On Sunday, a migrant protest at the border against the slow and backlogged U.S. asylum process turned into a chaotic incident as Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) launched dozens of canisters of tear gas at migrants who had begun running towards the border, many of whom were women and children. The U.S. government then closed the San Ysidro border crossing outside of San Diego, shutting down the largest border crossing cite in the entire world for six hours.
Mexico’s Interior Ministry claims that hundreds of migrants acted on the opportunity to cross the border to seek asylum. Migrants attempted to cross over a small dried creek bed, over train tracks, and through a fence opening to the U.S. while others attempted to climb the fence. CBP officers say they fired dozens of canisters of tear gas after some migrants threw rocks.
The tear gas impacted peaceful protesters as well as people attempting to cross the border. The San Ysidro border crossing, which over 100,000 people use daily for travel and commerce, was closed for six hours.
Leon Rodriguez, the past head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency from 2014-2016 said that Sunday’s altercation was a “foreseeable result of the US policy of placing every conceivable obstacle in the way of orderly legal migration and of not having a policy [recognizing] the desperate circumstance driving migration.”
Unnamed U.S. government officials blame the Trump administrations immigration and border policies for exacerbating the violence and unrest at the borders. One official stated that they think it is “illegal that they closed the border. We cannot decide when we can close the border if there’s no state of emergency. For a couple dozen asylum seekers? That was not an emergency that should justify closing the border. I’m just relieved it wasn’t worse.”
Another official said that “Trump has broken the law by not having people at the border processed for months and months and creating a bottleneck there. Teargassing children because maybe they’ll get into the US? Heaven forbid.”
This incident follows President Trump’s increasingly harsh immigration policies, from family separations to the removal of asylum for survivors of domestic violence or gang violence. President Trump was targeting the Central American caravan as a political ploy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Members of the Central American caravan started reaching the border two weeks ago. LGBTQ asylum seekers were the first of the caravan to reach the U.S. border in Tijuana.
Currently, the LGBTQ migrants, and many in the caravan, are seeking asylum in the United States. However, the current wait list for asylum seekers in Tijuana is about a six week waiting time. The large influx of migrants from the caravan has many immigration attorneys worried that the already long wait times will double. If migrants are able to turn themselves in to the US, they will face weeks in detention.
Media Resources: Washington Post 11/26/18; Buzzfeed News 11/26/18; Feminist Newswire 11/15/18