Immigration conflict at the Mexican border
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Approximately 7,500 Central-American migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have arrived in recent weeks at the US-Mexican border—the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry (named by NPR)—that separates Tijuana and San Diego, according to BBC. These migrants are seeking asylum in the US, fleeing violence, persecution, and/or looking for a better living situation for themselves and their families.
CNN reports that after a peaceful caravan by the migrants, chaos broke out as several hundred migrants charged the Mexican police blockade. On Sunday, November 25th, American border officials shut down the San Diego border temporarily, and as a response, some migrants threw rocks and debris at US Customs and Border Protection personnel, prompting the American officials to fire tear gas to at the migrants, reports the New York Times. NPR says that the Mexican police attempted to contain the rowdy crowd, but some migrants got past the blockade.
Rodney Scott, the chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector, justified their deployment of “tear gas to protect themselves and to protect the border.” As migrant women and children were part of this chaos, Scott goes on to say, “when the threat is to our personnel or to protect others, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. What I find unconscionable is that people would intentionally take children into this situation.” President Trump then defended the use of tear gas as he said, “here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally.” He went on to call the gas use “very safe” and a “very minor form” of tear gas.
Since Sunday, November 25, the border has been reopened. USA Today reports that, thought it is difficult to secure a border that stretches more than 1,900 miles, temporary solutions to chaotic protests at border entries may again result in the shutting down of ports. While seeking asylum is not illegal—and actually a protected status by both U.S. and international law—according to NPR, closing border entries would further delay the legal responsibility of the US to hear asylum claims.
Until court cases are settled for each asylum-seeker, BBC reports that President Trump will keep all migrants on the Mexican side of the border—meaning some may be waiting months before a hearing, as the authorities at legal border crossings are only allowing 40 to 100 asylum-seekers each day. Not only may migrants be facing months before a hearing, but NPR reports that it can take months or even years for a claim to be processed. While there were no protests at the arrival of the caravan, the migrants protested this delay with their throwing of rocks at border protection.
Westmont’s Potter’s Clay team—who leads a group of students to Ensenada, Mexico, twice a year—held a prayer meeting on Wednesday, November 28th, to lament what is happening at the border. Caroline Thomas, a Potter’s Clay core-team leader, reflected on the gathering saying, “we prayed for political leaders on both sides, we lamented our privilege as citizens on the U.S. side of the border, we prayed that our campus would care about the issue, and we reflected on our privilege as a Potter’s Clay team to so easily be able to cross the border so frequently and freely.”