U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he takes full responsibility for the treatment of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Biden called the ongoing situation, which days ago saw mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents aggressively confront migrants, an “embarrassment” to the country.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden said it was horrible to see people being “treated like they did.”
“Of course, I take responsibility. I’m president,” he said, adding there will be an investigation and consequences for Border Patrol officers whose actions prompted widespread condemnation.
“It’s an embarrassment. But beyond embarrassment, it is dangerous. It’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world. … It’s simply not who we are,” he said.
The president’s comments came near the end of a week that plunged the Biden administration into crisis mode over the treatment of thousands of Haitian migrants encamped at the border town of Del Rio, Texas, desperate to enter the United States.
Of some 15,000 Haitians who initially gathered there — two-thirds of them families — only several thousand now remain, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While some have been paroled into the United States for eventual consideration of asylum claims, many others have been sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection stations to be expelled or otherwise removed from the United States.
DHS reports roughly 2,000 Haitian nationals have been returned to Haiti on 17 flights, with repatriation flights still ongoing.
U.S. officials believe several thousand Haitian migrants have crossed back into Mexico.
The situation has provoked fierce outcries from the administration’s political allies and adversaries alike. Ambassador Daniel Foote, who served as U.S. special envoy to Haiti since July, submitted his resignation on Wednesday to protest the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis.
Foote said the U.S. approach to Haiti “remains deeply flawed,” adding that his advice had been “ignored and dismissed” in Washington “when not edited to project a different narrative from my own.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied Foote’s complaints, saying Foote’s views “were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process. Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process. For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false.”
While many have expressed shock and horror over the tactics Border Patrol agents deployed against Haitian migrants, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina took to Twitter with a different take.
“God bless the men and women of our Border Patrol who are being asked to do the impossible,” Graham tweeted. “All the while they are being scapegoated and demagogued by the most incompetent Administration in modern American history.”
Graham called on DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, saying America’s border is being “surrendered.”