US treatment of asylum-seeking Haitians an ‘embarrassment,’ Biden says

US-Mexico border camp emptied as president decries 'outrageous' roundup of Haitians

US President Joe Biden has called the treatment of Haitians on the US border with Mexico an “embarrassment".

“It was horrible what you saw … it's outrageous,” Mr Biden said, referring to footage of mounted US border guards lashing at Haitians with the long leather reins.

Speaking for the first time on the crisis, Mr Biden said it was “beyond an embarrassment”.

“It's dangerous, it's wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world. It's simply not who we are,” he added.

On Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the camp under the bridge in Del Rio is now empty.

He added that the investigation into the treatment of migrants along the US-Mexico border is ongoing and that the horrifying images are not "who we are".

Mr Biden, speaking earlier in the day said, “I promise you those people will pay … There will be consequences."

US Vice President Kamala Harris threw her support behind the investigation this week, saying “human beings should never be treated that way and I am deeply troubled by it".

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced on Thursday that border patrol agents would no longer be using horses in Del Rio, Texas, the border town where as many as 15,000 migrants had gathered in recent days.

The group had been seeking asylum in the US as their Caribbean nation grapples with the aftermath of a presidential assassination and an earthquake.

Mr Mayorkas said that the mounted officers involved in the incident have been suspended, pending an investigation. He did not commit to permanently eliminating the use of mounted officers altogether.

US officials said that about 2,000 people have been flown back to Haiti even though many had been living for years in South America before attempting to enter the US. Mr Mayorkas said that Haiti is "capable" of receiving the migrants that have returned.

The Biden administration's mass deportation of the Haitian migrants was authorised under Title 42, a Trump-era policy which Mr Mayorkas repeatedly stressed is a "public health imperative" and not an immigration policy.

An estimated 8,000 Haitian migrants have voluntarily returned to Mexico, Mr Mayorkas added.

The Biden administration has drawn widespread criticism for its handling of the crisis, but blamed the prior administration for the "broken" immigration system it has inherited.

Mr Mayorkas argued that the Biden administration is in fact restoring the morality that was abandoned during Mr Trump's presidency.

"We do not conduct ourselves in an immoral way ... We do not conduct ourselves in an unethical way," he said.

On Thursday, the US special envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, resigned over how the Biden administration has handled the deportations.

When asked about Mr Foote's resignation, Mr Mayorkas said that is a matter for the State Department and stressed that it is this administration’s intent to continue to “accept refugees from all over the world".

Updated: September 24th 2021, 7:58 PM
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