Vice president says 'deeply troubled' by US treatment of Haitian migrants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A US Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuña Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on Sunday. (Photo by Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris has condemned the US treatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border after images circulated of American border patrol agents on horseback using whips on migrants seeking asylum.

"What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were was horrible," Harris told reporters on Tuesday at an event at the White House.

"I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into what is going on there. But human beings should never be treated that way, and I’m deeply troubled about it," she said.

Earlier in the day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it was investigating the treatment of Haitian migrants by Customs and Border Patrol agents after video and images surfaced of the agents on horseback chasing down migrants at the southern border.

DHS said a full probe would help “define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken.”

“DHS does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously,” the department said in a statement on Twitter. “We are committed to processing migrants in a safe, orderly, and humane way. We can and must do this in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of migrants.”

Harris expressed sympathy for the plight of Haitians, who are held by US authorities in squalid conditions,  in the wake of multiple natural disasters and the assassination of their president.

"I mean, talk about a country that has just experienced so much tragedy," Harris said. "And we really have to do a lot more to recognize that, as a member of the western hemisphere, we’ve got to support some very basic needs that the people of Haiti have to get back up and to do what folks naturally want to do, be them from Haiti or in the countries in Central America. People want to stay home. They don't want to leave home. But they leave when they can not satisfy their basic needs."

Meanwhile, Harris’s boss, President Joe Biden, is ramping up deportation flights to forcibly expel Haitian migrants in South Texas.

The US Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Saturday that it plans to secure additional transportation to “accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights” to Haiti, following a surge of undocumented migrants crossing the southern border that has overwhelmed the authorities.

Authorities are also reportedly planning to fly some of the migrants to other parts of the border that are not experiencing a surge like Del Rio’s.

The new surge of migrants in the southern border represents yet another test of President Joe Biden’s widely-criticized immigration policy.

Biden had repeatedly promised on the campaign trail to overturn the harshest aspects of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda.

The scene of dense crowds, sleeping on dirt in scorching heat and with little access to food and clear water, drew condemnations from local officials.

In recent months, the Southwest border has been inundated with a surge of unauthorized crossings not seen in more than two decades. Nearly 200,000 immigrants were arrested at the southwest border in August alone, according to government data.

Republicans have blamed Biden’s mishandling of the border for the growing stream of migrants and asylum seekers.

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