the Department of National Security Alejandro Mayorkas was “horrified” by the situation. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with finding solutions to address the root causes of migration, expressed her horror at the images during a childcare event in Washington on Tuesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the White House was seeking more information about the “hideous” viral videos.
During a press conference earlier this week, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz said mounted patrol units play an integral role in the security response in Del Rio and that reins are used long to ensure control of the horse. Ortiz, who said he had ridden on horseback for several years, also pointed to the difficulty of operating in a river environment on horseback.
Ortiz said he had asked the mounted patrol unit to conduct an assessment Sunday to find out if there were people in danger and to provide information and intelligence on the trafficking organization’s activities in and around the river.
“[P]But we are going to investigate the facts to make sure that the situation is what we understand, and if it is something different we will respond accordingly, “said Ortiz.
The White House response, so far, has largely focused behind the scenes, as critics compare Biden’s policy of deporting migrants to aggressive measures taken under Donald Trump’s administration.
President Joe Biden has not addressed the situation publicly since Tuesday, when he briefly responded to a question on the matter yelled at him as he left the United Nations General Assembly.
“We will have it under control,” Biden said, without elaborating.
Coping with the influx of migrants
DHS has closely followed the movement of migrants throughout the hemisphere and has worked with law enforcement partners in transit countries.
The department official added that the US “is working closely with the Mexican government and our partners in the US government to try to unravel the issue and see how we can improve the visibility of these organized movements.”
DHS officials declined to provide a figure for how many migrants have been released in the U.S., saying it takes time to collect the data, but added that there are a number of reasons why some people are not expelled, depending on the case. such as vulnerability and limited capacity.
One official said “several thousand people” who were in Del Rio are believed to have already returned to Mexico.
About two-thirds of the migrant population in Del Rio are families, according to DHS. There are some unaccompanied minors, but that is “to a nominal degree,” a Homeland Security official said. The rest are single adults.
The Biden administration continues to rely on a Trump-era border policy tied to the coronavirus pandemic that allows border authorities to swiftly remove detained migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. In recent days, the government has intensified these expulsions and increased the pace of repatriation flights to Haiti.
Many of the Haitians currently on the border are believed to have lived in South America after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but the cost of the coronavirus pandemic in the region drove migration to the southern border of the United States.
In addition, Haiti is still recovering from the August earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people and injured thousands, as well as the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. For these reasons, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers urged the Biden administration to stop deportations to the country in a letter earlier this month.