Mexico Calls on U.S. to Investigate Use of Tear Gas at Border
Mexico has asked the United States for an investigation into American border officers’ actions along the nations’ shared border, two days after agents near San Diego used tear gas, smoke and pepper spray to repel a group of migrants trying to cross into the United States.
On Thursday, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said it sent a diplomatic note to the United States Embassy about two episodes, on Jan. 1 and Nov. 25, in which American agents sent tear gas into Mexico near San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.
The note requested “a thorough investigation” and “deplores the occurrence of any sort of violent act on the border with Mexico,” the ministry said in a statement.
Mexican officials also repeated their “commitment to safeguard the human rights and safety of all migrants,” and said they would hold a meeting with the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Border Violence Prevention Council, a joint American-Mexican body meant to prevent violence at the border.
The Customs and Border Protection agency said on Tuesday that it reviews all uses of force.
Early Tuesday, American border officers sent tear gas, pepper spray and smoke into Mexico when a group of about 150 migrants tried to cross a border barrier.
Accounts from American officials and reporters with the migrants conflicted on who was affected. Customs and Border Protection said that its agents targeted migrants throwing rocks, and that they did not see migrants at the fence line or children “experiencing effects of the chemical agents.”
But in an interview, Fernando Duarte, a 22-year-old Honduran, said the tear gas had affected small children, among others.
“That’s when people got furious and started throwing rocks, and I joined them,” he said. “I was so mad they were throwing that gas when they know there were children with us.”
The Associated Press reported that women, children and journalists were affected by the tear gas, and that its journalists saw rocks thrown only after the tear gas was launched.
Mr. Duarte said he had left a makeshift shelter on Tuesday night with two dozen other migrants, resolved to cross to the other side. When he got there, he was surprised to find more than 100 people, including women and children, he said.
While they were waiting for an opportunity to cross, Mr. Duarte said, the United States Border Patrol agents threw a flare light toward the spot where they were standing. Then the tear gas started, he said, and he ran with a large group to higher ground.
The migrants and officers exchanged projectiles for over two hours, he said, until people on the Mexican side retreated.
On Nov. 25, a peaceful march by migrants in the same area spun out of control, and agents used tear gas to push the crowds away from the border. Rights experts questioned the legality of using tear gas across an international border and human rights advocates, such as Amnesty International, have demanded investigations.
Mexico has struggled with the burgeoning humanitarian crisis at its northern border, where thousands of Central American migrants have gathered, fleeing violence and poverty. Its new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has considered letting migrants stay in Mexico as they wait for asylum requests to be decided.