Border patrol agents will be banned from using horses in Del Rio, Texas, the Biden administration announced Thursday, after viral photos showed agents on horseback capturing immigrants who crossed the border illegally.
Initial reports indicated agents were using whips on the migrants, though that was later debunked. But conerns over the photos came up during the White House press briefing this week.
"One, we feel those images are horrible and horrific," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. "I can also convey to you that [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas] conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we will no longer be using horses in Del Rio."
Psaki said there is now an investigation into the issue.
"Separately ... it is important for people to understand what our process and our immigration process is, and what the steps are that are taken," she added.
The decision drew backlash from Republicans, who say Biden should be doing more to address the border crisis. The National Republican Congressional Committee lodged an attack against Biden Thursday, saying he acted faster against horses than the border crisis.
“The Biden Administration needs to fix the border crisis it created," NRCC spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said.
The ban on horses comes as border patrol agents struggle to keep up with the surge in illegal immigration at the southern border. Federal data showed that more than 200,000 illegal immigrants were encountered by border patrol agents in the month of August alone.
In September, agents have been pressed even harder by nearly 15,000 Haitian immigrants who encamped at the Texas border town of Del Rio.
The encampment has been a major source of controversy for the Biden administration and has strained border patrol resources.
In an interview this week, the head of the Border Patrol union, Brandon Judd, told The Center Square that the majority of detained immigrants are later released into the U.S.
Judd said that of the approximately 200,000 apprehensions made by border patrol, “they are probably dealing with 120,000 people because sometimes the same person or people are apprehended more than once. Of those, it’s right about 60-68 percent are being released [into the community] ... The vast majority are not being expelled or deported. The majority are being released into the United States.”