Migrants Storm U.S. Border, Repelled by Tear Gas
A bad look for all concerned.
A group of some 500 Central American migrants attempted to storm the U.S. border yesterday.
NY Times (“Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas“):
A peaceful march by Central American migrants waiting at the southwestern United States border veered out of control on Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of people tried to evade a Mexican police blockade and run toward a giant border crossing that leads into San Diego.
In response, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency shut down the border crossing in both directions and fired tear gas to push back migrants from the border fence. The border was reopened later Sunday evening.
The episode comes at a time of growing tension on both sides of the border and promised to become the newest flash point in the story of a caravan that was the target of President Trump’s anti-immigrant rallying cry during the midterm elections.
Mr. Trump has made preventing caravan members from entering into the United States a signature stance of his administration over the past few weeks and has sent American soldiers to the border, although the United States military was not involved in Sunday’s clash. The images of unrest Sunday will likely provide him with additional ammunition as he tries to keep out the caravan members and other immigrants and refugees fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands.
The standoff at the border threatens to become the first crisis for Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes office on Saturday. His government will be forced to navigate demands from Washington to deal with the migrants — at the same time that it faces deepening concern from Mexican border communities straining to house and feed thousands of impoverished and increasingly desperate guests.
Soon after the migrants began their midmorning march to the border in Tijuana, they were met by Mexican federal police officers at a bridge that leads to the San Ysidro border crossing, through which millions of people and vehicles pass each year. At that point, many of the marchers bypassed the police by running across a dry riverbed.
The police, carrying riot shields, formed a new line and appeared to contain the rush of migrants 100 yards or more from the crossing. They erected metal barriers on the roads and sidewalks leading to the main border crossing for cars and trucks.
A smaller group of migrants then tried to make their way to a train border crossing a few hundred yards away, where they were stopped by tear gas fired by United States Customs and Border Protection officers.
After the gas cleared, Mexican federal police officers pushed the protesters back from the area of the train crossing.
Customs and Border Protection officers also used tear gas at a separate point a few hundred yards away from the train crossing to drive back the migrants.
Some of the migrants told The New York Times they thought they could negotiate with United States officials to be allowed to pass. A few men tried to climb the wall but fell back in the face of the gas.
WaPo (“U.S. closes major crossing as caravan migrants mass at border in Mexico“):
U.S. authorities closed off the busiest port of entry along the U.S. border with Mexico on Sunday and fired tear gas at members of a Central American migrant caravan who had rushed the fencing that separates the countries.
Although the number of people at the border was relatively small, the unrest — with migrants attempting to climb fences and run through car lanes to reach the United States, and scenes of mothers and children choking on tear gas — represented a serious escalation of the crisis.
What had begun Sunday morning as a migrant protest of the slow pace of the U.S. asylum claims process devolved into a chaotic scramble in which hundreds made their way to the border hoping to cross onto U.S. soil. To block that from happening, and as some threw rocks and bottles, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took the rare step of firing tear gas into Mexico as well as closing all legal vehicle and foot traffic to the San Ysidro border crossing, which U.S. officials say normally has about 100,000 visitors per day.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that the port of entry was closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”
Some of the migrants tried to breach the border fencing and “sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles at them,” the statement said.
Although the majority of the group approached and gathered at the fence peacefully, Mexico’s Interior Ministry said that hundreds tried to cross the border in a “violent manner.” Mexican authorities said they would deport anyone who tried to cross illegally.
Before 9 p.m. Eastern time, CBP said the port of entry had reopened.
The statement added that during the day, there were “multiple instances of persons throwing projectiles at CBP personnel” and “multiple confirmed apprehensions” of those who tried to enter the U.S. illegally, as well as “many additional attempts to cross the border illegally.”
The prospect that thousands of Central Americans might have to stay for weeks or months before they can apply for asylum in Mexican border states where drug cartel violence is prevalent has raised concerns about undermining their lawful right to apply for asylum.
The San Ysidro crossing is a large complex with multiple lanes of vehicle and pedestrian access points. In recent days, Mexican authorities and others have worried about the economic effect of the United States closing down such an important crossing for trade and travelers.
CNN (“US authorities fire tear gas to disperse migrants at border“):
A major US-Mexico border crossing in San Diego was closed for hours on Sunday after a group of migrants on the Mexican side rushed the border area, leading US Border Patrol agents to fire tear gas at the group.
About 500 migrants on the Mexican side of the border overwhelmed police blockades near the San Ysidro Port of Entry Sunday afternoon, two journalists at the scene in Tijuana told CNN.
As the migrants tried to cross the border, authorities on the US side used tear gas to disperse them, the journalists said. Video of the scene showed a cloud of tear gas that sent people running and screaming, including families with young children.
US Customs and Border Protection said the migrants threw projectiles that struck several agents.
“Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety,” the agency said on Twitter.
AP (“US agents fire tear gas as some migrants try to breach fence“):
U.S. border agents fired tear gas on hundreds of migrants protesting near the border with Mexico on Sunday after some of them attempted to get through the fencing and wire separating the two countries, and American authorities shut down the nation’s busiest border crossing from the city where thousands are waiting to apply for asylum.
The situation devolved after the group began a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed processing of asylum claims for Central American migrants marooned in Tijuana.
Mexican police had kept them from walking over a bridge leading to the Mexican port of entry, but the migrants pushed past officers to walk across the Tijuana River below the bridge. More police carrying plastic riot shields were on the other side, but migrants walked along the river to an area where only an earthen levee and concertina wire separated them from U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Some saw an opportunity to breach the crossing.
An Associated Press reporter saw U.S. agents shoot several rounds of tear gas after some migrants attempted to penetrate several points along the border. Mexico’s Milenio TV showed images of migrants climbing over fences and peeling back metal sheeting to enter.
BBC (“Migrant caravan: Mexico to deport group which stormed US border“):
Mexico will deport up to 500 migrants who attempted to storm the US border, according to its interior ministry.
The group were rounded up after trying to cross the border “violently” and “illegally” on Sunday, the ministry said in a statement.
Video footage shows dozens of people – including women and children – running towards the fence that separates the two countries near the city of Tijuana.
US border officers used tear gas to repel them.
Mexico’s interior ministry said in a statement that a group of “nearly 500 migrants” had “tried to cross the border in a violent way”.
Those identified as having taken part in these “violent events” would be deported immediately, it said.
The ministry added that, “far from helping their objectives”, the migrants’ actions had violated the legal migration framework and could have led to a “serious incident”.
Pictures and video of unarmed women and children being tear gassed by agents of the world’s sole remaining superpower are, to say the least, a bad look. At the same time, the Mexican interior ministry has it exactly right: the use of violence hardly bolsters the already weak case that these are people entitled to asylum in the United States.
While they almost certainly don’t meet the strict standards for political asylum—general conditions of violence and turmoil at home are not enough; the danger must be based on personal or group characteristics—the sort of people willing to leave everything behind and walk over a thousand miles to get here are exactly who you’d want to immigrate to the United States. The fear-mongering being perpetrated by President Trump against these people is shameful and goes against the best traditions of this country. Sending troops to the border and slow-rolling the processing of asylum applications further add unnecessary tension.
Still, storming the border or throwing projectiles at law enforcement officers is unacceptable. Countries have a right to control who enters their borders and to use reasonable means to stop those who attempt to do so illegally. These violent few have not only undermined their own cause but played into the hands of Trump and others who wish to portray the whole movement as lawless.