US authorities have cleared a makeshift camp of thousands of mostly Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.
The camp had drawn national attention in recent days as images of the squalid conditions and aggressive tactics by border patrol officers on horseback emerged in shocking photos and videos.
US Customs and Border Protection officials have spent the past few days evacuating the camp and processing the estimated 10,000 migrants and refugees, many of whom are from Haiti, sending some on to processing centres elsewhere in the US, and deporting many back to Haiti.
On Thursday, the US special envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote resigned, saying he “will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti.”
The town of Del Rio, situated on the Rio Grande River, had become a hotspot for migrants trying to cross into the US in recent days following the spread of false information on social media that the border was open.
Images of border patrol officers on horseback pushing back migrants across the river this week drew harsh criticism from Democrats. President Joe Biden called those scenes “an embarrassment,” and the White House has since suspended the use of horses by border patrol agents.
“To see people treated like they did – horses running them over, people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay,” Mr Biden said.
“It’s an embarrassment – it’s beyond an embarrassment,” Mr Biden added. “It’s dangerous, it’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world; it sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are.”
The Biden administration said on Thursday that the use of horses among border agents has been suspended at Del Rio, an announcement echoed by the Department of Homeland Security. The White House has made no indication that Mr Biden plans to reverse course and allow any of the migrants to pursue asylum in the US before deportation.
To be granted asylum in the US, one must reach the US border and apply at a port of entry, or be already inside the US when applying. The US began expelling all immigrants who arrived at the US-Mexico border to apply for asylum last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, though the Biden administration reversed much of the Trump administration’s restrictions on US asylum policy.
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