White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Thursday that Border Patrol agents will no longer be permitted to use horses to guard the border in Del Rio, Texas, after “horrific” photos emerged of agents swinging long reins while interacting with Haitian migrants.
The announcement comes after the media caused a frenzy by falsely portraying the videos and photos as showing agents hitting the migrants with whips. It was later revealed that the agents were in fact wielding the long reins that make it easier to maintain control of their horses, according to Border Control chief Raul Ortiz.
An unnamed Border Patrol agent told Townhall’s Julio Rosas that mounted agents often twirl their reins to keep migrants at a distance so they’re not crushed underfoot.
Ortiz said that he did not believe that the reins had been used to strike any refugees and none of the photos or videos that have circulated of the interactions appear to show the reins making contact with migrants.
Still, amid mounting concerns among members of the president’s own party over the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants, Psaki announced that the use of horses at the border will stop.
Jon Anfinsen, president of the Border Patrol union’s chapter in Del Rio, condemned the decision in a statement to Rosas on Thursday.
“The horse patrol unit is an effective means of apprehending immigrants who illegally cross our borders every day, along with searching for those who are sick or injured and stranded in the brush,” Anfinsen said. “Suspending them all for even a brief amount of time takes away one of the few remaining units that have been in the field making arrests and rescues on a regular basics.”
Psaki’s announcement came during a press briefing on Thursday when she was asked what Biden believes about the comparison being made between his administration and the Trump administration, particularly by Democrats including Representative Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) who said Wednesday that she was “unhappy” with the Biden administration which she believes is “following the Trump policy.”
The press secretary said Biden has asked outreach team members of his national security team and homeland security team to “explain clearly what our policy is and what our policy is not.”
“We could not see it as any more different from the policy of the prior administration, which the president feels — we all feel — was inhumane, immoral, ineffective, wasn’t operationally working and, because of the dysfunction of it, we have led to a very broken system that we’re dealing with today.”
She said the president would like to convey there is an investigation being done into the “horrific” pictures.
“I can also convey to you that the secretary also conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we will no longer be using horses in Del Rio so that is something, a policy change that has been made in response,” she said.
She went on to argue that it is “important for people to understand” the administration’s immigration process, which includes expelling migrants under the title 42 public health order because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, the White House vowed to increase deportation efforts, saying it would send five to eight planes of migrants back to Haiti per day. The flights began on Sunday and more than 500 migrants have been removed, Reuters reported. Single adult males are the priority for expulsion, while many family units are being admitted.
The U.N. refugee chief said expelling the migrants back to Haiti could violate international law by sending refugees back to life-threatening situations.
Still, Psaki defended the administration’s actions when asked if it still views the mass deportations as humane despite criticism from fellow Democrats.
“First of all they’re not deportations, people are not coming into the country through legal methods and again our policy process has continued to be the same with Haiti as it is for anybody coming through irregular migration across our border,” she said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. special envoy for Haiti resigned on Wednesday over the Biden administration’s “inhumane” and “counterproductive” deportation of thousands of Haitian refugees.
Foote wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he was stepping down immediately “with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes.”
“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,” he wrote in the letter, first obtained by PBS. “Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”
Asked why the administration would go ahead with a plan against the special envoy’s advice, Psaki said there had been “multiple senior level policy conversations on Haiti” in which all proposals were fully considered in a rigorous policy process. She added that “some of the proposals were harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti,” though she declined to go into further detail.