Under fire from human rights groups and some progressive Democrats, the administration of US President Joe Biden has temporarily suspended the use of horse patrols in Del Rio, Texas.
“We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told reporters on Thursday, after images circulated of American border patrol agents on horseback using whips on migrants seeking asylum.
Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters has said the US treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas is “worse than slavery,” and Vice President Kamala Harris condemned the treatment of the migrants.
"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 earlier this week.
Although the Biden administration paused horse patrols following harsh criticism against the controversial practice, it has increased the forced expulsion of an estimated 14,000 Haitians camped on the Texas side of the border.
“As of this morning, we were at around 4,050 individuals under the bridge so we have really made tremendous progress over the last 72 hours in drawing down the population under the bridge,” a DHS official said.
That population is decreasing because the Biden administration is planning to expel a large number of those Haitians under Title 42, which allows Washington to remove migrants without giving them the chance to seek asylum.
“We are increasing the frequency and number of the repatriation flights each day,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers Tuesday when the department had expelled roughly 500 Haitians.
DHS officials said Thursday that 1,400 people had been removed to Haiti after completing 13 different flights.
The Biden administration is implementing a strategy to ramp up deportation flights to forcibly expel migrants in South Texas where thousands of people are held in squalid conditions.
US 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 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.
Meanwhile, 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.