The White House and Department of Homeland Security said Monday that videos of horse-mounted Border Patrol agents chasing Haitian migrants in Texas were disturbing and would be investigated. DHS "does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously," the department said in a statement Monday evening. "The footage is extremely troubling and the facts learned from the full investigation, which will be conducted swiftly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken."
The U.S. on Sunday began repatriating some of the more than 10,000 Haitian migrants amassed under an international bridge near Del Rio, Texas, flying them back to Haiti, though most of them traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border from Chile and elsewhere in South America. Video recorded Sunday shows horse-mounted Border Patrol agents rushing Haitian migrants along the Rio Grande, in some cases using obscenities while trying to force them to cross back to Mexico.
Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said Monday he deployed horse-mounted agents in Del Rio to "find out if we had any individuals in distress, and be able to provide information and intelligence as to what the smuggling organizations were doing in and around the river." Speaking next to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Del Rio, Ortiz said that contrary to reports, the agents did not have whips and appeared go be swinging their horses' reins while "trying to control" their animals, though he added that officials would "look into the matter to make sure that we do not have any activity that could be construed" as misconduct.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took a harder line. "I've seen some of the footage, I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate," she said. "I don't think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate." Psaki added that she couldn't comment further without more information about what happened, it's clear from the "obviously horrific" footage that border agents "should never be able to do it again."
Several congressional Democrats criticized U.S. Customs and Border Protection for apparently mistreating the Haitian migrants, and some migrant advocacy groups slammed the Biden administration for flying Haitians back to their chaotic and unsafe country. Prominent Republicans argue that Biden isn't doing enough to stop migrants at the border.