Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an outspoken member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, turned her fire on the Biden administration on Wednesday over shocking images of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, being confronted by US Customs and Border Protection.
At a rainy press conference outside the US Capitol, Ms Waters and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus slammed the administration for continuing with the flat ban on entry for asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border, instituted under the Trump administration, which cited Covid-19 as a reason but had sought to dismantle the US asylum system long before the pandemic hit US shores.
“I’m pissed. I’m unhappy, and I'm not just unhappy with the cowboys who were running down Haitians and using their reins to whip them. I'm unhappy with this administration," said Ms Waters on Wednesday.
“We are following the Trump policy; he is the one that does not follow the Constitution and would not allow those seeking refuge to petition to enter the country. What the hell are we doing here? What we witnessed takes us back hundreds of years. What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery. Cowboys, with their reins ... whipping Black people, Haitains, into the water while they’re scrambling, falling down,” she said.
To President Joe Biden, she added directly: “You gotta stop this madness.”
The White House and DHS confirmed on Thursday that the practice of using CBP agents on horseback had been temporarily suspended in the Del Rio region, but the US has already begun expelling some of the gathered Haitian migrants on flights back to Port-au-Prince without allowing any to apply for asylum. Typically, migrants must prove a credible fear of facing violence at home before being granted asylum in the US.
More than 12,000 migrants, mostly Haitian are estimated to have arrived at a makeshift set of camps erected under and around the international bridge connecting the US and Mexico in recent days. Many previously fled Haiti for countries in South America before coming north to Mexico and eventually the US, according to media reports.
Haiti remains devastated after an earthquake and tropical storm struck the island within a few days of each other earlier this year; recent weeks have also seen the assassination of the country’s president in his home.
The growing controversy led on Wednesday to the resignation of the US special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, who cited the administration’s treatment of Haitian migrants at the border as “inhumane” in his resignation letter.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the administration wants an investigation into the treatment of migrants in Del Rio conducted as quickly as possible.
"This has been an incredibly heart-wrenching issue. We've watched the photos of Haitians gathering under a bridge, many with families, and the horrific video of the CBP officers on horses using brutal and inappropriate measures against innocent people," she said.
“We're not going to stand for that kind of inhumane treatment and, obviously, we want this investigation to be completed rapidly,” added Ms Psaki.
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