The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Thursday, Sept. 23 that it had temporarily stopped border patrols in Del Rio from using horses during their duty patrols.
“We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily,” a DHS official said in a call with reporters, according to The Hill.
The decision came after controversial footage and images of horse patrol agents rounding up Haitian migrants attracted widespread criticisms. The footage depicted agents using straps to intimidate the illegal migrants.
It was later explained by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that the apparent whips were reins used to control the animal while riding.
Forecasting an investigation, Mayorkas asserted that “we do not tolerate any mistreatment or abuse of a migrant.”
Repatriation flights of Haitians have proceeded since last Sunday, and a DHS official on Thursday was optimistic that the situation under the International Bridge of Del Rio had been managed.
“As of this morning, we were at around 4,050 individuals under the bridge so we have really made tremendous progress over the last 72 hours in drawing down the population under the bridge,” the official said.
Last week, before a shutdown of border entry, the number of Haitian asylum seekers surged dramatically from 4,000 to more than 8,000 individuals in just one night and swelled to over 14,000 individuals.
Torn between its humane policies and criticisms from border officials strained beyond their capacity to manage the massive influx, the Biden administration resumed the Trump-era Title 42 and began deporting the illegal migrants back to their country.
“We are increasing the frequency and number of the repatriation flights each day,” Mayorkas said on Tuesday when the department had sent back nearly 500 Haitians.
As of Thursday, 13 flights had deported over 1,400 Haitian migrants. But the DHS did not reveal the number of those accepted into the U.S. using a law called Title 8, The Hill noted.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said if the migrants are not dealt with under Title 42, they are moved to detention facilities.
“Either they are put into an alternative to detention, where biometric data is required, they’re given a notice to appear or they’re put in an ICE facility,” Psaki said as she referred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While the migrant crisis in Del Rio had started to ease off now that Title 42 is in place, the Biden administration faces a humanitarian backlash.
“During a challenging and dangerous period for Haiti, it is unthinkably cruel to send men, women, and children back to what many of them do not even call ‘home’ anymore,'” said Partners In Health, an NGO working in Haiti, according to the BBC.
The Haitians were fleeing their country over a series of ailments, ranging from a crumbling government after their president’s assassination to the devastating earthquakes, gang crimes, and hunger.
Critics also said the open border policies are flawed, and dangerous criminals and smugglers take advantage of genuine asylum seekers.