SAN DIEGO – Following the weekend clash at the US-Mexico Border, the use of tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents has been questioned by Mexican officials and advocates for the asylum seekers.
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry has asked the United States to investigate the CBP response. But Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has strongly defended the Border Patrol response, and so have local Border Patrol officials.
“At the time tear gas was deployed, our agents were being subjected to assault by bottles and rocks by a very large group of people,” said Border Patrol Agent Joshua Wilson, a spokesman for the union representing Border Patrol agents. He said the tear gas was never aimed at women or children.
Rosie Powers was in Tijuana when tensions reached a boiling point on Sunday. Hundreds of migrants rushed the border only to be met with tear gas fired by U.S. authorities.
“It’s so crazy,” Powers said. “I feel bad for all the women and children.”
President Donald Trump also defended the actions of Border Patrol Agents and denied that tear gas was used on women and children.
“It does appear there were women and children in that crowd,” Wilson told FOX 5. “I would say women and children should not have been in this crowd. Mothers should not be bringing their children to cross-border incursions."
Like any other law enforcement agency, the Border Patrol uses tear gas as a means to disperse violent crowds, Wilson said.
“That’s exactly how it was used here, it was done textbook,” he said. “It’s literally the most humane way to disperse a crowd, because to not be exposed to the tear gas, all you have to do is leave.”
“It’s a sad situation,” said Powers. Not everyone may agree with the use of tear gas, but the agents had no other choice, she believes.
“I feel bad for the kids, but I think they can’t help it. They can’t help it. They have to do it, I think,” Powers said. “The people need to go back. It’s too many people.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection has used tear gas since 2010. In fiscal year 2018, CPB logged 29 incidents involving tear gas. According to DHS, CBP has also regularly used pepper spray, reporting 43 incidents using pepper spray in 2018.