White House faces bipartisan backlash on Haitian migrants
The White House is facing sharp condemnation from Democrats for its handling of the influx of Haitian migrants at the US southern border, after images of US Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics went viral this week.
Striking video of agents manoeuvring their horses to forcibly block and move migrants attempting to cross the border has sparked resounding criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are calling on the Biden administration to end its use of a pandemic-era authority to deport migrants without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.
At the same time, the administration continues to face attacks from Republicans, who say Biden isn’t doing enough to deal with what they call a “crisis” at the border.
Reflecting the urgency of the political problem for the administration, Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday the images “horrified” him, a seeming shift in tone from a day earlier, when he and others were more sanguine about the situation at the border.
It’s a highly uncomfortable position for the administration, led by a president who has set himself up as a tonic for the harshness of his predecessor. But immigration is a complex issue, one no administration has been able to fix in decades. And Biden is trapped between conflicting interests of broadcasting compassion while dealing with throngs of migrants coming to the country – illegally – seeking a better life.
The provision in question, known as Title 42, was put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the Biden administration has used Title 42 to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants who in recent days have set up an encampment in and around the small city of Del Rio, Texas. The provision gives federal health officials powers during a pandemic to take extraordinary measures to limit transmission of an infectious disease.
A federal judge late last week ruled the regulation was improper and gave the government two weeks before its use was to be halted, but the Biden administration on Monday appealed the decision.
“The Biden administration pushing back on this stay of expulsions is another example of broken promises to treat migrants with respect and humanity when they reach our borders to exercise their fundamental right to asylum,” said Karla Marisol Vargas, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project and co-counsel on the litigation.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson demanded a meeting with Biden to discuss the situation and called the treatment of the Haitian migrants “utterly sickening”.