Biden condemns Border Patrol treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Friday condemned Border Patrol’s treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, calling their actions “outrageous” and vowing the agents responsible will be punished. 

“It’s horrible what you saw. To see people like they did, with horses, running them over, people being strapped, it’s outrageous,” Biden said at the White House, referencing a series of photos and video showing mounted Border Patrol agents grabbing Haitian migrants trying to cross into the U.S. 

“I promise you, those people will pay. There is an investigation underway right now and there will be consequences,” he said. 

It was the president’s first substantive comment on the situation in Del Rio, Texas, where more than 10,000 Haitian migrants have tried to enter the U.S. from Mexico since mid-September. 

His administration’s handling of the influx of migrants has drawn sharp criticism from immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers after the photos and video depicting Border Patrol agents’ harsh treatment surfaced this week. 

Amid public outcry, the administration announced Thursday that it was halting agents’ use of horses in Del Rio, Texas.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on Monday rejected allegations that whips were used by agents in images and videos that fueled an outcry on social media. They said the agents were wielding reins to control their horses.

United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants 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.

Paul Ratje | AFP | Getty Images

Biden said he took responsibility for the crisis unfolding at the border and the actions of Border Patrol depicted in the photos and video.

“Of course I take responsibility,” Biden said. “I’m President.”

 “It’s dangerous. It’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home,” he continued. “It’s simply not who we are.”

The administration’s deportation of Haitian migrants led the U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, to resign Thursday over what he called inhumane treatment. 

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed,” Foote said in a resignation letter Wednesday obtained by NBC News.

More than 3,000 Haitian nationals have been moved to Customs and Border Protection custody to either be placed in removal proceedings or expelled through Title 42, a Trump-era health law that denies certain migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. 

And a total of 1,401 Haitians have been flown back to Haiti on repatriation flights that began Sunday, leaving fewer than 5,000 Haitian migrants under a bridge in Del Rio.

— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report

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