At the same moment Christmas trees, lights, and other holiday decor cheerfully went up in homes across the United States, mayhem broke out along the country’s southern border with Mexico in Tijuana.
Approximately 500 Central American migrants and asylum seekers reached the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday in an attempt to seek asylum at San Ysidro’s port of entry and to protest the slow pace of the asylum process. Under both international and U.S. law, people from other countries have a right to seek asylum in another country. The United States has a legal obligation toward asylum-seekers thanks to the 1951 Refugee Convention and asylum-seekers may legally seek asylum at any port of entry.
Nevertheless, the migrants, including parents with children, were met with tear gas reportedly fired by U.S. Border Patrol agents while shoppers in the U.S. “streamed in and out of an outlet mall,” according to the Associated Press, where many items for sale are likely manufactured by workers struggling to survive in Central America.
US Border Patrol has just launched tear gas into Mexico. Breeze carrying it hundreds of yards. Parents running away with choking toddlers. #migrantcaravan
— Chris Sherman (@chrisshermanAP) November 25, 2018
LIVE Update from Tijuana, BC. W/ an asylum seeker from Honduras
Posted by Bernie Sanders Brigade on Sunday, November 25, 2018
It was rumoured on Sunday that a young girl was hit and killed by a tear gas canister during the U.S. Border Patrol’s assault on asylum-seekers. While the exact condition of the girl has yet to be confirmed, Movimiento Cosecha has reported that the girl is currently in critical condition.
🚨 CONFIRMED TEAR GAS has hit asylum seekers, on the ground reports say a young girl was directly hit and is in critical condition or worse. Families are seeking safety. #Migrant Exodus pic.twitter.com/1YPtfO5Ky8
— Movimiento Cosecha (@CosechaMovement) November 25, 2018
Juan Escalante, Huffington Post columnist, expressed his dismay on Twitter:
“Imagine having tear gas launched at you after escaping gang violence/poverty while carrying your child.”
Amnesty International and other organizations quickly took to social media to condemn to the U.S. Border Patrol’s actions.
In anticipation of the arriving migrants, U.S. authorities shuttered San Ysidro’s port of entry in both directions on Sunday. The border crossing is located south of San Diego, California and is one the largest U.S.-Mexico border crossings, seeing around 100,000 visitors per day.
Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security Secretary, said in a statement that the crossing was closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”
The port of entry was reopened by 9 p.m. Eastern time, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
On Saturday, a mother attempting to scale the border fence near San Ysidro’s port of entry, fell and was impaled by stray pieces of rebar. Her two young children witnessed the fall. The 26-year-old Guatemalan woman told authorities that she was not a part of the migrant caravan. According to authorities, the rebar was being used for border fence construction and not fortification in response to the migrant caravan’s anticipated arrival.
The migrants and asylum seekers traveled across Mexico after first starting in Honduras, a journey of nearly 3,000 miles. More than 7,000 Central Americans began arriving in Tijuana two weeks ago and have gathered in and around the city. While thousands await their chance to legally seek asylum, the United States has announced that it can only process up to 100 cases per day, though asylum seekers were reporting that only 40-80 were allowed in for processing on the days leading up to Sunday.
While the United States was able to quickly mobilize military personnel to support Border Patrol, there does not appear to be any urgency to mobilize additional staff to speed up the process of seeking asylum for the thousands gathered near the border.
The situation for migrants awaiting processing continues to deteriorate, so much so that Tijuana’s mayor has declared it a humanitarian crisis. After such a long and difficult journey and slow processing times at the U.S.-Mexico border, many asylum-seekers are desperate.
According to the Washington Post, the atmosphere of the peaceful march suddenly changed when protesters began running for the border. Many of those in the group were caught up in the action and energy, unsure of what was happening.
Maria Louisa Caceres, 42, and her son followed people who were running toward 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.
Another woman, Elizabeth Chirinos, followed the running protestors “because she felt desperate.”
Some of the migrants are attempting to reach the U.S.-Mexico border for the second time. All of the migrants are leaving countries that have been destabilized by neo-colonialism, with the United States at the helm of catastrophic job-killing agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. These same countries continue to experience disastrous crime waves. In fact, the soaring crime rate in Honduras can be directly linked to the Obama Administration’s assistance in overthrowing the democratically elected president in 2009. With a clear nod of approval from the U.S., many South and Central American countries are seeing an increase in right-wing rule, adding further hurdles and insecurity to an already struggling population.
In response to Sunday’s events, the Mexican Interior Ministry has said that it plans to immediately deport migrants who attempted to “violently” reach the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexico also plans to reinforce the border but will not send military personnel “to control” the migrants.
you know what this reminds me of? this reminds me of standing rock. because that's who we are now. these images don't evoke recollections of foreign, war-torn, far off places.. these images remind me that we are a disgusting, evil, hypocritical, bigoted, imperialist country. pic.twitter.com/8qX8jkKKEF
— emma leigh 🍀 (@bymyelf) November 26, 2018
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