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US facing backlash after tear gas at migrants at the border

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mexico migrants tear gas
A
migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from
Central America en route to the United States, run away from tear
gas in front of the border wall with Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico on
November 25, 2018.


Kim
Kyung-Hoon/Reuters



  • US officials launched tear gas at migrants in a confrontation
    at a US border facility near Tijuana on Sunday, sparking sharp
    backlash as reports emerged of mothers and children fleeing the
    chemical.
  • Chaos erupted as migrants drew close to the San Ysidro port
    of entry border, where agents were dressed in riot gear and
    launched tear gas after migrants were reportedly seen attempting
    to breech sheet metal and barbed wire.
  • Agency heads issued statements after the clash defending the
    move as necessary, but civil rights organizations condemned the
    move as a use of excessive force.

US border authorities fired tear gas in a clash with members of a
migrant caravan after a group
estimated to be in the hundreds stormed the busiest port of entry
along the Mexico border on Sunday.

A US Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson confirmed agents
deployed “crowd dispersing devices,” which included pepper ball
launching systems and CS canisters, commonly known as tear gas,
to deter the migrants.

Chaos broke out as migrants got close to the border agents in
riot gear and reportedly attempted to break through
barbed wire and metal sheeting.

Children screamed and coughed as clouds of gas spread out across
hundreds of yards, the Associated Press reported.

Ana Zuniga, a 23-year-old from Honduras was carrying her 3-year
old daughter, told the AP, “We ran, but when you run the smoke
smothers you more.”

A CBP spokesperson said Sunday evening that officials were still
gathering accounts from agents and officers who were deployed to
the border but said there were “multiple instances of persons
throwing projectiles at CBP personnel,” and that border agents
had apprehended people who attempted to cross the port of entry
illegally.

Despite claims from CBP and Department of Homeland Security,
reports of mothers and young children with burning eyes running
from the tear gas launched by US authorities sparked immediate
reactions from civil rights organizations and across social
media.


mexico migrants tear gas
A
migrant covers his face with his T-shirt after US border patrols
fired tear gas in front of the border fence with Mexico on
November 25, 2018.


Kim
Kyung-Hoon/Reuters




Read more:
US reopens portion of Mexico
border it shut down after firing tear gas at migrants when some
stormed the port of entry

The ACLU San Diego chapter issued a statement from Deputy
Political Director Lorella Praeli, who refuted the agency’s
claims of an appropriate response, calling the move “outrageous
and inhumane.”

“Under no circumstances should CBP be using tear gas on
children,” Praeli wrote. “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.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights
Project, criticized Border Patrol in a Monday morning CNN appearance, calling the use of
tear gas and riot gear an “overuse of force.”

“No one wants a border patrol agent to be in danger,” Gelernt
said, responding to reports of migrants throwing rocks at
officials. “But from what we know, this was an overuse of force.
There are women and children out there. Using tear gas in this
situation does not seem justified.”

Gelernt continued to say the project was investigating the
incident and added: “This would not be the first time there was
excessive force by border patrol.”

A judge in Tucson, Arizona ruled last week that Border Patrol
Agent Lonnie Swartz was not guilty of involuntary
manslaughter
after firing 16 rounds through the border fence
from Nogales, Arizona, into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and killing
16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

Swartz claimed he was defending his life against Elena Rodriguez,
who was throwing rocks.


migrants mexico border
Migrants
clash with Mexican police at the US border after getting past
another line of Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in
Tijuana on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018.


Rodrigo
Abd/AP



Amnesty International
condemned the use of tear gas in a tweet Sunday and assigned
blame to President Donald Trump’s administration, who recently
announced the deployment of over 5,000 troops to the
border in anticipation of the caravan’s long-anticipated arrival.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Sunday that
migrants’ attempts to breach border obstacles and throwing things
in the proximity of agents was “lawlessness” that necessitated
the harsh response.

Many of the migrants are fleeing violence, poverty, and
corruption
in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador,
and Guatemala. The first group started walking from the so-called
Northern Triangle countries in October to seek a better life in
the US.

‘Lives are really hanging in the balance here’

Clara Long, a senior researcher with
Human Rights Watch, said the government’s massive presence at the
border should deem techniques like tear gas unnecessary, but that
it’s a troubling sign that stems from Trump’s extreme stance on
migrants.

“In the context of a president that makes statements advocating
illegal behavior by the government, blocking asylum seekers, not
hearing their claims, and often very dehumanizing statements that
cast them as criminals, it
becomes doubly and triply worrying that you have these agents
that are using very questionable force on crowds on the other
side of the border,” Long told INSIDER.

Cases that include agents claiming violent or lethal action as a
defense against migrants who were throwing rocks across border
structures are common, and often “highly suspect,” Long said.

“It seems to me to be an escalation, and instead what the US
should be doing is focusing on building capacity to hear claims
and to adjudicate them fairly,” Long said. “Instead it’s doubling
down on hard-line, repressive and violent tactics.”


Read more:
‘All will stay in Mexico’: Trump
says the US will bar asylum-seekers from entering the country
until judges approve their claims

Despite the refreshed spotlight on border agents, Long said the
migrants’ situation remains dire.

Mexico said it will deport around 500 immigrants who left their
temporary shelter to enter the US “violently” and “illegally,”
days after Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum’s declared a
humanitarian crisis and
requested United Nations aid after the city strained to
accommodate the group of nearly 5,000 migrants at the
border
.

But the Trump administration is only processing
about 100 asylum claims per day. At
that rate, it will likely take several months to consider the
cases of the 10,000 migrants who are projected to arrive at the
border near Tijuana.

“The best we can hope for is increased pressure on the agency for
transparency, accountability, these calls should come from
Congress,” Long said. “But it’s tragic because lives are really
hanging in the balance here.”

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