May 18, 2022

Horse Troopers Suspended at Migrant Camp in Texas

The city of Del Rio, Texas is the site of a migrant camp housing over 16,000 Haitians who have fled their country in order to escape poverty and persecution. A recent report from Human Rights Watch has called into question the safety and security of these people due to an increase in violence that they say can be attributed to increased horse patrols. These patrols will now be suspended for at least six months while the police department investigates.

The report, which was released on February 23rd, said that the mounted patrols were actively harassing Haitians. It also noted that these stressors are likely contributing to increased levels of violence in the city. The Human Rights Watch team collected anecdotes from residents who believed that local police were using horses to intimidate them and make their lives even more difficult.

The police department has countered these claims saying that they have not been targeting Haitians. However, they admit that there was a significant increase in violence in the area and an investigation is warranted to determine whether this increase can be attributed to the newly implemented patrols. For now, both mounted and unmounted officers will be patrolling simultaneously until June when the investigation results will be known.

Mounted police patrols have been implemented in Del Rio for the past six years and the city council has spent millions of dollars on these horses and officers who ride them. Generally, this is a successful method for many departments because it allows the officers to cover more area and gives them greater visibility leading to fewer crimes. However, some cities have even started to reduce or completely eliminate these patrols due to the cost of maintaining the horses.

Many jurisdictions use retired police horses that are past their prime for riding programs while others bring in new horses every year. Some departments use their own officers who train specifically for mounted patrols while others utilize volunteers from local stables.

The Haitians who are fleeing their country are landing mostly in Brazil. They have traveled on boats and rafts after the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. Many of them are crossing through Brazil to get to Peru where they hope to stay or move on to other countries. However, the government of Brazil has recently made it more difficult for them to stay in that country.

The military has been sent into the south of Brazil to not only patrol the border but also oversee the services that were already being given to these immigrants. There are concerns about crime increasing as more Haitians arrive, especially since they do not have work permits and are often forced to resort to violence or theft in order to survive. Many of them have settled in just outside the city of Iguacu which is already one of the poorest regions in Brazil.

The Haitians who settle illegally in Brazil often find themselves exploited by employers, gangs and pimps that take advantage of their lack of citizenship. The police force has also been accused recently of mishandling the cases of crimes that were committed against Haitians. Even when they are able to report these crimes nothing is ever done about it due to the lack of evidence.

Even though there are no human rights violations happening at this camp, crime has become an increasing problem in Del Rio. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has condemned these practices and has called for an investigation. Human rights experts have reached out to the local police department and offered their assistance in ensuring that these types of human rights violations do not continue.

Human Rights Watch stated that it is very rare for a mounted beat program to be suspended, especially if the horses are well taken care of and there is nothing indicating any