The Biden administration continued to face questions on Thursday about its handling a surge of Haitian migrants crossing the southern border, even after temporarily suspending horse patrols in the area.
Images of horseback patrols pursuing Haitians spread earlier this week, drawing outrage from Republicans and Democrats in Congress as well as the White House. On Thursday, both the Department of Homeland Security and White House confirmed those patrols had been stopped for the time being.
Also Thursday,DHS officials said about 7,000 migrants remained in Del Rio, down from a peak of about 15,000 on Sept. 18. Migrants have been moved to other sectors for processing, sent back to Haiti and, in some cases, turned back to Mexico.
Homeland Security update on repatriation flights
The Department of Homeland Security issue a statement Thursday with updated information on repatriation flights:
"On Thursday, September 23, 2021 the Department of Homeland Security conducted two repatriation flights from Del Rio, Texas to Port-au-Prince, Haiti and three repatriation flight from Del Rio, Texas to Cap Haitien, Haiti with a total of 548 Haitian nationals on board. These flights will continue on a regular basis.
"Since Sunday, September 19, 17 repatriation flights have left the United States and 1,949 Haitian nationals have been returned to Haiti. 3,901 Haitian nationals have been moved from the Del Rio camp to CBP custody or to other sectors of the United States border to either be expelled via Title 42 if possible or placed into removal proceedings. There remain approximately 3,100 migrants in the Del Rio sector."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken responds to resignation of US special envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote
Blinken said he appreciated “the passion” that Foote brought to the role and his longtime service as a diplomat.
“I think we actually see eye to eye on the fundamental need to support the Haitian people,” Blinken said during a news conference in New York, where he’s been attending meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
He said Foote’s ideas were not ignored and that the situation in Haiti raises difficult foreign policy questions.
“The level of desperation among the migrants is something that can’t help but powerfully affect all of us,” he said. “Both on a personal and institutionally, we are committed to doing all we can to support the people of Haiti.
-- Deirde Shesgreen
Psaki: 'Actions' make Biden's position clear on horseback patrols at southern border
Vice President Kamala Harris has called images of federal agents on horseback chasing down Haitian migrants “horrible.” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the photos “troubled me profoundly.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki called them “obviously horrific.”
But President Joe Biden hasn’t spoken personally on the images from Del Rio, Texas, where a surge of Haitian migrants crossed the border and set up a makeshift camp under a bridge.
On Thursday, a reporter asked Psaki why the president wasn’t using his bully pulpit.
“I think people should take away that his actions make clear how horrible and horrific he thinks these images are,” she said.
She pointed to the investigation Mayorkas announced earlier this week and a policy change made public Thursday that horse patrols would be suspended temporarily.
“Her certainly may still speak to it. Obviously, there’s a lot of events including the UN General Assembly, COVID and others. I wouldn’t rule that out,” she said.
— Rick Rouan
About 7,000 migrants remain in Del Rio, DHS says
About 7,000 people remain in the Del Rio, Texas, sector of the U.S. southern border following a surge of Haitian migrants crossing into the U.S. where they set up a makeshift camp under a bridge.
Department of Homeland Security officials said Thursday that about 4,050 people remain in the encampment under the bridge, while the rest have been moved out of the elements and into the closed port of entry.
The remaining number of migrants in Del Rio is down from a peak of 15,000 on Saturday, according to DHS.
So far, 3,200 migrants have been moved to other sectors to speed up processing, and about 1,400 have been returned to Haiti on 13 flights, according to DHS. “Several thousand” also went back across the border and into Mexico, DHS officials speaking on background told reporters.
— Rick Rouan
DHS: Horse patrols temporarily suspended at migrant camp in Del Rio
Federal agents policing a makeshift encampment for a surge of migrant Haitians in Del Rio, Texas, have stopped using horse patrols after images surfaced of law enforcement on horseback chasing down migrants.
The images brought a swift rebuke, with lawmakers criticizing the practice as inhumane and a vow for a swift investigation from the Biden administration. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified this week before Congress about the images.
Department of Homeland Security officials and White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday that the use of horse patrols had been suspended temporarily in Del Rio.
"I can also convey to you that the secretary also conveyed to civil rights leaders, earlier this morning, that we would no longer be using horses in Del Rio, so that is something a policy change that has been made in response," Psaki said.
The Biden administration continues to face questions about how it is handling a surge of Haitian migrants crossing the southern border. Thousands of migrants were living in a makeshift camp this week along the river bank separating Del Rio, Texas, from Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.
— Rick Rouan
State Department refutes envoy's claims
Hours after news broke that the Biden administration's special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, had resigned, State Department spokesman Ned Price disputed Foote's claim that the career diplomat's recommendations were ignored.
"There have been multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process," Price said Thursday. "Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process. For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false.
Price added that in debating what advice to give President Joe Biden, "No ideas are ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas."
He said Foote had quit and "mischaracterized" what happened. "He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead."
– Katie Wadington
Mexican State Police, Texas State Troopers stand guard on banks of Rio Grande
Mexican State Police guarded the south bank of the Rio Grande on Thursday while Texas State Troopers formed along the river’s north bank as Haitian migrants were left to decide whether to cross into the United States.
Aerial photos shot by the El Paso Times show about a dozen Mexican State Police vehicles spaced out along a path that runs alongside the Rio Grande near where a surge of Haitian migrants have been crossing into Del Rio.
On the U.S. side of the river, about four times as many Texas State Trooper vehicles held a tight formation near a bridge where migrants have set up a makeshift camp.
— Rick Rouan
Mexican authorities stage at Haitian migrant camp across Rio Grande
Mexican authorities began staging on Thursday morning at a migrant camp in Ciudad Acuña, just across the river from Del Rio, Texas, where an encampment of thousands of Haitian migrants has drawn international attention.
Local, state and federal authorities rolled into a park on the south side of the river separating Mexico from the United States, bringing buses and state police vehicles, according to the El Paso Times.
The park entrance was blocked, the Associated Press reported, and a helicopter flew overhead on Thursday morning. State police vehicles spaced about 30 feet apart and a fence line funneled migrants to the crossing point they had been using to enter the U.S.
— Lauren Villagran, El Paso Times, and the Associated Press
President Biden's envoy to Haiti resigns over 'inhumane' treatment of Haitian migrants
WASHINGTON – A career U.S. diplomat to Haiti has resigned over the Biden administration's "inhumane" decision tosend thousands of Haitians attempting to enter the U.S. back to the island nation.
Ambassador Daniel Foote, a Special Envoy for Haiti, wrote in his resignation letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he could not be associated with the government's "inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees." He has been in his post for two months.
Foote added that the U.S. approach to Haiti "remains deeply flawed," and that his advice has been ignored.
The move comes days after jarring images circulated from the Texas border with Mexico, where thousands of Haitian migrants arrived after migrating through other Latin American countries.
"The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to terror, kidnappings, robberies, and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy," Foote wrote.
Foote, who has spent his career in the Foreign Service, was appointed as Special Envoy in July.
— Matthew Brown
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Haitian migrants: Horse patrols temporarily suspended at Del Rio