Tear Gas Used Again by Agents at U.S. Border on New Year’s Day
U.S. border patrol agents launched at least three cans of tear gas onto the Mexican side of the border near Tijuana in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. A group of about 150 Central Americans who had made their way to Tijuana with a Honduran caravan were nearby, a group that included women and children.
Agents described using tear gas along with smoke and pepper spray as a means of self-defense against rock throwers on the Mexican side, insisting that the group of migrants was not affected by the gas, nor were they being targeted. The New York Times reported that 25 migrants were eventually taken into custody following the incident, two of whom were teenagers.
Tear Gas as a Border Deterrent
The current administration has come under fire for allowing the use of tear gas as a non-lethal tactic to deter migrants from crossing into the country. After initial reports of tear gas being used at the border last year, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the administration’s tactics as an appropriate means of self-defense against migrants who were throwing rocks at border agents, a measure for which President Trump has fully expressed his support. “Here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally,” he reasoned back in November, according to the BBC.
While the use of tear gas in warfare has been banned internationally, the U.S. permits its law enforcement agencies to use it on American crowds at demonstrations and protests, and now on migrants at the border. The ACLU recently published a piece arguing that tear gas should be illegal both internationally and domestically, citing the risk of “physical injury, permanent disability, and even death.” The piece emphasized that infants and young children are especially at risk of severe harm.
Caravans and Migrant Shelters in Tijuana
Hundreds of migrants who are fleeing violence in their home countries, including those who arrived with a caravan, have been in a holding pattern in Tijuana as they await the chance to make their case for asylum.
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U.S Customs and Border Protection agents fired tear gas on migrants and asylum seekers peacefully protesting at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday after some attempted to cross into the country. President Trump threatened to shut down the border “permanently” on Twitter after American authorities temporarily shut down the San Ysidro port of entry – the nation's busiest border crossing.
The arrival of so many people has increased tensions in what is already one of the more dangerous cities in the world. The Daily Beast pointed out that many Mexicans are unhappy with the caravans, citing a poll from a major Mexican newspaper in which almost half of its respondents disapproved of caravans passing through the country. Last month also saw the brutal murder of two Honduran migrant teenagers who were staying in local shelters.