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The federal government seemingly hasn’t learned from the last time swaths of Americans rebuked its treatment of migrant children during the summer’s heightened family separations. Now, critics aren’t backing down once again after border agents used tear gas against migrant children attempting to seek asylum.
On Sunday, the United States temporarily shut down the San Ysidro border crossing, a Port of Entry between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California, after hundreds of Central American migrants were bombarded with tear gas and, according to multiple reports, rubber bullets, fired by U.S. border authorities, according to BuzzFeed News.
The incident lasted nearly two hours, with two groups of migrants tear gassed after they crossed the Tijuana River, eventually returning to a stadium where they’ve camped for days, waiting for the opportunity to apply for asylum.
The groups had initially marched to the border wall from the stadium, Estadio Caliente, in protest and hope they would be permitted to enter, holding signs of U.S.-Mexico-Honduran flags, and others that read, “Donald Trump, Christ loves you,” the publication reported. Conditions at the stadium are cold, with not enough food and water to go around.
At least one person crossed the U.S. border and was apprehended by border authority, though a Mexican government official said at least 30 people crossed into the U.S. and were detained. Mexico, following the confrontation, said it plans to deport up to 500 people who attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s unclear if U.S. troops had any involvement in the confrontation, though a spokesman for a group that oversees the troops stated that troops aren’t conducting “any law enforcement functions.”
Online, Americans caught a glimpse of the scene from reporters and photographers on the ground. One woman is seen running with her children, grasping the wrists of one child in each hand, at least one dressed in a diaper as they escape the tear gas.
Other photos and video show migrants huddling and protecting their faces after the tear gas firings.
But the most poignant of these photos and stories were those of the children and mothers, some crying in response to the confrontation. One woman told San Diego public media journalist Jean Guerrero that she plans on going back to Honduras with her children because she doesn’t want to risk her sons’ lives.
Days before, Guerrero reported that mothers in the caravan she had spoken to had told her that the feared “certain unruly men,” such as those who had previously protested at the U.S.-Mexico border fence to be allowed into the country, of hurting their chances of entering by creating a “bad reputation” for the entire group.
BREAKING A girl from Honduras, part of the migrant caravan in Tijuana, Mexico, cries after US agents in California deployed tear gas across the San Ysidro border.— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) November 25, 2018
📷 @Reuters/@topixkim pic.twitter.com/sGs4rjG4Oz
This woman told me she plans to go back to Honduras with her boys after today’s frightening clash at the border w/ tear gas. She says she never thought entering the US would be like that, so hard & dangerous, and doesn’t want to risk her sons’ lives. @KPBSnews @NPR pic.twitter.com/ttXQI22kHM— Jean Guerrero (@jeanguerre) November 26, 2018
Border Patrol just scared everyone really badly. I believed they fired off a shot bang at a group trying to go through a fence. Now we’ve been tear gassed or something pic.twitter.com/rLS4lQwL30— WendyFry (@WendyFry_) November 25, 2018
Border Patrol fired off shots at a group trying to go through the fence. We ran and hid under train. They sent in CS gas. Babies are scared and crying. pic.twitter.com/FCM1DcG2o8— WendyFry (@WendyFry_) November 25, 2018
Across Twitter views reacted to the news and images, expressing horror and shame at the officials who used tear gas and potentially other forms of physical retaliation at the people crossing the border.
Because gassing women and children desperate for a better life is hilarious. https://t.co/kGSvgc2dAV— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) November 26, 2018
If someone orders you to fire tear gas at children you should resign. You should be willing to be discharged. You should be willing to go to jail.— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) November 26, 2018
If you’re ok with tear-gassing migrant children you are racist. It’s not a partisan issue. You’re not economically anxious. You don’t fear for your life. You’re just racist. This has been my TED Talk.— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) November 26, 2018
I see we've arrived at the gassing children phase of "economic anxiety" politics. https://t.co/tdFsXNn9bq— Aaron Sankin (@ASankin) November 25, 2018
At the point when you are ordered to start tear gassing children and you do NOT FUCKING QUIT ON THE SPOT.... you are monstrous.— #Prisonculture (@prisonculture) November 26, 2018
This isn't who we are America— Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint) November 25, 2018
This is wrong https://t.co/Id5kAiTdQn
What disturbs me most is that Trump and his ilk have so successfully dehumanized these folks that images of children being tear gassed and shot at with rubber bullets will galvanize Trump's base. Check the mentions of any news outlet tweeting them if you think I'm wrong.— Melissa Ryan (@MelissaRyan) November 25, 2018
This atrocity should be tried in The Hague.— Katie Moussouris (@k8em0) November 25, 2018
Americans, fight this #HumanRights abuse.
The only thing these people, these children, threaten is white power. Their blood is on our hands if we don't stand up for them.
Donate to @ACLU & @RAICESTEXAS & write to your representatives. https://t.co/Ud2jHnc0eh
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The San Ysidro Port of Entry was reopened in the hours following the confrontation, while migrants are left to wait at the stadium shelter for another day.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.