21st September, 2021
United States Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Monday that the authorities would investigate reports that Haitian migrants in Texas may have been abused by border patrol officers on horseback.
Mayorkas said that the mounted officers were trying to manage the flow of hundreds of migrants crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico near Del Rio, Texas.
Pictures by AFP photographer Paul Ratje and video footage which spread quickly over social media appeared to show riders swinging their long reins to threaten migrants and push them back toward the river.
Ratje said that many of the Haitians were crossing the river back and forth to get food for their families and were blocked by the horses.
“Some of the migrants started running to try to get around the horsemen, and one of the agents grabbed the Haitian in the picture by the shirt and he ended up swinging him around while the horse trotted in a circle,” Ratje said of one particular photograph.
Ratje said that he did not think the man had been hurt.
Shortly after that, he said, “They kind of calmed down, and they started letting people in.”
Some commentators online said that the images evoked times in history when horse-mounted police or prison guards routinely used whips against black Americans, and even recalled 19th-century scenes of the violence of slavery in the United States.
“We are going to investigate the facts to ensure that the situation is as we understand it to be,” Mayorkas told reporters.
“If it’s anything different, we will respond accordingly.”
At the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that she had seen the footage.
“I don’t have the full context,” she said, adding: “I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate.
“It’s horrible to watch,” she said.