O'Rourke slams White House's treatment of Haitian migrants: 'Didn't have to happen'

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on Friday joined other Democrats in slamming the Biden administration over its treatment of thousands of mostly Haitian migrants who recently arrived at the southern border, arguing that it “didn’t have to happen.” 

In an op-ed published by El Paso Matters on Friday, O’Rourke wrote that the administration “should have seen them coming and ensured that the people of Del Rio, the women and men of the Border Patrol and especially the refugees themselves would not have to endure what has shocked the world over the last week.” 

“What has happened in Del Rio is wrong,” he said. “It didn’t have to happen.” 

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasJohns Hopkins to launch degree program in cybersecurity and policy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - New front in mandate wars; debt bill heads to Biden DHS to end workplace raids, shift focus to employers over undocumented workers MORE said Friday that out of about 15,000 Haitian migrants who gathered under a bridge connecting Mexico with Del Rio, Texas, in the past week, roughly 2,000 had been deported through repatriation flights under Title 42, a policy continued from the Trump administration that allows immediate expulsion of migrants amid the pandemic. 

Roughly 8,000 migrants voluntarily returned to Mexico, and another 5,000 are currently in Customs and Border Protection custody, Mayorkas said. 

Outrage among Democrats escalated this week when photos and footage circulated of agents on horseback chasing down some of the migrants, with one image showing an agent aggressively grabbing one asylum-seeker and other agents appearing to swing their reins while trying to detain them. 

O’Rourke argued that the administration should have been better prepared for the surge in migrants, given the economic and political instability that has plagued Haiti over the past decade. 

“In 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless,” the former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate wrote. 

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“Countless Haitians found themselves forced to flee the already severely destabilized island nation to seek safety and refuge elsewhere,” he added, noting that many in search of labor went to Latin American countries, which have recently suffered high levels of COVID-19 cases and fatalities. 

“With the compounding problems in Haiti over this past year, including the unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, preventing a return to their home country, the Haitians in exile began their trek to America,” he wrote, adding that “none of this should have been a surprise to our government.” 

“And once the Haitians arrived, why was our government so slow to respond, leaving the people of Del Rio and the Border Patrol to their own devices?” he questioned.  

O’Rourke went on to say that “the disregard for border communities, and the over reliance on already stressed federal law enforcement, produced conditions that ultimately led to the unforgettable and unforgivable scene of mounted officers charging into the mass of unarmed immigrants.” 

The former congressman said the country is in need of “some leadership at this moment” and “not the quickie deportations that will only exacerbate the problems in Haiti and likely produce more outbound refugees who will appear on our border in a future year.”