After U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers used tear gas to deter migrants and asylum-seekers—including numerous children—who were approaching a border-crossing station on Sunday, November 25th, social media users are taking aim at a photo first daughter Ivanka Trump tweeted of her son enjoying a fishing trip. Critics immediately noticed the juxtaposition between smiling 5-year-old Joseph Frederick Kushner and the viral photos of crying children, many shoeless and in diapers, running from U.S. officials deploying tear gas at San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego, California.
“Fishing with my favorite angler,” the mother of three, 37, captioned two photos of her son, who sported a baseball cap and yellow lifejacket as he looked out on a beautiful blue ocean and sky. In response, multiple followers shared their distaste for the image. “Your father teargassed kids your son’s age today,” wrote one user.
“Cool. Let’s talk about your daddy … tear gassing children in diapers today. Thoughts, Kremlin Barbie?” added another.
“You could avoid a large percentage of negative comments if you would only show that you have a conscience or some sense of morality and either speak out or to your father about the hateful, divisive rhetoric he tweets daily. Your silence only shows you’re complicit,” commented a third.
“Wow kids sure do look happy when they aren’t being hit with tear gas!” a fourth wrote.
Some users came to Trump’s defense, however, insisting it was a sweet family moment that didn’t need to be politicized. “You got to [be] kidding? Right? It’s a nice picture of her son fishing. Why do you have to make it politico? Geez really? It gets so boring,” tweeted one supporter.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that a group of migrants attempting to reach the U.S. after evading Mexican police were met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection armed with tear gas. American officials also closed the border crossing for a few hours on Sunday.
“We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more,” 23-year-old Honduran Ana Zuniga, who had her 3-year-old daughter Valery in her arms, said to the Associated Press.
On Sunday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency stated in a tweet that “several migrants threw projectiles at the agents in San Diego. Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety. Several agents were hit by the projectiles. The situation is evolving and a statement is forthcoming.”
On Monday, November 26th, Donald Trump tweeted that some of the migrants are “stone cold criminals” and that he would not be opposed to closing the border altogether. “Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” the 45th commander in chief wrote. “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”
Trump’s call for a border wall revives a central issue from his 2016 presidential campaign. In recent weeks, the president has seized on the caravan as a campaign issue, painting its members as criminals and invaders, though in fact the group is largely made up of Central American migrants fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries. According to The New York Times, the migrants travel in caravans for protection against the criminals that stalk their trip north.
Critics are calling the use of tear gas inhumane. “Anyone uncomfortable with spraying tear gas on children is welcome to join the coalition of the moral and the sane,” Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted. “We can argue about other stuff when we’ve got our country back.”
“These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Women and children who left their lives behind—seeking peace and asylum—were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America. We’re a land of refuge. Of hope. Of freedom. And we will not stand for this.”