World, Americas

US halting use of horses in Texas border town after pictures stir outcry

Policy change in response to controversy, White House says

Michael Hernandez   | 23.09.2021
US halting use of horses in Texas border town after pictures stir outcry FILE PHOTO

WASHINGTON

The US will no longer use horses to patrols the border town of Del Rio in the state of Texas amid a mass influx of predominantly Haitian refugees, the White House announced Thursday.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced the policy change after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conveyed it to rights leaders privately during a telephone call earlier Thursday.

"That is a policy change that has been made in response" to vocal outcry, said Psaki.

Images emerged over the weekend appearing to show border agents using horse reins or rope-like whips as they forcefully attempted to disperse Haitian immigrants, prompting widespread condemnation from critics who said they do not reflect the "more humane" immigration policies promised by President Joe Biden.

The Department of Homeland Security also acknowledged the visuals are "extremely troubling," and pledged to investigate.

Biden has faced mounting criticism from fellow Democrats and rights groups for the situation in Del Rio where thousands of migrants have formed an encampment under a bridge. The administration has already begun the process to deport some of those at the site.

Daniel Foote, Biden's special envoy to Haiti, abruptly resigned Thursday because of what he said was a "deeply flawed" policy on Haiti.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foote said he would not be associated with the US' "inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti.

"Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own," wrote the ambassador.

The State Department acknowledged Foote's resignation, but flatly rebuffed his claims that his policy suggestions were ignored, saying the suggestion is "simply false" while assailing his decision to leave and how he chose to resign.

"No ideas are ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas," spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"This is a challenging moment that requires leadership. It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation. He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead," added Price.

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