On November 25th, US authorities shut the country’s busiest border crossing, the one to Mexico and fired tear gas to repel Central American migrants.
“Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety,” a statement by US Customs and Border Protection said.
This follows President Donald Trump’s vow that asylum-seekers would not be allowed to easily enter the country.
The closing was caused by a group of migrants who rushed the border area.
About 500 migrants on the Mexican side of the border overwhelmed police blockades near the San Ysidro Port of Entry Sunday afternoon, according to two journalists in Tijuana, cited by CNN.
Video of the scene showed a cloud of tear gas that sent people running and screaming, including families with young children. Footage from the Associated Press show the way the situation devolved and how US authorities shot tear gas at the migrants who were trying to rush past.
Mexico’s Milenio TV showed images of migrants climbing over fences and peeling back metal sheeting to enter.
Tensions along the border had been rising for the past several days, after the thousands of Central American migrants were camped out in a sports stadium in Tijuana, Mexico. Mexican police, on November 25th, broke up the latest of the daily protests, which led to the rush toward the US border.
The Mexican government said it had retaken control of the border crossing after nearly 500 migrants tried to cross the US border “in a violent manner,” and vowed to immediately deport Central Americans who attempt to enter the United States illegally.
Trump has openly spoken against the caravan of Central American migrants for weeks. Most of the asylum-seekers are from Honduras and they are fleeing poverty and violence and claimed they would simply wait until the US would allow them to enter the country, despite the tightening border.
Trump also deployed military forces along the border and on November 24th threatened to close the entire southern US border. Military police were sent to the border crossing and military engineers moved barricades as part of the enforcement, the U.S. Northern Command said in a statement on November 25th.
“Department of Defense military personnel will not be conducting law enforcement functions, but are authorized to provide force protection for Customs and Border Protection personnel,” the statement said.
On November 20th, John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff signed a memo allowing the US troops stationed at the border to use lethal force, if necessary, to stop illegal migrants. The memo could be an illegal use of troops as law enforcement.