US Defends its Use of Tear Gas at the Mexico Border

Created: 28 November, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Alexandra Mendoza

The U.S. government defended its use of tear gas to disperse the massive migrant caravan that hurriedly approached the San Diego border this past weekend, while criticism grew amongst activists who saw it as an “overreaction.”

What started as a peaceful protest on the Mexico side of the border by members of the migrant caravan who came seeking asylum in the U.S. quickly turned into an upheaval that led to a temporary shutdown of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The group, which was attempting to reach the PedWest pedestrian crossing, managed to overcome the security fence set up by Mexican police to keep them from their intended meetup point.
Tensions rose when some of them tried to cross the border illegally, sparking a response by hundreds of federal officers whose tactics included the use of tear gas.

Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Kevin McAleenan insisted that the officers’ actions were necessary in order to control about “1,000 individuals” who were attempting to enter the country illegally, and to keep a “dangerous situation from becoming even worse.”

McAleenan reiterated that, during the incident, some immigrants hurled rocks, bottles, and other projectiles toward the officers. In the end, 69 people who tried to forcibly cross were detained on U.S. soil, according to CBP data.

The use of tear gas was condemned by human rights advocates, because it happened with children present in the area.

“It is unconscionable that Border Patrol would violently repress immigrants who have expressed a desire to petition for asylum in the United States. Shooting men, women and children with tear gas is reprehensible behavior,” said Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego.

Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the Border Communities Coalition, stated that the events stemmed from President Donald Trump’s insistence on building a border wall with Mexico.

“The southern border is one of the safest places in the nation, and yet Trump continues to spin a false premise that we are at war with our southern neighbors, and that we need to shoot rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at families who are only seeking to protect their children.”

In response, the Mexican Government has already submitted a Diplomatic Note for the use of non-lethal weapons that reached Mexican soil. The note asks U.S. authorities to launch and in-depth investigation into the matter.

In a press release, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE, for its initials in Spanish) declared that “México reiterates its commitment to continue protecting human rights and the safety of migrants at all times.”