Live updates: Biden vows action for treatment of Haitian migrants; Mayorkas says migrants gone from bridge camp

·17 min read

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Friday vowed to take action against border patrol agents on horseback whose actions in Del Rio, Texas drew widespread outrage.

“It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay. They will be investigated. There will be consequences,” Biden said in response to a reporter's question at the White House.

The remarks, which came after Biden talked about the rollout of booster shoots for those most at risk for the coronavirus, were his first extended comments about the issue since the images emerged.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is already conducting an investigation that he has said will be completed by next week.

The administration has also temporarily suspended horse patrols in Del Rio, Texas.

From Haiti to Texas: How migrants arrived to Del Rio and why the wall didn't stop them

The arrival in recent days of 15,000 Haitian immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas, has been a decade in the making.

But it's these last three weeks that puzzled some: How were the migrants able to breach the U.S. border and amass so quickly?

Images of the migrants wading across the Rio Grande in recent days are a reminder of how permeable the U.S. border can be. It's also shown how the land between the river and a border wall can become a no-man's land.

Just a third of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico has some kind of barrier, and about half of those barriers are designed only to stop vehicles. People on foot can easily circumvent them.

USA TODAY has a new visual story illustrating how those Haitian migrants wound up not just in Texas but exactly where they did.

See for yourself here: From Haiti to Texas: How migrants arrived to Del Rio and why the wall didn't stop them

-- Javier Zarracina and Jim Sergent

Haitians see history of racist policies in migrant treatment

Many Haitians and Black Americans say U.S. immigration policies are and have long been anti-Black.

They point to immigration data that indicate Haitians and other Black migrants routinely face structural barriers to legally entering or living in the U.S. — and often endure disproportionate contact with the American criminal legal system that can jeopardize their residency or hasten their deportation.

Haitians, in particular, are granted asylum at the lowest rate of any nationality with consistently high numbers of asylum seekers, according to an analysis of data by The Associated Press.

“Black immigrants live at the intersection of race and immigration and, for too long, have fallen through the cracks of red tape and legal loopholes,” said Yoliswa Cele, director of narrative and media at the UndocuBlack Network, a national advocacy organization for currently and formerly undocumented Black people.

-- Associated Press

More: Del Rio migrant crisis: How did so many Haitians end up at the southern US border?

Mexican president weighs in on Del Rio camp

Asked about the situation in Ciudad Acuña on Friday, Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “we don’t want Mexico to be a migrant camp, we want the problem to be addressed fully.”

Del Rio Mayor Buno Lozano said the international bridge won’t reopen until Sunday night at the earliest, while officials ensure nobody is hiding in the brush along the Rio Grande and to finish cleanup. Officials also want to be sure no other large groups of migrants are making their way to the Del Rio area who might decide to set up a similar camp, he said.

Lozano said there were no deaths during the time the camp was occupied and that 10 babies were born to migrant mothers, either at the camp or in Del Rio’s hospital.

-- Associated Press

VP Kamala Harris: ‘We have to do more’ on Haitian migrants

During an interview on “The View” Friday Vice President Kamala Harris told the hosts the “we’ve got to do more,” on the influx of Haitian migrants at the southern border.

“There's no question. The United States is a member of the Western Hemisphere. Haiti is our neighbor in that regard. And so, we have to do more in terms of supporting the Haitians who are returning to the island,” Harris said referencing the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July.

The vice president touted the administration granting Temporary Protected Status to 55,000 Haitians and then extending TPS to 100,000 Haitians in May. She did not say if the Biden administration will halt all deportations of Haitians at the border.

Harris also said she was “outraged” by the images of border patrol agents using their horse reins in a way that struck many as whipping Haitian migrants during the interview.

“I was outraged by it. It was horrible and deeply troubling,” Harris said. “There's been now an investigation that has been conducted, which I fully support. And there needs to be consequences and accountability.”

“Human beings should not be treated that way,” she continued. “And as we all know, it also evoked images of some of the worst moments of our history — where that kind of behavior has been used against the Indigenous peoples of our country, has been used against African Americans during slavery.”

-- Mabinty Quarshie

More: Criticized from all sides, Biden scrambles to address surge of Haitian migrants at southern border

In op-ed, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke criticizes White House on Haitian migrants

Former Texas Congressman and candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Beto O’Rourke wrote an op-ed criticizing the Biden administration’s response to thousands of Haitian migrants seeking asylum in El Paso, Texas this week.

“What happened on the Texas-Mexico border over the last week was years in the making,” he wrote in an article published Friday in El Paso Matters.

O’Rourke listed the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, dangerous conditions in South American countries where some migrants lived amid the pandemic and the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July among the reasons migrants finally sought refuge at the U.S. border.

“None of this should have been a surprise to our government,” he wrote.

O’Rourke also decried the administration’s continued use of Title 42 and called for more regard for border communities.

“Those who live in cities like Del Rio, Laredo, McAllen and El Paso — must be listened to when developing border policy. In fact, they should be its authors,” he wrote.

-- Chelsey Cox

More: Mexican government cracks down on Haitian migrants in Ciudad Acuña

Psaki calls Biden’s comments a “very human” response, not a prejudgment of investigation

President Joe Biden’s promise that the border patrol agents accused of mistreating migrants “will pay” will not dictate the outcome of an ongoing investigation, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Psaki called the comments Biden made hours earlier to reports a “very human and visceral response” to images of border agents on horseback chasing down Haitian migrants.

“The president was not prejudging the outcome of an investigation,” she said. “The president was responding from his heart.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday the investigation that began earlier this week will conclude “quickly,” but did not provide a timeline.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Biden called it horrible "to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped."

Video gathered by news organizations on the scene showed mounted guards aggressively confronting migrants and shows agents waving reins in the air but it does not show people being whipped.

“It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay,” Biden said in his first extended remarks about the images.

Psaki said Biden wanted to make clear to those disturbed by the images that the behavior is not acceptable to him.

But the investigation, she added, will determine what personnel or policy decisions will be made in response.

-- Maureen Groppe

More: Thousands of Haitian migrants gather in Del Rio, Texas seeking asylum to US

Mayorkas: it’s not immoral to send migrants back to Haiti

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended using a Trump-era immigration policy to send Haitians back to that country in crisis.

Mayorkas said it’s not immoral to turn away at the border migrants from any country using Title 42, a policy begun last March under the Trump administration at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are doing this out of a public health need,” he said. “It is not an immigration policy. It is not an immigration policy that we would embrace.”

Mayorkas said he does not know whether any of the 15,000 migrants who recently crossed the border into Del Rio, Texas, had COVID-19.

When U.S. Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned in protest this week, he said it’s inhumane to deport Haitians to a country “where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life.”

-- Maureen Groppe

More: 'We just run': Raids, arrests of Haitian migrants continue in Mexico, some admonish treatment

Mayorkas defends response to border images of Haitian migrants

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday defended the Biden administration’s response to images of federal agents pursuing Haitian migrants on horseback in Del Rio, Texas.

Mayorkas said during a White House press briefing on Friday that the images “horrified the nation” and “raised serious questions about what occurred” with respect to the use of reins.

“There is also a question of how one uses the horse and how one interacts with individuals with the horse,” he said.

This week, Mayorkas promised a swift investigation into the horse patrols, and the administration suspended their use in Del Rio on Thursday.

“I’m going to let the investigation run its course. I’m not going to interfere with the investigation,” he said.

Mayorkas said he was not concerned with public statements from President Joe Biden affecting the integrity of the investigation.

“I know how to maintain the integrity of an investigation,” he said, pointing to his experience as a federal prosecutor. “This investigation will have integrity.”

-- Rick Rouan

Biden administration to review use of mounted border patrol units on horseback

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday the department will consider ending mounted border patrol units on horseback amid a backlash over their conduct in dealing with Haitian migrants.

“We’re going to take a look,” Mayorkas said. “What we’re focused on right now is addressing the urgency of that situation in Del Rio under that bridge."

Mayorkas called the images of border agents on horseback chasing down Haitian migrants “horrifying,” but also said the horses serve a purpose to help agents navigate difficult terrain and can help people in distress.

“But we will take a look,” he said.

-- Joey Garrison

Mayorkas: Most migrants at Del Rio returned to Mexico

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted the following numbers around the Haitian migrants at the border:

--12,400 migrants will go before an immigration judge to determine if they will be removed or allowed to stay in the U.S.

--8,000 returned to Mexico voluntarily.

--5,000 are being processed by the U.S. government to determine their status. Some are in holding facilities while others have been released into the community or to family members as they await hearings.

--2,000 have been flown to Haiti for repatriation.

--Maureen Groppe

Investigation into border patrol agents to conclude ‘quickly,’ Mayorkas says

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday his department would publicize findings of an ongoing investigation into “disturbing images” that show mounted border patrol agents whirling their reins and chasing down Haitian migrants this week at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mayorkas said officials immediately contacted the Office of Inspector General to launch the investigation and the agents in question have been assigned to administrative duties and are not interacting with migrants.

He said he directed the Office of Professional Responsibility to be on site in Del Rio full-time to ensure adherence to the policies, training, and values of the department. He said the investigation would conclude “quickly” but he did not provide a timeline.

“Let me be clear, the department does not tolerate any mistreatment of migrants.”

-- Joey Garrison

Mayorkas defends use of Title 42 to expel Haitian migrants

Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday defended the use of public health authority to expel Haitian migrants crossing the southern border.

Speaking at the White House, Mayorkas said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Title 42 authority has been used for all irregular immigration during the pandemic. He pointed out that Title 42 is a “public health authority, not an immigration policy.”

“It is not specific to Haitian nationals or the current situation,” he said.

-- Rick Rouan

Mayorkas: Migrants gone from Del Rio bridge camp

There are no more migrants camped under the bridge in Del Rio, Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Friday.

Mayorkas said at a White House briefing that all were gone as of Friday morning.

About 15,000 migrants had amassed at the border site less than a week ago.

Mayorkas said that was the result of an unprecedented movement of very large numbers of people traveling to a single point within days.

--Maureen Groppe

Officials: All migrants are gone from Texas border camp

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — The mayor of a Texas border city where thousands of Haitian migrants camped in recent days says it’s now empty.

Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said at a news conference Friday that the clearing of the camp was “phenomenal news.”

It comes just days after nearly 15,000 migrants gathered under the bridge that connects Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. The number peaked Saturday as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing trying to seek asylum.

Many face expulsion to their home country.

-- Associated Press

Historians: Border Patrol agent's treatment of Haitian migrants recalls slavery-era whippings

Millions of people this week saw images of a uniformed U.S. Border Patrol agent charging his horse at a group of Haitian migrants clustered along the Rio Grande River. The agent appeared to be twirling his horse's reins like a lasso as Black men, women and children lugging food and water scrambled to get out of harm's way.

The scene drew outrage from Congress and the White House, culminating in the Department of Homeland Security temporarily suspending horse patrols on Thursday pending an investigation into border control practices.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was "horrified" by the images he saw. But the specter of the agent brandishing his reins like a whip was a malevolent reminder for many Black Americans of the cruelty and callousness their enslaved ancestors endured.

Read the story here: Historians: Border Patrol agent's treatment of Haitian migrants recalls slavery-era whippings

-- Javonte Anderson

Biden said he takes responsibility

Biden said that, as president, he takes responsibility for what happened.

But he called it horrible "to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped."

Video gathered by news organizations on the scene showed mounted guards aggressively confronting migrants and shows agents waving reins in the air but it does not show people being whipped.

“It’s dangerous. It’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home," Biden said. "It’s simple not who we are.”

Photos and video showed mounted border patrol agents waving reins in the air and charging migrants as they carried scant belongings across the Rio Grande.

The president has faced bipartisan blowback over the administration's handling of a surge of Haitian migrants at the southern border.

-- Maureen Groppe

Democrats weigh in

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said the images of horseback patrols pursuing Haitians were comparable to the nation's treatment of slaves.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday called on Biden to halt the use of Trump-era policies which he described as "hateful and xenophobic."

"We must allow asylum-seekers to present their claims at our ports of entry and be afforded due process," he said earlier this week.

Biden has used a public health policy put in place by his predecessor known as Title 42, which allows Customs and Border Protection officials to expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A federal judge struck down the public health rule last week but the Biden administration has appealed the ruling as it continues to use it to curb a record number of migrants showing up at the southern border this year.

-- Maureen Groppe

At least 40 children without Haitian passports expelled to Haiti this week

At least 40 children who lack Haitian passports were expelled to Haiti this week under the Biden administration’s deportation efforts of the Haitian migrant influx at the southern border.

Giuseppe Loprete, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration, told CNN out of the more than 170 children who arrived in Haiti, 41 held foreign citizenship. Out of the 41 children, 30 of them have Chilean passports, nine have Brazilian passports and two have Venezuelan passports. Their parents are Haitian nationals.

"The kids were born in those countries, they speak Spanish very well," Loprete said.

The IOM will work with Haiti's Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad regarding what to do with the children, Loprete said.

Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph told CNN the ambassador in Brazil said they “are willing to accept them back with their families.”

Chile said it will also accept welcome back the children born in the country or who have permanent residency status.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry said it would provide assistance for Brazilian citizens, but it had "not been notified, so far, about the reported issue. "

Venezuelan officials have not commented on the issue publicly.

-- Mabinty Quarshie

'I can't live like this': Haitian migrants run out of options, flee camp in Mexico

CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico — Several Haitian migrants fled a makeshift camp at a park near the Rio Grande in Acuña, Mexico, as authorities closed in on those seeking safe haven in the United States.

Some sought shelter elsewhere in the city. Others decided to make one more journey across the Rio Grande on Thursday night. Many of those who risked the waters carried their scared and crying children on their shoulders.

For the past few days, migrants have sought refuge in the park to avoid sweeps of Haitians by authorities in the city. Their departure from the park was driven by feelings of uncertainty, stress, fear, defeat and desperation that began at daybreak Thursday.

Read the rest here: 'I can't live like this': Haitian migrants run out of options, flee camp in Mexico

-- Natalia E. Contreras and Omar Ornelas

Republicans respond to Biden's remarks

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., called Biden “disgraceful” in a tweet after the president’s Friday morning comments promising consequences for the federal agents shown on horseback running near Haitian migrants.

“Instead of maintaining the policies that worked and giving Border Patrol the resources they need to deal with the humanitarian and national security crisis he created, he is blaming them for a fake controversy created by the radical left and complicit media,” Johnson tweeted.

“The White House is using a single encounter at the Texas border to scapegoat law enforcement and deflect criticism from its immigration failure,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, tweeted Friday.

-- Rick Rouan

U.S. special envoy Daniel Foote resigns

Though several administration officials have expressed outrage over the images of mounted border patrol agents, U.S. Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote on Thursday stepped down in protest of the administration's expulsion of Haitians.

"I will not be associated with the United States' inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life," Foote wrote in his resignation letter.

-- Maureen Groppe

More: Unlike Trump, Biden doesn't have an immigration czar. But does he need one?

More: Border patrol suspends horse patrols in Del Rio, Texas. Why were they on horses at all?

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.
A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live border updates: Mayorkas says Haitian migrants gone from bridge