US border guards criticised for tactics rounding up Haitian migrants on horseback

Some on social media commented that the image of fleeing black men chased by white officers on horseback had echoes of the historical injustices suffered by black people in the United States.

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment Source: AFP

The White House has criticised the use of horse reins to threaten Haitian migrants after images circulated of a US border guard on horseback charging at the migrants near a riverside camp in Texas.

The mostly Haitian migrants have in recent days been crossing back and forth between Ciudad Acuna in Mexico and the sprawling camp across the border in Del Rio to buy food and water that was in short supply on the US side.

Reuters witnesses saw mounted officers wearing cowboy hats blocking the paths of migrants, and one officer unfurling a cord resembling a lariat, which he swung near a migrant's face.

Videos and pictures showing a border guard apparently threatening migrants with the cords were shared on social media.

"I don't think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

"I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate," she added.

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment
Source: AFP

Some on social media commented that the image of fleeing black men chased by white officers on horseback had echoes of the historical injustices suffered by black people in the United States.

US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the incident was being investigated to make sure that there was not an "unacceptable" response by law enforcement. He said officers were operating in a difficult environment, trying to ensure the safety of the migrants while searching for potential smugglers.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the long reins are used by mounted officials to "ensure control of the horse."

"But we are going to investigate the facts," he said during a news conference in Del Rio.

The camp under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande has become the latest flashpoint for US authorities seeking to stem a flow of migrants fleeing gang violence, extreme poverty and natural disasters in their home countries.

US border agents filmed swinging rope at migrants

By Monday, hundreds of migrants had returned to the Mexico side amid uncertainty about whether they would be deported back to Haiti on flights organised by US authorities.

The first flights carrying migrants landed in Port-au-Prince on Sunday from the Del Rio camp arrived in Haiti on Sunday, with at least three more due to make the journey on Monday, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.

US officials closed the Del Rio border crossing last Friday due to the crush of migrants, and said Monday it remained shuttered, with most traffic re-routed to the Eagle Pass, Texas, border crossing, some 90 km south.


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Published 21 September 2021 at 8:29am
Source: Reuters - SBS