A letter from lawmakers on the Oversight Committee asks for Customs and Border Protection officials to brief the committee by the end of the week about the conduct of border agents.,
House Democrats demand answers by Friday about treatment of Haitian migrants.
Migrants crossed into Del Rio, Texas on Friday.Credit…Veronica G. Cardenas for The New York Times
Sept. 22, 2021Updated 2:49 p.m. ET
House Democrats on Wednesday demanded Biden administration officials meet with members of the oversight committee by Friday to face questions about the treatment of Haitian immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border after videos showed Border Patrol agents on horseback corralling and menacing migrants, sparking widespread outrage.
“We were alarmed to see footage of the inhumane treatment of Haitian and other migrants in Del Rio, Texas, by Border Patrol agents on horseback,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the oversight committee, wrote in a letter Wednesday to Troy A. Miller, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The letter noted that images and videos showed border agents “charging at women, men, and children; menacing them with bridle reins; and making derogatory comments towards the migrants. Such abusive conduct is unacceptable and raises troubling questions about culture, training, and discipline within C.B.P.”
The letter asks for Customs and Border Protection officials to brief the committee by the end of the week about the conduct of the agents, what directions they received from supervisors and whether any disciplinary steps have been taken. The committee also is seeking information about actions that are being taken to protect migrants at the Del Rio border; the use of a health regulation known as Title 42 to expel migrants; and unredacted copies of any internal investigations into the incidents.
Ms. Maloney was joined in writing the letter by Democratic Representatives Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the chairman of the civil rights subcommittee Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and members of the progressive group known as the “Squad” — Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“Reports that thousands of migrants are being deported to Haiti despite turmoil in that country raise serious concerns about whether the federal government is failing to treat migrants — including those fleeing violence, political instability, and natural disasters — with respect and dignity and affording them a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum,” the lawmakers wrote.
Photographs and video footage of border agents’ interactions with Haitian migrants, which circulated widely online this week, offered a view into the chaos unfolding in Del Rio, Texas, where large groups of Haitians crossed the Rio Grande and illegally entered the United States.
“It is critical that thorough investigations are conducted regarding the conduct in Del Rio, Texas, and that appropriate disciplinary action is taken,” the House Democrats wrote. “In addition, we urge C.B.P. to examine broader issues of culture and training within the agency that may have contributed to this conduct.”
The Biden administration has flown more than 1,000 people to Haiti since Sunday and plans to run seven flights a day starting Wednesday, with room for 135 migrants on each plane, according to an official familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategies.
The deportations are the latest example of the Biden administration, in its attempts to assert control over soaring numbers of border crossings, belying a campaign pledge to restore an asylum program for vulnerable families fleeing persecution and poverty.
Leaders of civil rights organizations, including the N.A.A.C.P., sent a letter to Mr. Biden on Tuesday condemning the treatment of the Haitians, and other allies of Mr. Biden denounced the actions, comparing the events at the border to those seen under President Donald J. Trump.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday called the treatment “horrible” and said she planned to discuss the issue with Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the Homeland Security Department, which has started an investigation.