Psaki says ‘horrific’ footage of Border Patrol agents whipping at Haitian migrants is ‘not who we are’

Jen psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
  • Psaki said Biden found the footage of Border Patrol agents whipping at Haitian migrants “horrific.”
  • “That’s not who the Biden-Harris administration is,” she said Tuesday.
  • The Biden administration has begun deporting thousands of Haitian migrants at the Texas border.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday said President Joe Biden found footage of Border Patrol agents on horseback whipping at Haitian migrants at the border “horrific” and “horrible.”

“I don’t know anyone who could watch that video and not have that emotion,” Psaki told “CBS Mornings.”

“It’s important for people to know this is not who we are,” she added. “That’s not who the Biden-Harris administration is.”

Scenes of horse-mounted US Customs and Border Protection agents confronting and grabbing Haitian migrants near Del Rio, Texas, over the weekend surfaced online Monday, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to announce an investigation that evening.

“DHS does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously,” the agency tweeted.

The department also announced that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had directed additional staff to be on-site to “ensure that the responsibilities of DHS personnel are executed consistent with applicable policies and training and the Department’s values.”

Psaki said on Tuesday that the Biden administration was “going to absolutely pursue that investigation and get to the bottom of what happened.”

Thousands of Haitians have encamped in Del Rio seeking asylum after crossing the Rio Grande into the US. Haiti has experienced turmoil recently with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and an earthquake that killed over 2,200 people last month.

The Biden administration began expelling thousands of Haitian migrants on flights back to their home country on Sunday, with more deportations to come, The Associated Press reported.

A growing number of congressional Democrats have condemned the actions of the Border Patrol agents and called on the Biden administration to halt deportations of Haitian migrants.

“We cannot continue these hateful and xenophobic Trump policies that disregard our refugee laws,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t matter if a Democrat or Republican is President, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted Monday. “Immigration should not be a crime, and its criminalization is a relatively recent invention. This is a stain on our country.”

Since Biden took office, his administration has witnessed a surge in Central American migrants arriving at the US border. The White House has repeatedly discouraged migrants from coming to the country.

Mayorkas reiterated the stance in a tweet on Sunday, saying: “We have sent a very clear message early on, in light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic, that the border is not open, and people should not take the perilous journey here.”

Psaki on Tuesday also pushed back on criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of the situation in Del Rio, defending the deportations as a safety protocol amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Right now, we also have to implement our laws at the border,” Psaki said. “We also want to protect people, both in that community, but also migrants.

“One of the challenges, as we’re all facing a pandemic here, is the gathering of so many people. We’re still implementing Title 42, which means that we’re going to send people out of the country who come in.”