Abbott, appearing on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, said the agents were “simply maneuvering horses.” Their actions were necessary, he added, because the Biden administration was failing at one of its most basic constitutional duties: to “secure the sovereignty of the United States of America.”
If any agents lose their jobs, Abbott said he had a backup waiting for them: “I will hire you to help Texas secure our border.”
Abbott’s offer came a little more than two weeks after mostly Haitian migrants started flocking to the southern U.S. border near the crossing in Del Rio, Tex. Between Sept. 9 and Friday, some 30,000 Haitian migrants tried to enter the country, surprising and overwhelming immigration officials. A makeshift camp underneath the International Bridge in that city swelled to some 15,000 migrants about a week ago.
Since then, federal officials beefed up resources at the Del Rio port of entry. On Friday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced they had cleared all migrants from the camp.
Of the roughly 30,000 migrants who arrived at the border between Sept. 9 and Friday, about 12,400 of them have been allowed to seek asylum or some other form of humanitarian protection. Many of the Haitian migrants who arrived this month had been living in South America for more than a decade since a 2010 earthquake devastated their homeland. As their new Latin American homes grew more unstable during the pandemic, they headed north, some traveling months and from as far away as Chile.
But the Biden administration has already expelled thousands of others to Haiti without allowing them to make their case for asylum, a public health policy that became controversial in the Trump era. Known as Title 42, the provision, which dates back to 1893, has allowed federal officials to quickly remove some Haitians and other migrants from the United States during the pandemic, sidestepping the legal process that allows them to apply for asylum.
Some critics decried the conditions of the Del Rio camp or how the Biden administration, which promised a more humane approach to immigration than the one led by President Donald Trump, swiftly deported thousands of Haitian migrants back to their homeland — even as the country continues to reel from the assassination of its president in July and a devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people last month. But photos and videos from Reuters and Al Jazeera showing U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on horseback charging, chasing, grabbing and swearing at immigrants as they tried to cross the Rio Grande sparked the most blowback.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called video footage “horrific.” Vice President Harris described the agents’ treatment of the migrants as “horrible” and said she was going to talk about the issue with Mayorkas.
“Human beings should never be treated that way, and I was deeply troubled about it,” Harris said.
DHS officials have opened an investigation into what happened. On Friday, Mayorkas told reporters the investigation would be fair and the results made public.
Wallace, the Fox News host and journalist, hinted at the outcry as he questioned Abbott on Sunday.
“Governor, even if you think that those officers are being scapegoated, are you at all troubled by the images of these officers on horseback very aggressively pushing back on the Haitian immigrants coming across?” he asked.
The governor responded by saying the federal agents “wouldn’t have been in that situation had the Biden administration enforced the immigration laws and secured the border in the first place.”