The Mexican government has made a formal request to United States authorities to conduct a full investigation into the use of tear gas on Sunday against Central American migrants at the border between Tijuana and San Diego.
The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) presented a diplomatic note to the United States embassy in Mexico to request the probe into what it described as non-lethal weapons.
In a statement, the SRE said that Mexico also “reiterated its commitment to continue protecting the human rights and safety of migrants at all times.”
Around 500 migrants rushed the border Sunday morning after bypassing a Federal Police blockade and crossing the dried-up Tijuana River.
United States authorities said that tear gas was only used after the group began throwing rocks at border agents.
Women and children were among those affected by the tear gas. British aid organization Oxfam described its use as shameful.
“Images of barefoot children choking on tear gas thrown by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol should shock us to our core,” said Vicki Gass, Oxfam America senior policy advisor for Central America.
The U.S. shut the border at San Ysidro, the busiest crossing in the world, for several hours following the incident.
The Mexican government said in a statement that it would “immediately deport” those who “in a violent manner tried to cross Mexico’s border with the United States.” The National Immigration Institute (INM) said yesterday that 98 people had been arrested and deported.
The INM said that more deportations will follow if investigations identify more migrants who participated in the attempted border breach.
United States Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that 69 migrants were arrested on the California side of the border after crossing illegally.
He also said that the border patrol’s use of force policy allows the use of tear gas and that there were no serious injuries, but added that the incident would be reviewed.
“As the events unfolded yesterday, quick, decisive, and effective action to close San Ysidro and – on the Mexican side, El Chaparral [border bridge] – prevented an extremely dangerous situation of hundreds and potentially over a thousand migrants seeking to rush the border through vehicle lanes,” McAleenan said.
On Twitter yesterday, United States President Trump urged Mexican authorities to deport “the flag waving migrants, many of whom are stone-cold criminals,” adding that the border could be closed permanently “if need be.”
Later yesterday, Trump defended the actions of border agents, describing the tear gas used as “very safe” and “a minor form” and declaring: “Here’s the bottom line. Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally.”
More than 7,000 mainly Honduran migrants fleeing violence and poverty are currently in Tijuana or other parts of Baja California, according to Mexican authorities, and thousands more are farther south in the country.
They could face waits of several months or more to lodge asylum requests with U.S. authorities due to an existing backlog of claimants.
The migrants, most of whom are staying in a Tijuana sports complex, have overwhelmed local authorities, prompting Mayor Juan Gastélum to declare a humanitarian crisis last week.
Source: El Universal (sp)