The inhuman images of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback at the border between the Mexican city of Acuña (Coahuila) and the U.S. city of Del Rio (Texas), using whips against migrants, mostly Haitian, who are seeking asylum, were published in the U.S. press a few hours before President Biden spoke at the UN General Assembly in New York. And it was not a pretty sight.
It was a “horrible” scene, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted, stating that she didn’t have “the full context” but couldn’t imagine “what context would make that appropriate.”
“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it’s acceptable or appropriate,” she added. But regarding Biden’s decision to return all migrants back to the border, Psaki had no hesitation: “This is not the time to come.” It is not clear what the right time could be for Haitians fleeing a country plunged into a crisis made even more dramatic by the devastating earthquake of August 14.
Meanwhile, 14,000 people are huddled at the border, in a makeshift camp under the bridge that connects the two cities, in temperatures of 37°C and without water, food and medicine. It is a dramatic situation that has led the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, to ask Biden on Monday to declare a state of emergency in the region.
The Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, has also spoken out on the “extremely difficult conditions” that the migrants are facing, trying to give reassurance that “arrangements” are being made “to offer them a better welcome on their return to the country and that they will not be abandoned.”
According to a statement on Sunday by Raúl Ortiz, head of the Border Patrol, 3,300 Haitians have already been loaded onto planes in the direction of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien or transferred to detention centers. And on Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, after visiting the area, announced plans to increase the number of flights—currently three per day—on which the migrants are repatriated.
The Biden administration cannot accept any delay in this regard, even though it started by announcing that it would review Trump’s migration policies, which it agreed were inhuman and cruel. That was until the increase in migration flows during the first months of his government pushed the president to quickly backtrack.
“Our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” Secretary Mayorkas said in Del Rio on Monday. “Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion. Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities, and to the lives of the migrants themselves, and should not be attempted.”
The new humanitarian crisis was also the focus of a telephone conversation on Monday night between Mexican Foreign Minister Ebrard and Secretary of State Blinken: according to Ebrard, the speakers agreed on the need for a “regional agreement,” due to the flow of migrants that “has crossed all the countries of Latin America.”