During the past week, when many Americans gave thanks for their blessings, those making their way to the southern US border were faced with continuing hostility and exclusion. President Trump invoked similar rhetoric he used to impose the travel ban on countries with dominantly Muslim populations, in his most recent attempts to ban asylum to all individuals who cross the border illegally. A federal judge from San Francisco temporarily blocked the government from denying asylum to those crossing the southern border between ports of entry, which led to Trump criticizing the Justice Department for appealing his request as being biased and an “Obama judge.” President Trump made claims that these measures were necessary ahead of the arrival of the Migrant Caravan from Central America, as such asylum seekers had no “lawful basis for admission into our country.”
Upon arrival at the southern US border, the Migrant Caravan was met with tear gas, as they attempted to cross as a large crowd; men, women, and children alike. US Customs and Border Protection – those that are policing the border – claim their personnel had been assaulted and hit by stones, while immigrants on the other side claim stones were thrown after “a person got hit [tear gas] and a lot of kids fainted.” President Trump defended his use of tear gas stating “here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally,” and further justifying it by saying the tear gas used was a “very minor form” and that it was “very safe.”
When confronted about the various images of women and children running from the tear gas circulating the media, Trump responds curtly questioning why these individuals are even there and why they would be running up into an area where tear gas is forming and knowingly putting children at risk. He also notes that in some cases, these ‘parents’ are not parents at all, but ‘grabbers’ – individuals who “grab a child because they think they’ll have a certain status by having a child.” He questions why an adult would put a child in such a precarious situation after claiming the tear gas was actually “very safe,” when the real question should be, why is there tear gas. Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, essentially backs him up by accusing Migrant Caravan organizers of using women and children as “human shields” and thus “putting vulnerable people in harm’s way.” Well, why is there “harm’s way?”
The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the use of tear gas in war, but allows it for domestic law enforcement purposes, perhaps to respect the law of sovereignty. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tear gas can cause blurred vision, choking, shortness of breath, coughing, burning and swelling of the nose. And some journalists said it was very painful even from a notable distance away, using the terms “tear gas” and “very safe” in one sentence sounds like an oxymoron. Even if the use of tear gas was solely to invoke fear and there was no risk of bodily harm, it still contradicts the language used by both President Trump and Secretary Nielson on the subject matter: “harm’s way,” (so it is not benign) “very safe” (as opposed to dangerous?), “human shields,” etc.
This occurrence in conjunction with Trump’s push for the asylum ban, raises alarming flags about his disregard for separation of powers, the division of government responsibilities into separate branches of the government so no one branch holds supreme power, is an important distinction between democracies and authoritarian governments.
- The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
- The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
- FWD.us: an organization that aims to promote the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream alive. They specifically and currently focus on immigration reform.
This Brief was authored by Kathryn Baron. For inquiries, suggestions or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Dan Gold