More than 12,000 migrants, many of them Haitians, are waiting for asylum at the US-Mexico border
The White House has condemned the way Border Patrol has been treating Haitians massed at the border, where agents have been filmed berating the migrants and using whip-like lengths of cord to enforce their orders.
“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it acceptable or appropriate,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. “It’s horrible to watch.”
In one video, a Border Patrol agent can be seen screaming at a crowd of migrants, many of them shoeless after fording the Rio Grande in search of food and water, before charging at them on horseback.
“You use your women, this is why your country is s***,” the man says.
Tensions have been high Del Rio, Texas, along the US-Mexico border, where more than 12,000 migrants, many of them Haitians, have set up a makeshift refugee camp as they flee their home country’s disintegrating political situation and seek asylum.
On Sunday, the US began flying migrants out of the camps on flights back to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, where the country has been reeling after a massive earthquake in August and the assassination of its president in July.
“We have no choice at this point but to increase repatriation flights,” Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Sunday.
Under Title 42, a Trump-era migration policy ostensibly instituted to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the US has been turning away most border-crossers before they can apply for asylum with some exceptions.
Last week, a federal judge ruled the policy shouldn’t apply to families, but the decision doesn’t take effect for another two weeks and the Biden administration is appealing the decision.
“What kills me about that is that everyone knows what we Haitians are going through,” one man told an Al Jazeera film crew. “There’s no president. Crime is high. Students can’t go to school. There’s no work. The economy is down. People can’t put up with that. Deportation is not good for us.”
Migrants had been able to cross back and forth over the US-Mexico border to seek food and medicine, but authorities have warned they won’t be let back in the future.
“We’re trapped,” Joncito Jean, 37, a father of two, told Reuters.”There are no humane conditions… We have to break out to buy water.”
The Border Patrol has said it is providing food, water, portable toilets, and other humane services to those in the border camp.
Images of the scene, showing Border Patrol agents in cowboy hats using whip-like lengths of cord to corral the mostly Black migrants, inspired some to compare the treatment to how slave catchers abused enslaved people during the 19th century.
“This is heinous,” wrote Kaitlyn Greenidge of Harper’s Bazaar magazine on Twitter. “And there’s no way this administration or its supporters can say this is ever fine.”
“Here’s what the US Border Patrol is doing to round up #Haitians,” added commentator Denae Joseph, who hosts a podcast about Black migrants. “They’re looking very much like the slave patrols that would be dispatched to capture enslaved people dead or alive. #BorderCrisis”