The Biden Administration is facing a new round of questions and increased scrutiny over its immigration policies as its begun expelling thousands of mostly Haitian migrants and sending them back to their homeland. This comes as the small Texas border community of Del Rio has been deluged with migrants seeking asylum who are enduring 100-degree temperatures and a dwindling supply of food and water. As many as 14,000 Haitians may be sent back to their devastated country in what CBS News calls one of the largest-scale expulsions of migrants by the United States in decades. These refugees, it should be noted, are being expelled without being given the chance to seek asylum.
In addition, there was outrage Monday after a photo went viral that showed a Border Patrol agent on horseback trying to detain a Haitian migrant carrying food. The image, taken by photo-journalist Paul Ratje, was a disturbing snapshot of the chaotic scene in the border town of Del Rio, Texas. Border Patrol agents often keep watch of the area on horseback due to the difficult terrain. But some say the photo showing a white law enforcement officer on top of a horse grabbing a black-skinned man is evocative of the days of slavery.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the photo at a press briefing today.
According to reports from the scene, food and water has been scarce at the makeshift city that has been set up in Del Rio to handle the great surge of migrants. Some crossed back across the Rio Grande to get food from Mexico, and then tried to return to their families on the U.S. side. Border agents, like the ones on horseback, tried to get them to return back to Mexico. That’s when some tried to run around the agents back to the set up at the bridge.
The Washington Post talked to the photographer about what he witnessed.
Ratje’s sense, from covering the scene at the border, is that the agents responsible for policing the scene feel “overwhelmed,” leading to a sense of frustration. A photograph captures only an instant in time, of course, but the agent’s face in the first photo certainly suggests frustration and anger.
According to CBS News, American authorities have started an itinerary of flights to return migrants back to Haiti:
More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights Sunday, and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. In all, U.S. authorities moved to expel many of the more 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
The U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz says they are working to care for the migrants and keep them fed and provide sanitary conditions, but are focused on sending them back.
“We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies.”
Haiti migration officials are asking the United States for a “humanitarian moratorium” as President Biden pursues strong reactions to curb the arrival of more migrants at the border. Despite the criticisms it has received for expelling Haitian refugees, the administration says recent deportations are consistent with U.S. enforcement policy.