Border Patrol agents fired tear gas canisters at hundreds of migrants at the United States-Mexico border Sunday.
The Associated Press reports that tear gas was fired after some of the migrants attempted to breach the border fence. The violence came on the same day that American officials shut down the busiest border crossing in the country where thousands of migrants were waiting to apply for asylum.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the border crossing was closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”
Mexican police had attempted to keep the migrants from crossing a bridge to the Mexican port of entry but some migrants went under the bridge and attempted to cross the border.
Video posted online by reporters at the border shows canisters of tear gas being fired at migrants, including women and children.
“We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more,” 23-year-old Ana Zuniga, who came to the border with her 3-year-old daughter, told The AP.
“Shooting tear gas at children is not who we are as Americans,” tweeted Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Seeking asylum is not a crime. We must be better than this.”
“If you don’t want to be hit with tear gas when entering a country illegally then don’t enter the country illegally,” conservative activist Charlie Kirk tweeted.
Ronald Colburn, the founder of the Border Patrol Foundation, insisted on Fox News that the tear gas was actually just “water, pepper, with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes.”
“It’s natural,” he claimed. “You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it! So it’s a good way of deterring people without long-term harm.”
“These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Women and children who left their lives behind — seeking peace and asylum — were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America. We’re a land of refuge. Of hope. Of freedom. And we will not stand for this.”
“Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime,” added Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America.”