Over the past two years, the Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to demonize immigrants attempting to enter the United States. Efforts to paint immigrants as enemies of the state even led the federal government to separate migrant families at the border earlier this year. And now, tensions have once again escalated, with U.S. Border Patrol agents reportedly firing tear gas at nearly 500 migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
NBC News reports that at about 11:30 a.m. on November 25th, U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed the San Ysidro Port of Entry located on the border of San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. The shutdown came after hundreds of migrants gathered on the Tijuana side of the border. Later, when the assembled crowd attempted to break through the barricade at the border, U.S. Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at them. Some of the migrants told NBC that they only tried to cross the border after being denied access to the port of entry, where they could have claimed asylum.
Journalists captured video of the tear gas, showing people—including children and parents—screaming and running.
Customs and Border Protection told NBC News that no injuries were reported. On Twitter, the agency wrote that “several migrants threw projectiles” at Border Patrol agents, who then used tear gas “because of the risk to the agents’ safety.”
In a Twitter statement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the migrants’ actions “dangerous & not consistent w[ith] peacefully seeking asylum.”
In recent months, President Donald Trump has escalated tensions at the border and even encouraged violence on the part of U.S. officials. According to CNN, the president has sent nearly 6,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border so far, and on November 22nd, he announced that he had given these troops permission to “use lethal force” on migrants if deemed necessary.
On November 26th, Trump reacted to the chaos of the previous day by tweeting that many of the Mexican migrants involved were “stone cold criminals” and called for Congress to fund his proposed border wall.
This latest attack on immigrants seeking asylum is both despicable and inhumane, and we’ll be watching to see how the story unfolds.