A U.S. Border Patrol official said border agents had no choice but to deploy tear gas after they were threatened by migrants who crossed illegally into the U.S.
Rodney Scott, Chief Patrol Agent of the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, told CNN on Monday, “What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to Border Patrol agents and asking to claim asylum … If they were truly asylum seekers, they would have walked up with hands up and surrendered, and that did not take place.”
Scott said migrants from the first wave of the caravan approached agents in riot gear and threw rocks and debris at them. Those actions, according to Scott, forced agents to take protective measures.
Scott told CNN agents arrested 42 people during the border chaos. He said, “I kind of challenge that it was a peaceful protest or that the majority of these people were claiming asylum.”
When asked to respond to the use of tear gas with women and children among the crowd, Scott said, “What we saw over and over yesterday was the group, the caravan, would push women and children towards the front and then, basically, ‘rocking’ our agents … We tried to target the instigators, specifically those assaulting the agents, but once that chemical is released, it does go through the air.”
"I kind of challenge that it was a peaceful protest or that the majority of these people were claiming asylum," says the Chief Patrol Agent, San Diego Sector Border Control, explaining the decision to use tear gas. "42 crossed the border and were arrested" https://t.co/w67XCL3JqD pic.twitter.com/BkuMJSswl7
— New Day (@NewDay) November 26, 2018
"If they were truly asylum seekers, they would have just walked up and surrendered and that did not take place," says the Chief Patrol Agent, San Diego Sector Border Control, defending the decision to use tear gas. https://t.co/w67XCL3JqD pic.twitter.com/ZWrl4N2bOM
— New Day (@NewDay) November 26, 2018
The human rights group American Friends Service Committee issued a statement condemning the Border Patrol’s use of force at the border:
The American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) US-Mexico Program condemns the Border Patrol’s violent response to migrants near the San Ysidro PedWest border crossing. Border Patrol agents fired tear gas cannisters, pepper spray, and flash bang grenades at migrants congregating west of the PedWest border crossing, where children inhaled the debilitating gas. Mexican officials reported several injuries, including a journalist and a minor sustaining headwounds from direct teargas canister impacts.
AFSC staff witnessed a low-flying Customs and Border Protection helicopter using the downdraft from its rotors to spread the reach of the teargas cloud into the canal on Mexican territory, where many of the migrants were gathered.
AFSC also denounces the closure of the north and south-bound border crossing at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry. This is the third time in a week that CBP officials have taken the drastic measure of suspending or closing cross-border traffic, which is a collective punishment tactic meant to sway public opinion against migrants seeking refuge. Using unjustified figures while in San Diego last week, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stated that 500 migrants of the caravan exodus have criminal backgrounds. This is a pejorative and false statement meant to justify the excessive enforcement against migrants fleeing their homelands.
“It is unconscionable that Border Patrol would violently repress migrants who have expressed a desire to petition for asylum in the United States. Shooting men, women, and children with tear gas is reprehensible behavior. Instead of endangering our communities with more militarization, US authorities should concentrate their resources on expediting asylum requests and honoring the basic human rights protections that all vulnerable populations merit and which US authorities are obligated by law to uphold,” stated Pedro Rios, director of AFSC’s US-Mexico Border Program.
Lorella Praeli, deputy political director at the ACLU, also issued a response:
Under no circumstances should CBP be using tear gas on children. This show of violence is outrageous and inhumane. The migrants at our southern border are human beings, including mothers and small children, who are exercising their legal, human right to seek asylum.
Trump’s obsessive, racist crusade against immigrants will continue to inflict human pain and suffering until Congress is willing to step up and conduct real oversight. By December 7, Members must decide whether they will increase CBP's budget through wall funding and more agents. Those who would give this agency a raise should recall the families ripped apart at the border and now, toddlers choking on tear gas, in their decision.