Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters has said the US treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas is worse than slavery, after images circulated of American border patrol agents on horseback using whips on migrants seeking asylum.
Speaking at a gathering outside the US Capitol on Wednesday, Waters demanded asylum for more than 14,000 Haitians who have are being held in Del Rio, Texas, in squalid conditions.
“What we witnessed takes us back hundreds of years... worse than what we witnessed in slavery,” said Waters, an influential California Democrat. “Cowboys with their reins in hand whipping Black people, Haitians, into the water where they’re scrambling and falling down and all they’re trying to do is escape the violence in their country.”
“I wanna know in the first place who’s paying these cowboys to do this work. They’ve got to be gotten rid of,” the chair of the House Committee on Financial Services added. “They’re trying to take us back to slavery days, and worse than that.”
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris condemned the treatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border.
"What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were was horrible," Harris told reporters 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 this week, a Democrat activist claimed that the mounted Border Patrol agents were using “whips” on the migrants crossing the Rio Grande, stirring outrage in the media and on Capitol Hill.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday 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.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden is reportedly considering opening a migrant detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.
The Biden administration has been struggling to accommodate thousands of Haitian migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border in recent weeks.
A report by NBC News revealed on Wednesday that Washington is advertising for a new contract to operate a migrant detention facility at its naval base at Guantánamo Bay, with a requirement that some of the guards speak Spanish and Haitian.
"The service provider shall be responsible to maintain on site the necessary equipment to erect temporary housing facilities for populations that exceed 120 and up to 400 migrants in a surge event," the contract solicitation told NBC.
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.