The White House called the scenes “terrible”.
Videos and images of several U.S. border guards on horseback chasing and attacking migrants with an alleged whip near the Rio Grande, in an area bordering the small municipality of Del Rio in the U.S. state of Texas, have sparked controversy in the country.
The scenes took place against the backdrop of a new immigration crisis at the border, which saw up to 12,000 migrants last week, most of them Haitians, detained in a makeshift camp under a bridge linking Del Río to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
“To prevent injuries from heat-related illnesses, a shaded area under the Del Rio International Bridge serves as a temporary stopover while migrants wait to be taken into custody by the US Border Patrol,” the agency said last week. statement despite criticism of the precarious situation of migrants.
The US government began deporting hundreds of them on Sunday and closed the border crossing at Del Rio, prompting hundreds of other Haitians to return to the Mexican side in the face of uncertainty.
After settling under the bridge, some migrants moved to Mexico to buy food and water for themselves and their families, which were in short supply on the American side, and returned to the temporary camp.
Photographer Paul Rathier of the AFP news agency took the picture near a boat moored on a river in an area where migrants were trying to enter or return to the United States.
“I arrived at the scene and everyone was walking by,” a photographer for The Washington Post said.
“Suddenly, some policemen appeared and started taking people away. Then border guards arrived on horseback and began to take people away.”
The footage shows the agents wielding tools that some are calling “whips,” though authorities say they are “reins” used to “ensure control of the horse.”
“There was a constant flow and (agents) were saying, ‘No, you can’t get in. Go back to Mexico.” But people said, “But my family is there,” Ratier told The Washington Post.
In this context, one of the officers on horseback momentarily picked up a man who appeared to be carrying packages of food.
But in the end, despite the intervention of the patrol, the migrants managed to cross the river and reach the camp, US media reported.
Patrols of border guards on horseback are not uncommon, among other things, due to the geography of the area.
Border guards often urge migrants to return to Mexico, explains Nick Miroff, an immigration reporter for The Washington Post.
“In this case, this 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 these images will find them acceptable or appropriate.”
“I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine in what context it would be appropriate.” “(Agents) shouldn’t be able to do it again.”
According to Psaki, this is a “clearly terrible” record.
Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, for her part, described the actions of the border guards as a “violation of human rights” and as “cruel, inhuman and a violation of national and international laws.”
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Majorcas assured that the facts would be investigated, calling the plight of migrants “difficult and painful.”
However, he warned: “If you enter the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your trip will not be successful and you will endanger your life and the life of your family.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying the agency “does not condone mistreatment of migrants.”
“The records are extremely worrying, and the facts of a full investigation, which will be conducted promptly, will determine the appropriate disciplinary action to be taken,” the DHS said in a statement.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the incident was being investigated to ensure there was no “unacceptable” police response, Reuters reported.
In addition, he added that the agents were operating under difficult conditions, trying to ensure the safety of migrants while looking for potential smugglers.
New border crisis
The situation presents a new political and humanitarian challenge for the administration of President Joe Biden, who has vowed to be more “humane” with migrants and asylum seekers than his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Despite the recent crises that hit Haiti – the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the earthquake that devastated the southwest of the country – the vast majority of Haitians living on the border with the United States left their country many years ago, after the 2010 earthquake, according to BBC Monitoring, A section of the BBC that collects and analyzes press news from around the world.
The earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation, killing 200,000 people and displacing thousands.
For some time they lived and worked in South America, in countries such as Brazil or Chile.
Over the past two days, 560 Haitians have been sent back to Haiti. However, thousands of people still remain in the Texas camp, according to the EFE news agency.
Only this Monday (September 20) 233 people were deported, including 45 children and 45 women. Almost all the deported women had a child or an infant in their arms.
In addition to those already deported, more than 6,000 Haitians have been transferred to other immigration processing centers and are subject to deportation, according to US officials.
Beneath the border bridge in Del Rio, Texas, Haitians claimed they were mistreated by US border guards.
“They treated the Haitians like thieves. Haitians are not thieves, but people looking for a better life. They did not treat representatives of other peoples in this way. This is racism,” a 30-year-old woman told EFE, who assured that she lived in Cap-Haïtien.
Miroff of The Washington Post said that the area under the bridge looked like “a small town with its own growing economy, often centered on food.”
Brazilians are not much different. Last week, the Yuma Sector Border Patrol, in charge of the US southeastern state of Arizona, announced the arrest of 140 Brazilians.
“This morning, border agents detained a group of 140 Brazilian migrants. Agents have seen an average of over 600 migrants daily this month, more than 2,000% more than last year,” wrote Chris T. Clem. head of the Yuma sector border guard, on his personal Twitter account.
According to him, the group was caught by CCTV camera operators. Then he surrendered to the agents.
Data from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency shows that the number of Brazilians illegally crossing the US southern border has reached a record high in the past ten months. From October 2020 to August this year, 46,410 Brazilians were detained – six times more than in the same period earlier.
In August alone, there were 9,098 transition attempts, the highest number since the beginning of fiscal year 2021 (October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021).
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