Donald Trump wanted a border battle and now he’s got one.
Three weeks after convincing the Pentagon to deploy thousands of active-duty U.S. troops to America’s border with Mexico, the situation in Tijuana spiraled out of control on Sunday when a peaceful march aimed at persuading the U.S. to accelerate the asylum process ended with border agents firing tear gas.
According to reports, some of the Central Americans involved in the march attempted to make their way through existing fencing.
A port of entry north of Tijuana at San Ysidro was closed 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement, which also detailed incidents in which demonstrators “split off to heard towards multiple locations along the border” while others tried to get into the country via traffic lanes in and around the port of entry.
When these efforts continued, border agents “responded”, where that means firing tear gas. Here’s The New York Times with a bit more color:
Soon after the migrants began their midday march to the border in Tijuana, Mexico, 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 anti-riot shields, then formed a new line and appeared to contain the rush of migrants 100 yards or more from the crossing. A smaller group of migrants then tried to make their way to a train border crossing about 10 minutes away, where they were stopped by tear gas released by United States Customs and Border Protection officers.
Although the canisters landed on the U.S. side of the border, the gas itself was carried by a “strong breeze” for hundreds of yards.
“Children screamed and coughed in the mayhem of the tear gas”, AP reports, adding that “fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were not attempting to enter the U.S.” Here’s an unfortunate video:
One 23-year-old Honduran migrant named Ana Zuniga described seeing her fellow travelers attempting to pry open a hole in the wire on the Mexican side of the border, prompting U.S. agents to deploy the gas.
She’s traveling with her 3-year-old daughter. “We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more”, she said.
Kirstjen Nielsen (who is still battling to keep her job) released a statement defending the decision to gas the migrants. Here it is:
After being prevented from entering the Port of Entry, some of these migrants attempted to breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border and sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles at them. As I have continually stated, DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons. We will also seek to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our nation’s sovereignty.
You’re reminded that Trump has suggested on at least two occasions that the military is authorized to use lethal force in the event rocks (i.e., “projectiles”) are thrown. Here’s the indelible moment when he told reporters that rocks are to be “considered rifles” on November 1:
He tried to walk that back a day later when pressed, but the damage was done and his intentions are abundantly clear.
Last week, Nielsen and John Kelly reportedly found themselves in a heated argument with Stephen Miller and others during a meeting to discuss the use of lethal force at the border.
“Kelly and Nielsen initially argued against signing the declaration, which granted the military broad authority at the border, telling the president that the move was beyond his constitutional powers”, Politico says, before noting that ultimately, Kelly and Nielsen were forced to relent. On Tuesday night, Kelly put his signature on a Cabinet declaration that grants the military the authority Trump was after.
Sunday’s clashes in Tijuana come hot on the heels of comments Trump made on Thanksgiving when he told reporters gathered at Mar-a-Lago that the U.S. is “dealing with a minimum of 500 serious criminals” among the caravan. He offered no evidence whatsoever to back up that assessment.
This is all playing out against the legal battle over the President’s new interim rule which essentially makes it impossible for anyone who crosses the border illegally to claim asylum. Of course if you close ports of entry, it means nobody can claim asylum at all.
Obviously, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets shot by the U.S. military at the border, at which point everyone’s worst fears will have been realized.
But hey, it’s like it says on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to be gassed and shot at.
And all so a reality TV show host can perpetuate the absurd narrative that the U.S. is being “invaded” by destitute migrants fleeing poverty and violence.