WASHINGTON — Mirard Joseph was bringing food for his wife and child, he said, when a Border Patrol agent on horseback “beaten” him with his bridle in Del Rio, Texas, and dragged him by the collar to the Rio Grande, which In the region that separates the United States from Mexico.
Mr Joseph, an undocumented immigrant who was seeking asylum but was deported, and the treatment of other Haitian immigrants by agents in September are the subject of a federal investigation, when President Biden called it “outrageous” and promised Said that “there will be results.” The union representing Border Patrol agents defended them, saying they were only doing their job as thousands of migrants flocked to the small border town.
The migrants side of the story was put on hold for the first time on Monday in a lawsuit against the government filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia. At Mr Joseph’s behest, a widely published photo showed the agent letting him go when the horse appeared close to trampling him.
“It was the most humiliating experience of my life,” he said in the lawsuit, which chronicles his experience and that of 10 other Haitians in Del Rio and during their expulsion. The complaint accuses the government of physical and verbal abuse, inhumane treatment and denial of due process under a public health rule that mandates border officials to expel most people crossing into the United States illegally during the coronavirus pandemic. gives the right. The migrants are being represented by immigration advocacy organizations Justice Action Center, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Innovation Law Lab.
The lawsuit alleges that the Biden administration knew an influx of migrants was coming, but deliberately made no humane preparations — a strategic decision, the suit says, to prevent more Haitians from trying to cross into the United States. Is. Among other things, the plaintiffs are asking for permission to return to the United States and remain there while requesting asylum.
Photos of Mr Joseph and others in Del Rio drew criticism of the Biden administration’s response to the thousands of black immigrants who were crossing illegally into the United States at the time, many seeking asylum.
Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, plaintiffs’ accounts may form part of an investigation into the actions of agents in Del Rio, which is being conducted by the Professional Responsibility Office of Customs and Border Protection. The Department of Homeland Security said the office was reviewing the images for possible misconduct and interviewing witnesses, Border Patrol staff and senior leaders of Customs and Border Protection.
In Mr. Joseph’s case, the photographs prompted allegations that agents had used their reins as whips – a claim that is central to the investigation. According to Mr. Joseph’s complaint, this is exactly what happened. But the Border Patrol union has said the agents were turning their reins, as they are trained to do, to prevent people from getting too close to their horses and therefore to avoid injuries.
Several plaintiffs said they saw “officials on horseback using reins against people” in the Rio Grande. A migrant identified in the trial as Esther said agents on horseback drove her back into the river in the direction of Mexico. He said the horses ran over him as the agents were shouting, “Go back to Mexico.”
Another plaintiff, identified as Paul, said he saw Border Patrol agents beating up black migrants. When he was in the middle of the Rio Grande, Paul said, he saw agents cut a rope that was tied across the river to help people cross more safely. He said he had seen Haitians struggling not to drown in deep water and also saw agents pushing migrants into the river towards Del Rio.
The plaintiffs also said that they lacked sufficient food and water, causing many migrants to fall ill and, in some cases, cross a river to find food and return to Mexico. The Biden administration said at the time that it was providing food, water and medical treatment to migrants in a makeshift camp under and around a bridge.
The situation was a pivotal moment in Mr Biden’s first year of handling a growing number of migrants at the border. The administration’s response, which included the expulsion of thousands of Haitians, galvanized civil rights groups and others to push for better treatment, especially for black migrants. According to the most recent government figures, about 16,000 Haitians entered Del Rio in September; About 40 percent of them were expelled under a public health rule known as Title 42.
The complaint describes poor conditions under the Del Rio International Bridge, where many spent more than a week when temperatures routinely exceeded 100 degrees.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on September 20, “Clearly, any situation where individuals are not treated humanely, whether or not they are coming over our border, is not in line with the policies of the Biden Administration.” “
Christopher Cameron Contributed to reporting.