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“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, where more than 10,000 Haitian migrants have tried to enter the U.S. from Mexico since mid-September.
Vice President Kamala Harris, in an interview with ABC’s “The View” on Friday, compared the agents’ treatment of Haitian migrants to the oppression of indigenous people and African Americans during slavery.
“As we all know it evoked images of some of the worst moments of our history where that kind of behavior has been used against the indigenous people of our country, has been used against African Americans during times of slavery,” Harris said.
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“There needs to be consequences and accountability. Human beings should not be treated that way,” the vice president said, noting that she fully supports the investigation being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Biden administration’s handling of the influx of migrants has drawn sharp criticism from immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers. Amid public outcry, the administration on Thursday halted agents’ use of horses in Del Rio.
However, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on Monday rejected allegations that whips were used by agents in the images and videos that fueled public outrage. They said the agents were wielding reins to control their horses.
Biden said he took responsibility for the crisis unfolding at the border and the actions of the Border Patrol depicted in the images.
“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 said. “It’s simply not who we are.”
The U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned Thursday over the Biden administration’s Haiti policy after only two months in the position. In a scathing letter, Foote condemned the administration’s deportations of Haitian migrants as inhumane.
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed,” Foote said in his resignation letter Wednesday obtained by NBC News.
More than 3,000 Haitian nationals have been moved to Customs and Border Protection custody to be placed in removal proceedings or expelled through a health law called Title 42, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
Title 42 is a controversial provision, first implemented by the Trump administration during the coronavirus pandemic, that denies certain migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Title 42 will remain in effect until there’s no longer a danger of people who aren’t U.S. citizens bringing Covid-19 into the country when they cross the border. Unaccompanied children are exempt from Title 42.
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.