US-Mexico Border: Authorities Fire Tear Gas As Mexican Families Try To Enter USA
November 27th, 2018 / 5:50 PM
A border between the US and Mexico near San Diego was closed on Sunday after people from the Mexican side rushed towards the border and tried to cross it. As the situation began getting worse with every minute, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers had to take the rare step of firing tear gas at the migrants, while others threw rocks and bottles. As Central American migrant caravan members rushed the fencing that separates Mexico with the US border, US authorities on Sunday closed off the port of entry and fired tear gas.
A grave upsurge of the crisis was represented as migrants tried to run through car lanes and climb fences in an attempt to reach the US. Mothers and children choked on tear gas, painting a heartbreaking picture.
For days, Sunday’s protest was being planned by the migrants to be able to express the difficulties and frustrations of their wait. They painted signs urging Donald Trump to let them in.
“Desperation has led some people to really believe that crossing is possible. The U.S. has given us no response, and the situation at the shelter keeps getting worse,” said 22-year-old Alex Almendares, a member of the caravan from Colón, Honduras.
The protest march moved towards one of the pedestrian crossings on Sunday morning. As their way was blocked by Mexican police in riot gear, a small fight broke out between several protesters and police. The situation gradually become more chaotic and uncontrollable as some migrants ran across a dry canal and others tried to cross in different places.
Although tear gas was fired and the migrants ran to escape the fumes, there was no immediate report of any serious injury. However, an agent in Arizona was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter after he accidentally killed a 16-year-old boy by firing his weapon in response to rock-throwers. Among several other migrants was 42-year-old Maria Louisa Caceres, who took her son and followed people running towards the fence.
“We thought it was a peaceful march today, but then I saw everyone running and I thought, ‘This is it, God will touch Trump’s heart,’ ” she said.
Firing of tear gas and closing of border crossing
As the situation began getting worse with every minute, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers had to take the rare step of firing tear gas at the migrants, while others threw rocks and bottles, reported The Washington Post. All foot traffic and legal vehicle to the San Ysidro border crossing had to be closed, which has about 1,00,000 visitors every day. The port of entry had to be closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally”, according to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“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,” Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement, as reported by USA Today. “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.”
On the US side of the border, 42 people were arrested, most of who are adult males.
Emma Murphy and President Donald Trump tweet
Although the peaceful gathering at the fence was initially peaceful, Interior Ministry of Mexico claimed that later, several migrants tried to cross the border violently. Anyone who attempted to cross the border would be deported, Mexican authorities said. The port of entry had reopened before 9 p.m. eastern time.
There have been repeated threats by President Donald Trump that border crossings will be closed so that no migrant caravan can enter the United States. For several days, members of the caravan have remained in Tijuana, this a significant group has massed at border fence for the first time.
“Mexico should move the flag-waving migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” President Trump wrote on Twitter. He further said, “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it any way you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be.”
Citizen journalist and social media influencer Emma Murphy tweeted the events that have been taking place since the chaos began. “Hundreds try to storm the border. Expect significant US response #tijuana,” she tweeted to begin the series of events that followed.
— emma murphy (@emmamurphyitv) November 25, 2018
This incident was the climax of a situation that had been becoming worse over a week, with caravan members starting to arrive where there are already thousands of people seeking asylum, waiting to cross the into the US at San Ysidro, said a report by Vox. The frustration and desperation of Tijuana’s waiting asylum seekers were clear during Sunday’s march.
After crossing parts of Central America and Mexico, the US-Mexico border has seen the arrival of over 7,000 Central American migrants, who are living in shelters in the cities of Mexicali and Tijuana. Those who left the city of San Pedro Sula of crime-ridden Honduras on October 13 are now part of a migrant caravan living in Tijuana.
Although this group mainly has Hondurans, along the way they were joined by migrants from Guatemala and El Salvador.
Several smaller groups of migrants which have not yet reached the US border are living in Mexico City and the state of Sinaloa. Heading towards the US border are also groups of Salvadoreans which are now in different parts of Guatemala and Mexico.
It is expected that around 10,000 migrants will soon reach the border, as reported by BBC News.
What the migrants want
According to some of the migrants, they are leaving their countries to build a better and safer future for their families and themselves. Others are travelling with their children so that they do not fall prey to criminal gangs who have threatened them in their respective hometowns.
Many are travelling to get jobs and earn money that they can send back to their relatives at home. Some of them have relatives in US whom they wish to join, and others wish to earn higher salaries in the US than in Latin America.
The US reaction
The migrant caravan had been labelled as “an invasion” by President Donald Trump long before they had reached the border.
President Trump had on several occasions tweeted that “many gang members and some very bad people are mixed into the caravan heading to our southern border”. He had also warned that the US military is waiting for the migrants.
President Trump told voters at a rally days before the mid-terms that “if you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you’d better vote Republican”. 5,800 troops were deployed by President Trump to “harden” it. He also ensured the adding of concertina wire to parts of the border fence.
However, an order issued by President Trump denying migrants illegally crossing the southern border the possibility of asylum has been halted by a US federal judge.
Written by : Sumanti Sen
Edited by : Abhinav Joshi