Opinion: Tear Gas in Tijuana – What Our Reaction Means for Us




Haley Hartner, News Editor

Over the weekend, US authorities shut down the San Ysidro border crossing and used tear gas to deter South American migrants seeking asylum from approaching the US border.

What initially started as a peaceful protest of the US’s decline in processing asylum claims quickly turned violent, after the mostly Honduran migrants continued towards the US border despite being stopped by local Mexican authorities. These groups of migrants that seized the border were met by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with U.S. military police, California highway patrol, and San Diego police on the other side of the boundary.

Tensions inevitably intensified as it became increasingly aware that the migrants seeking asylum would not be granted access into the country, at that time at least. Border patrol agents report being hit with projectiles, such as bottles, which prompted them to resort to tear gas in hopes of dispersing the group.

U.S Customs and Border Patrol released a statement to Twitter explaining that “Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety.”

The tear gas was said to have been carried by the wind, leaving many crying in pain from even miles away.

Following the incident, social media and mainstream media news sources exploded, condemning the “excessive use of force” against the migrant group, since many of those affected were unarmed women and children. Celebrities such as Anne Hathaway and Zendaya resorted to Instagram to publicly denounce the event, referring to it as “an abomination.”

Most of the individuals who criticized the incident in Tijuana felt that the Trump administration was directly to blame for the “inhumane” treatment of the migrants. Activists such as Angela Salas, the executive director of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, claimed that “It is a despicable act on the part of the Trump administration and CBP officials to attack defenseless women and children firing tear gas, a chemical agent, at them.”

However, in the midst of the anger and shock which manifested into a blind game of finger-pointing, some information about prior administrations and their methods of choice in this regard were overlooked.

In 2013 for example, under the Obama administration, Border Patrol agents resorted to pepper spray to disband a large group of migrants trying to cross the same San Ysidro border. The migrants reportedly threw rocks and bottles at the agents, similar to the incident that occurred over the weekend. However, the coverage and disapproval over this method were not as extensively covered or commented on.

In reality, the Obama administration used tear gas against migrants sometimes more than once a month during his presidency. According to U.S Customs and Border Patrol, deployed chemical agents at the border 26 times in the year 2012 and 27 times in 2013. After a fleeting drop in use, the administration deployed chemical agents reached 29 times by the end of Obama’s term.

It is evident that the prevalence of chemical agents, such as tear gas and pepper spray, is not due to unprecedented excessive use of force by the current administration. So, it’s difficult to think that President Obama’s already high approval rating and support from constitutes did not factor into the amount of publicity the incident received.

While Trump’s consistently elucidated approval of violence in problem-solving and rhetoric most likely also plays a part, no matter what side of the argument you’re on, it is easy to see how the stigma against the Trump administration can have a great effect on how media sources deliver information and how we choose to digest it.

This ultimately leaves the job of doing research to reaffirm news reliably to consumers. Look at who’s delivering the information. Research before you react. Readers and viewers alike need to look past the media’s predispositions before choosing to voice their opinions.