Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday he was "horrified by what I saw" in images appearing to show horse-riding U.S. Border Patrol agents pushing back Haitian refugees at the U.S. border at Del Rio, Texas.
"I'm going to let the investigation run its course, but the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly," Mayorkas said on CNN's "New Day." "That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people."
Videos from Reuters and Al Jazeera on Monday appeared to show the law enforcement officials using aggressive tactics against the migrants, including swinging the horses' long reins near them.
Mayorkas did defend the use of horse patrols but said the images that have surfaced are a denial of "all of the values that we seek to instill in our people." He also insisted that the government and humanitarian organizations have been working to address the growing surge of people.
"I saw the values that we do instill in our people in exhibition when I visited under the bridge and saw them work with the American Red Cross, the Department of Health and Human Services, World Central Kitchen, in addressing the needs of a vulnerable population of migrants under the bridge in Del Rio," he told CNN. "That reflects who we are, and any mistreatment or abuse of an individual defies ... our values and who we are and what we stand for."
Thousands of migrants, mainly from Haiti, have been gathered under the Del Rio International Bridge since last week. Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked President Joe Biden in a letter to declare a federal emergency and provide resources because of the massive migrant surge, writing that the federal government’s "failure to enforce immigration laws and in particular, its failure to halt illegal crossings on a dam on federal property, which is the sole jurisdiction of the federal government," is making it too difficult for the state of Texas, Del Rio, and Val Verde County to respond to the "concentrated surge" of immigrants who illegally crossed into the state last week.
Mayorkas said the reports about the Border Patrol mark a "heartbreaking situation" as well as a "tremendous challenge" and said the administration will investigate.
The secretary also said U.S. authorities have moved out about 4,000 people from beneath the bridge, and that even more are being moved "very quickly to other processing centers so that we can ensure their security and safety and the security and safety of the community ... we expect to see dramatic change in the next 48 to 96 hours."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, told "CBS Mornings" Tuesday that Biden feels the videos were "horrific and horrible."
"I think it's important for people to know that's not who we are, that's not who the Biden-Harris administration is, and we're going to absolutely pursue that investigation and get to the bottom of what happened here," she said.
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