WASHINGTON, United States — The US Border Patrol halted using horses in migrant operations around Del Rio, Texas, the White House said Thursday, after embarrassing photographs suggested mistreatment of Haitian border-crossers.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ”conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we would no longer be using horses in Del Rio,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The move came after AFP photographs and other media video footage on Monday showed Border Patrol horsemen appearing to use their mounts to deter undocumented migrants from crossing into the United States from Mexico, and seemingly waving their reins threateningly.
Critics said the images were reminiscent of both cowboys attempting to herd livestock and times in history when horse-mounted police, prison guards or slave owners used whips against Black Americans.
In a statement, DHS suggested the riders were there to spot migrants needing medical aid.
”We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily,” a spokesperson said.
”We’ll prioritize other methods for identifying individuals who might be in medical distress.”
Mayorkas, who oversees the Border Patrol, said Wednesday that the images ”do not reflect who we are as a country, nor do they reflect who the United States Customs and Border Protection is.”
He told a congressional hearing that he had ordered an investigation into what happened and said the officers in charge had been moved to other duties in the meantime.
The images captured the challenge for President Joe Biden’s administration from the surge of Haitians and other migrants pouring across the border.
The government has pushed some migrants back over the border and also repatriated more than 1,400 back to Haiti in a series of flights.