Democratic US Senate leader Chuck Schumer urged President Joe Biden on Tuesday to end mass deportations of Haitian migrants, describing the policy as a "hateful and xenophobic" hangover from Donald Trump's administration.
"I urge President Biden... to immediately put a stop to these expulsions, and to end this Title 42 policy at our southern border. We cannot continue these hateful and xenophobic Trump policies that disregard our refugee laws," Schumer said on the Senate floor.
US border patrol agents are struggling to stem a massive influx of undocumented migrants, thousands of them from Haiti, in a mounting crisis for the Biden administration.
The US Customs and Border Protection has said the "majority" of undocumented migrants will be expelled under the government's Title 42 policy curtailing immigration due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The crisis intensified after pictures by AFP photographer Paul Ratje that spread quickly over social media appeared to show riders swinging their long reins to threaten migrants and push them back toward the river.
The US Homeland Security Department has pledged to investigate reports that Haitian migrants in Texas may have been abused by border patrol officers on horseback.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the mounted officers were trying to manage the flow of hundreds of migrants crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico near Del Rio, Texas.
"We've all seen these horrible images coming from our southern border as Haitian asylum seekers, simply looking to escape tyranny and the problems that they have sought, have been met at our doorstep with unimaginable (indignity)," Schumer added.
"Images of Haitian migrants being hit with whips and other forms of physical violence is completely unacceptable. This behavior must be addressed and we must provide accountability. The images turn your stomach."