U.S. Official Apologizes to Haitian Migrants for Treatment at Border, Warns Not to Come

A top U.S. official has apologized to Haitian migrants for how they were treated at the southern border.

Juan Gonzalez, the U.S. National Security Council's senior director for the Western Hemisphere, called the images of border agents on horseback corralling Haitian seeking asylum "an injustice."

"I want to say that it was an injustice, that it was wrong," he said during a two-day trip to meet local leaders in Haiti to discuss migration. "The proud people of Haiti and any migrant deserve to be treated with dignity."

Gonzalez added that the large crowds of migrants at the border created a public health emergency and warned those thinking of making the trip to the U.S. not to risk their lives.

"The danger is too great," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Haitian Migrants Texas Border
A top U.S. official apologized to Haitian migrants for how they were treated on the border after he visited with local leaders in Haiti to discuss migration. Above, a United States Border Patrol agent on horseback uses the reins as he tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19. PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

Gonzalez was visiting with Brian Nichols, U.S. assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, amid ongoing expulsions of Haitians from the U.S. to their homeland. Since September 19, the U.S. has expelled some 4,600 Haitian migrants from Del Rio, Texas on 43 flights, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Gonzalez and Nichols previously met with Haitian Americans and Cuban Americans in Miami on Wednesday and with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, members of the civil society and political leaders in Haiti on Thursday to talk about migration, public safety, the pandemic and efforts to help those affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country's southern region in mid-August.

Nichols said that during their visit, they heard many people talk about the challenges that Haiti faces, noting that there's a "surprising" amount of agreement on potential solutions.

"There is no solution that will work for Haiti and its people that will be imposed from the outside," he said, referring to recent criticism about the involvement of the U.S. and other countries in Haitian affairs as it tries to recover from the earthquake and from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his private home. "However, we in the United States are committed to providing the Haitian people the support they need to succeed and implement their own vision."

Nichols said the conversation with the prime minister was constructive, adding that the U.S. is encouraging consensus and a holistic vision.

"The future of Haiti depends on its own people," he said. "The United States is committed to working with the people of Haiti to support as they work to bring prosperity and security back to their country."

Nichols said a technical team from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement will visit next week as Haiti struggles with a spike in gang-related violence, with the bureau's assistant secretary visiting in upcoming weeks. He said later this month, the undersecretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights will visit with other senior officials to talk about police and security issues.

U.S. Trip to Haiti
"The future of Haiti depends on its own people," said Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols. Above Nichols speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 1. Joseph Odelyn/AP Photo