Biden Wasn’t Elected to Scold Racist Border Agents—He Was Elected to Stop Them

Biden Wasn’t Elected to Scold Racist Border Agents—He Was Elected to Stop Them

Biden Wasn’t Elected to Scold Racist Border Agents—He Was Elected to Stop Them

The White House bears full responsibility for the Border Patrol agents caught whipping Haitian migrants at the US-Mexico border.


How many immigrants can the Joe Biden administration whip until the beatings are his fault and not the former guy’s? How many inhumane policies can he continue before he owns them? How many evil sociopaths devoid of human empathy can work for Homeland Security head Alejandro Mayorkas before refusal to fire them can be called approval of their actions?

I’m not trying to be snarky. These are the honest questions I have. I would like Biden apologists and White House spokespeople to tell me precisely how much more bigotry and cruelty this administration is allowed to dish out toward immigrants of color before it takes personal responsibility for ending it. How long, exactly, will it be before international human rights standards are applied at our border? Name the date after which we can expect the racists hired or empowered by the Trump administration to no longer be involved with the enforcement of immigration policy. I appreciate that the ship of state turns slowly—just tell me when it will stop throwing immigrants overboard. Asking for hundreds of thousands of potential friends.

Many have seen the photos and watched the video of US Border Patrol agents on horseback whipping Haitian migrants in the middle of the Rio Grande River. According to the migrants, they were camped on the US side of the border but were compelled to go out and search for their own food and water. Some of them went into Mexico to find sustenance and were whipped by the Border Patrol on the way back.

The images don’t even capture the full horror of their inhumane treatment. That’s because while the migrants were being whipped, the agents were shouting, “Get back to Mexico!” One can can be heard saying, “This is why your country’s shit, because you use your women for this.”

In response to the widespread outrage over these images, Secretary Mayorkas has taken pains to point out that the Border Patrol was not using “whips.” The DHS has suggested lassos or “long reins” from the horses were being used instead. An investigation into the incident has commenced. I don’t know who cares about the precise implement used in this atrocity. I don’t know who thinks this is about whip-as-a-noun instead of whip-as-a-verb. But I’m sure the DHS will eventually enlighten us as to which tool made to control beasts was used on humans.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the images were “horrific to watch” and that “this is not who we are.” She insisted, “That’s not who the Biden-Harris administration is.” It’s funny, because I thought I knew who won the last presidential election, but if somebody else is in charge of letting deplorable people literally ride down hungry families looking for food, please direct me to their office.

Homeland Security also put out a statement saying the department “does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously.” I think they must mean they do not tolerate abuse of migrants on video, because if the DHS did not tolerate abuse in general, I promise you these agents wouldn’t have been given a horse with long reins to begin with.

These are not “allegations” of abuse. Nobody is arguing that these images were photoshopped or that the video is a deep fake. No, this is evidence of mounted bigots engaging in human rights violations while in the employ of the US government—the Biden government, or the “Biden-Harris” government, as Biden officials are quick to say whenever the administration gets caught continuing the racism of the Trump regime. Somehow Kamala Harris, who has the same executive power as a warm bucket of spit, always gets dragged out when the Biden administration is trying to explain why it does not address the racist officials the Trump administration left behind.

Look, I get that the Biden administration does not “condone” the behavior of these Border Patrol agents (especially when that behavior is photographed). And I acknowledge that choosing not to applaud their violence or call it “God’s work” (as this congressman did) is a big change from the previous administration, which actively encouraged such behavior. But “not condoning” something is not enough. Biden wasn’t elected to scold these cruel bigots—he was elected to stop them.

But the problem goes deeper still. The Biden administration isn’t just failing to stop the inhumane treatment of refugees and desperate people at the border—it’s chosen to deport them. In Texas this week, Secretary Mayorkas reiterated his oh-so-helpful message of “don’t come here.” Haitians have just been through another devastating earthquake, to say nothing of the political turmoil that accompanied the assassination of their president, and as of this writing just .2 percent (that’s point-two, not two) of the population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But sure, “don’t come here” is what this country can do to help. Haiti is a Francophone country not known for watching US cabinet officials on television, but maybe people who have left their homes and risked their lives can be deterred by Mayorkas growling at the border.

Even if Haitians survive the gauntlet of oceans, rivers, and racist cavalry to make it to the United States, the Biden administration has been deporting them back to Haiti—by the tens of thousands. It has chosen to continue the Trump administration policy of deporting people and forcing them to apply for asylum from their home countries. Deporting asylum seekers violates international human rights standards. But the current administration has said that it’s sending one to three flights of Haitians back to Haiti a day—with those numbers expected to rise to six to seven flights per day.

Biden could have stopped the deportations, restored asylum seekers’ basic rights, and fired every last person who worked on the border under Trump. Immigration enforcement is squarely within Biden’s executive power. He doesn’t have to cajole Joe Manchin or fund Krysten Sinema’s next wine-tasting to get something done here. Biden could zero out the Border Patrol—if he wanted to. And he could abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement while he’s at it.

Even if he were determined to keep CBP and ICE, we are long past the point of “a few bad apples.” We are dealing with a spoiled bunch, and the very least that is required is firing all of them and starting over with a new force: one vetted to make sure they aren’t racists looking for a way to monetize their biases.

But Biden won’t do that. Instead, he perceives, probably accurately, that most white people in this country want armed and mounted bigots patrolling the border. And he is, perhaps, willing to wager that most white people are willing to suffer the occasional uncomfortable image of people being whipped into a river, in exchange for keeping “criminals” out of the country.

Moreover, Biden probably notices that most of this country doesn’t care about Haitians anyway. Haiti is home to the only successful slave revolt against European powers in world history, and the United States has never let it stop paying for that. Our early posture toward the country was one of economic embargo and isolation, followed by occupation and support of dictators. Even now, in the modern era, the atrocities committed against its people by the international community are legion. The United States rounded up and imprisoned Haitians at Guantánamo in the world’s first “HIV camp.” The UN infected Haiti with cholera after the 2010 earthquake, then covered it up. This treatment is, sadly, nothing new for US/Haitian relations. But I promise you the US would not be beating Cubans into a river if their president had just been assassinated. I promise you that we wouldn’t be deporting Icelandic people by the planeload if their island had suffered a geologic disaster.

Biden claimed that he was better than this, that we were better than this. So, I ask again: When does the Biden administration intend to stop whipping migrants? Somehow, the answer wasn’t “January 20” or even “last week,” so this is a fair question. Is the answer next week? By the holidays? Only if the Senate parliamentarian agrees? I believe we have a right to know when, if ever, the Biden administration intends to follow through on its campaign promise of not being inhumane assholes at the border.

It’s easy to ask for more time to “build back better” from behind a lectern at the White House. It’s easy to say this isn’t what the “Biden-Harris administration” is. I dare some Biden apologists to make the same claims about who we really are while chest-deep in the Rio Grande.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy