The U.S. is releasing many Haitian migrants who have arrived in Texas within the country, rather than deporting them back to Haiti, the AP reports. After images were published on Monday appearing to show a U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback using a cord of rope as a whip to chase down Haitian migrants crossing over the Mexican border into Texas, the Department of Homeland Security announced an investigation into the incident.
A U.S. official estimated that thousands have been bused to other locations in Texas or to Arizona, then told to appear at an immigration office within two months. It is not clear what percentage of overall Haitian migrants this population represents, or who, exactly, is being spared deportation — though officials told the AP that single adults were more likely to be expelled.
The Biden administration, trying to get a handle on a sudden immigration crisis, has emphasized repeatedly that anyone who shows up at the border will be deported immediately. And beginning last weekend, many migrants have been placed on flights back to Haiti. That includes some Haitian natives who had made lives in other countries, immigrated to the U.S. based on false information, and were sent to a country they hadn’t seen in years.
That practice, as well as the Texas Border Patrol’s aggressive treatment of the migrants, has drawn criticism, mainly from Biden’s left.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility opened an inquiry to “define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken.” Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas added that Office of Professional Responsibility officials will be stationed outside Del Rio, where the incident took place, on a “full-time” basis “to ensure that the responsibilities of DHS personnel are executed consistent with applicable policies and training and the department’s values,” according to a spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is reportedly planning, starting Wednesday, to almost double the number of Haitian migrants being deported back to Haiti from Texas.
The photos caused widespread outrage on Monday, including a condemnation from White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who described them as “horrific,” adding that she couldn’t “imagine what the scenario is where that would be appropriate.” According to the El Paso Times, the incident took place on the banks of the Rio Grande near the border town of Del Rio, as agents on horseback tried to deter Haitian migrants from crossing into the United States. “Let’s go!” a mounted agent yelled. “Get out now! Back to Mexico!” The agent then swung the rope at the migrants, as one man fell and others tried to shield themselves.
The apparent whipping comes as more than 14,500 Haitians are camped under a bridge in Del Rio as they wait to be processed by Border Patrol; on Monday, it was 104 degrees in the town. In response to the increase in undocumented migrants from Haiti — impacted this summer by the assassination of Jovenel Moïse and an earthquake that killed over 2,000 — U.S. officials have begun a mass deportation of Haitians and have sent over 600 Border Patrol agents to the area. This weekend, around 3,300 people were removed from the makeshift camp in Del Rio and sent to detention centers or placed on flights back to the island nation. The Biden administration has used a Trump-era Centers for Disease Control policy called Title 42 to justify the deportation of migrants without allowing them to file asylum claims.
This post has been updated.