A group of Haitian migrants is suing the Biden administration for what they say was inhumane treatment from Border Patrol agents earlier this year as they sought asylum in the U.S.
The images of Border Patrol agents on horseback lashing out at migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border in September briefly made international news and gave a black eye to the Biden administration.
But for the asylum seekers, the physical, mental and emotional scarring may never disappear, their attorneys said.
“It was the most humiliating experience of his life,” an attorney for plaintiff Mirard Joseph wrote in court filings this week.
In one photo, an agent twirling a whip attempted to drag Joseph back to the Rio Grande.
Joseph counts among the migrants suing the Biden administration for the inhumane treatment at the hands of Border Patrol agents.
Advocacy groups Justice Action Center (JAC), Haitian Bridge Alliance and Innovation Lab represent the migrants. They are demanding that the U.S. government help the Haitian migrants return to America and apply for asylum, as well as cash for expenses.
“We must hold the Biden administration accountable for the unconscionable civil rights abuses that occurred in Del Rio, Texas,” JAC founder Karen Tumlin said during a news conference this week. “The United States government at the highest level knew of a potential influx of asylum seekers in the United States, and they chose not even to do the bare minimum to prepare.”
The advocacy organizations said Joseph crossed the river to supply his family with food.
According to the lawsuit, the Biden administration deliberately avoided providing humanitarian support to the area to deter the migrants from crossing.
One of the plaintiffs, whose name wasn’t given in the lawsuit, said he saw U.S. authorities beating migrants and shoving them back into the river.
As several migrants attempted to use a rope tied to the U.S. bank of the river to cross safely, the individual said he saw an officer cut the rope and yell at the migrants to go back as they struggled to keep their heads above water.
NBC News reported that Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are named as defendants in the lawsuit. According to the report, the lawyers cite the Temporary Protected Status designation that Mayorkas extended for Haiti last summer, arguing the administration was aware of the dire circumstances they were sending migrants back to experience.
“Let me be clear: The department does not tolerate any mistreatment of any migrant and will not tolerate any violation of its values, principles, and ethics,” Mayorkas said in response to the photos in September.
Agents seen in the photos were placed on administrative duties while an internal Customs and Border Protection investigation into their conduct continues.
Meanwhile, Joseph was sent back to Haiti by U.S. authorities, as he now waits for the opportunity to return to the U.S. and claim asylum.