Evoking a scene that could rightfully be compared to the horrors inflicted on enslaved Black people in the United States, a photograph of a Border Patrol agent using a whip to chase down a Haitian migrant published on Monday (September 20) has caused significant outrage across the nation.
The startling picture, one of many taken by Agence France-Presse photographer Paul Ratje along with video footage shows agents with the Border Patrol using cords of rope as whips to stop hundreds of Haitian migrants from crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas near the town of Del Rio. According to local reporting, Border Patrol agents were heard yelling “Get out now! Back to Mexico!” at the migrants, forcing them back through the water. The migrants have been making their way to the U.S. border in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and an earthquake killing over 2,000 people last month seeking asylum under the Temporary Protected Status designation for refugees. It’s estimated that over 14,000 Haitians are currently being detained in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio awaiting processing by the Border Patrol.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced an investigation is underway into the incident, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has assigned officials from the Office of Professional Responsibility to be at Del Rio on a full-time basis “to ensure that the responsibilities of DHS personnel are executed consistent with applicable policies and training and the department’s values,” said a spokesperson with the agency. In the meantime, the fate of the Haitian migrants is still in question as the Biden administration has now initiated mass deportation using a Trump-era rule. Over the past weekend, 3,300 were taken from the area and placed in detention centers elsewhere or flown back to Haiti. Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) blasted the photos as “horrific and disturbing”, further stating to the press that “This mistreatment runs counter to our American values and cannot be tolerated.”