US border patrol officers appear to use whips to deter Haitian migrants in a series of shocking photographs and in a video which emerged on Monday.
It followed earlier images of a US border guard on horseback charging at migrants near a camp in Texas, Del Rio.
Some Haitian migrants have been crossing the US-Mexico border and entering Mexico’s Cicudad Acuna to buy food and water as the Texas camp is in short supply.
Temperatures also crept up to 40 degrees Celsius on Monday, leaving people struggling.
Reuters witnesses saw officers on horseback with cowboy hats blocking the migrants’ path and one even swung a cord near a migrant’s face.
Other Haitians returned to Mexico out of fear they would be deported back to their home country by the US.
It’s thought the “whips” used against the migrants might have been long reins, which department of homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said are using to “ensure control of the horse”.
The footage stunned many on social media, and the US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the “unacceptable” response was being investigated.
He also noted that patrol officers were operating in a difficult environment, trying to protect migrants while searching for smugglers.
The White House’s press secretary Jen Psaki was also asked about the incident, and replied: “I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate. But I don’t have additional details.”
She added: “I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”
When asked what the Biden administration will do in response, Psaki said: “We just saw this footage, we just have to get more information on it.”
Pressed further, she said: “Of course, they should never be able to do that again. I don’t know what the circumstances would be. It’s obviously horrific.”
Here’s what the White House had to say about reports of U.S. Border Patrol officers appearing to use whips on Haitian migrants pic.twitter.com/NMtUeV3cvo
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 21, 2021
The event followed a recent crackdown from US authorities to stem the influx of migrants fleeing their home countries in Central and South America.
Del Rio is now a temporary home housing more than 12,000 migrants – Texas governor Greg Abbott claimed this had crept up to 16,000 on Saturday – all hoping to claim asylum in the US.
A Haitian migrant in Mexico, Maxon Prudhomme, told Reuters: “This treatment they are giving is racism because of the colour of our skin.”
On Saturday, the US also said it would increase deportation flights for the migrants and the first flights ferrying migrants from Del Rio back to Haiti arrived on Sunday.
This is becoming a growing crisis for US President Joe Biden to manage, despite the White House pressuring Mexico to block the migrant flow over the years.
Haitian Wildly Jeanmary said: “They can’t send us back to Haiti because everyone knows what Haiti is like right now.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.