News   /   Human Rights

Haitian migrants sue Biden administration over treatment at southern border

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Migrants take shelter along the Del Rio International Bridge at sunset as they await to be processed after crossing the Rio Grande river into the US from Ciudad Acuna in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 19, 2021. (Reuters photo)

A group of Haitian asylum seekers is suing the administration of US President Joe Biden over its treatment of migrants.

The migrants, who crossed into Texas last September, recounted squalid conditions at a makeshift camp in Del Rio this year as well as confrontations with officers on horseback, according to the lawsuit.

In September, an influx of migrants -- primarily Haitian -- caught the Biden administration off guard, leading to thousands amassing under the Del Rio International Bridge waiting to claim asylum.

During that time, images of Border Patrol agents on horseback aggressively confronting migrants were released which drew swift condemnation from advocates, lawmakers, and senior administration officials.

In one of the photos, a Border Patrol agent can be seen on horseback grabbing a migrant, Mirard Joseph, by the collar.

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 19, 2021. (AFP photo)

Joseph said it was “the most humiliating experience of his life” when the agent “lashed at him” with his reins and tried dragging him back to the Rio Grande, which separates the US from Mexico.

"After Mirard stepped out of the river, holding two bags of food for Madeleine and his daughter, he encountered a mounted officer. As other officers looked on—some on foot, others on horseback or in official vehicles—the mounted officer shouted at Mirard, lashed at him with split reins, grabbed his neck, and held his collar," the lawsuit states.

"For several minutes, the officer attempted to drag Mirard back to the river, destroying Mirard's shirt and causing his shoes to fall off in the process. The officer released Mirard only when the horse was about to trample him," it continues.

Justice Action Center (JAC) founder Karen Tumlin said at a press conference Tuesday that the Biden administration should be held accountable.

"We must hold the Biden administration accountable for the unconscionable civil rights abuses that occurred in Del Rio, Texas," Tumlin said. "The United States government at the highest level knew of a potential influx of asylum seekers in the United States and they chose to not even do the bare minimum to prepare."

The lawsuit also states that the Title 42 process "has been brutally deployed against Haitians." It also adds that the Department of Homeland Security violated the rights of thousands of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, stating that the administration was aware that there would be a rise in Haitians seeking asylum.

"Despite these warnings, the White House and DHS Defendants decided to take no action to plan for the arrival of these asylum seekers," the complaint says.

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