White House faces increased cries from allies on Haitian migrants
The White House is facing a growing outcry from Democrats and other allies over the influx and subsequent removal of thousands of Haitian migrants who crossed the southern border in recent weeks — as well as their treatment by Customs and Border Protection.
More than 10,000 migrants with plans to seek asylum are camped out under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, that spans the U.S. and Mexico border.
The situation garnered additional attention this week when photos and videos circulated of border agents on horseback chasing down and reining in migrants.
The images, paired with efforts to rapidly deport the migrants, has increasingly triggered pushback from Democrats, including a testy statement from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday.
“I’m told there are four flights scheduled to deport these asylum-seekers back to a country that cannot receive them. Such a decision defies common sense. It also defies common decency,” Schumer said in a rare bit of direct criticism of the president by the Democratic leader from the Senate floor.
“I urge President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas to immediately put a stop to these expulsions and to end this Title 42 policy at our southern border. We cannot continue these hateful and xenophobic Trump policies that disregard our refugee laws,” Schumer added, referencing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted that the administration should focus on providing humanitarian aid to Haitians rather than deporting migrants.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, urged Mayorkas to travel to the border to assess the situation and ensure migrants on the ground are receiving food, water and other humanitarian assistance.
Mayorkas on Tuesday condemned the treatment of migrants at a hearing with senators but said the administration has no plans to stop deportation flights to return the migrants back to Haiti.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Sunday that the government had moved more than 3,000 migrants over the weekend to detention centers or planes, with plans to relocate thousands more throughout the week.
Thousands of Haitians have sought to flee the island in recent weeks after another major earthquake and a presidential assassination have led to severe instability.
Biden himself has yet to directly address the surge of Haitian migrants or the images of border agents on horseback chasing them down.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CBS News on Tuesday that Biden believes the images are “horrific and horrible.”
Other officials have similarly condemned the scenes at the border.
Vice President Harris, who was tasked earlier this year with addressing root causes of migration from Central America, said she was “deeply troubled” by the situation at the border and planned to speak with Mayorkas on Tuesday.
“What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were is horrible,” Harris told reporters. “And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there.”
The Biden administration has faced criticism more broadly from Republicans over its immigration policies for months. Upon taking office in January, Biden swiftly moved to reverse restrictive protocols put in place by the Trump administration.
But record-setting numbers of migrants have crossed the southern border during various surges over the last seven months, leaving Biden administration officials pleading for patience as they implement their own policies.
The White House has been forced to go on defense over the handling of Haitian migrants just one day after it said it would raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 in fiscal 2022, meeting a target Biden set during his presidential campaign.
“With the world facing unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs, the United States is committed to leading efforts to provide protection and promote durable solutions to humanitarian crises, to include providing resettlement for the most vulnerable,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Monday.
The outcry over the treatment of the Haitians comes at a difficult political moment for Biden, who saw his approval ratings sink since August in the face of bipartisan criticism of the way the U.S. withdrew troops from Afghanistan.
The resilient coronavirus pandemic has also hurt the administration amid fears about rising cases and hospitalizations, particularly among children.
A weakened Biden, just more than a year before the midterm elections, is now trying to muscle through two pieces of legislation crucial to his domestic agenda that are dividing his own party.
The latest border crisis involving the Haitian migrants is complicating those matters, creating a point of criticism for liberals and conservatives alike.