Border clash was at least 2nd use of tear gas since November

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Just after people raised their glasses to ring in the New Year, about 150 migrants gathered at a section of border wall in Tijuana to try to cross into the United States, many of them asylum seekers fed up with the long wait to have their claims processed.

On the other side, U.S. Border Patrol agents wearing camouflage and night-vision goggles and carrying assaultstyle rifles yelled, “Don’t jump. It’s dangerous. Get back!” in Spanish. American activists accompanying the migrants shouted at agents in English not to fire tear gas because children were present.

Several migrants tried to climb the metal wall, prompting agents to fire the first volley of tear gas. When migrants approached the wall again, authorities fired a second round and then a third.

The migrants fled, screaming, crying and coughing. One mother was hysterical after briefly losing her children in the thick smoke and darkness.

“The children were crying,” said Jose Fajardo Anariba, 16, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. “They couldn’t tolerate it.”

Tuesday’s confrontation was at least the second time in a little over a month that U.S. authorities have fired tear gas into Tijuana. The action drew sharp criticism from politicians and activists on both sides of the border and raised questions about the use of force against migrants.

Instead of offering the asylum seekers protection, “border agents are firing tear gas at vulnerable families with children,” Andrea Guerrero, head of the advocacy group, Alliance San Diego, said in a statement.

At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday at the White House, President Donald Trump said the clash showed that “people tried to charge the border and couldn’t.” With a complete wall, no one could enter unless that person was a “champion pole vaulter.”

He described the border as being “like a sieve” and noted that the tear gas was “flying” to deter the migrants and added that it’s “very tough” to keep immigrants out.