As authorities grapple with deteriorating conditions at a southern U.S. border camp where thousands of migrants have gathered, most of them from Haiti, the White House is pushing back on pressure from all sides.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday acknowledged the poor conditions, and condemned the U.S. border patrol agents' use of reigns to intimidate migrants trying to cross the river.
"We've watched the photos of Haitians gathering under a bridge, many with families, and the horrific video of the CBP officers on horses using brutal and inappropriate measures against innocent people. I think it's important to address that and separately address what our immigration policies are."
The images led Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday to "raise grave concerns" in a call with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, her spokesman said. Psaki said the agents have been put on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.
Meanwhile the government is continuing to fly hundreds of people back to Haiti, while releasing some into the U.S.
Psaki defended the Biden administration's use of a sweeping Trump-era public health order used to expel migrants, known as Title 42.
PSAKI: "Title 42 is not an immigration policy, it is a health authority because we're in the middle of a pandemic."
U.S. politicians from both parties have criticized Biden's handling of the situation. Republicans have said the Biden administration has encouraged illegal immigration by relaxing some of the hardline policies put in place by Donald Trump.
While Democrats have expressed anger over the treatment of migrants seeking asylum at the border. Representative Maxine Waters held a press conference with members of the Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday, demanding action.
“And I'm not just unhappy with the cowboys who were running down Haitians and using their reigns to whip them, I'm unhappy with the administration. We are following the Trump policy. He is the one who does not follow the constitution and would not allow those seeking refuge to be able to petition to get into the country. What the hell are we doing here.”
The expulsion flights to Haiti, where a presidential assassination, rising gang violence and a major earthquake have spread chaos in recent weeks, have also faced international criticism.
The head of the U.N. refugee agency, has warned that expulsions to such a volatile situation might violate international law.