(DEL RIO) Images showing border guards on horseback pushing migrants near Del Rio, Texas, caused an uproar in the United States on Monday, as President Joe Biden’s government announced an investigation to highlight the facts.
In a still shot by an AFP photographer, an agent on a horse grabs a man by his shirt. In another case, he keeps a group at bay by turning his reins into a threatening situation.
Democrat-elect Benny Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that these images of “the abuse of Haitian immigrants along the border are shocking and deeply disturbing.”
“It’s horrific to watch,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted during a news conference. “I don’t know the context, but I don’t see in what framework it would be appropriate,” she added.
Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz told reporters that equestrian patrols were deployed on Sunday near the Rio Grande River, where thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians, have been staying for several days in the hope that they will be accepted into the United States.
He added, “I asked them to find out if individuals were in distress and to gather information on smugglers,” stressing that “controlling a horse in a river is difficult.”
And Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mallorcas added, apparently, in this context, some have used the reins long. “We will conduct an investigation to make sure that the situation is indeed this way, otherwise we will act accordingly,” he said.
The scene took place as migrants were bathing in the Rio Grande or crossing the river to collect food in Mexico and return it to their families on American soil, according to the author of the photos, Paul Ratje.
Suddenly five or six officers arrived on horseback and asked them to return to Mexico. “The situation was tense, and the migrants started running around them,” he says. “An officer grabbed the man in the photo by the shirt. I don’t think he was injured.”
“I didn’t see any skin,” he said, “but the clients just rolled their reins.”
Then the tension subsided, and the border guards allowed these migrants to join the makeshift camp.
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