When a group of Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, they protested to be let across the border. The peaceful protest became chaotic when a few asylum-seekers broke through a Mexican police barricade towards the U.S. border in San Diego. In response, U.S. border officials shut down the border and launched tear gas to move the migrants away from the border.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) released a statement outlining the event and defended the actions they took to manage “an extremely dangerous situation.”
Statement from @CBP_McAleenan on the events yesterday in San Diego. Full statement is available here: https://t.co/CRO0Vs0wY2 pic.twitter.com/90J8763UUy
— CBP (@CBP) November 27, 2018
A Reuters photographer, Kim Kyung-Hoon, captured a photo the moment tear gas was launched at those gathered at the border. The photo is of a mother running with her 5 year old twin daughters. The girls are wearing diapers and one is barefoot. The tear gas is seeping out of a canister in the foreground.
This image has been shared on social media and it appeared on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post and other prominent publications. The image of women and children running from tear gas has dominated social media and the story has been picked up by many news publications.
This constant sharing of photos showing other people’s trauma can be problematic. It can elicit sympathy from its viewers, but it can also elicit a dehumanization of the victims or separation from the issue.
A photo of struggling asylum-seeking children and their mother has rallied Democrats and the media to bring attention to this issue. At the same time, this photo has been used to create an us vs. them mentality.
Trump made claims that the migrants were harming the border officials and questioned, “why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it’s going to be formed and they were running up with a child?” By making these statements, Trump is labeling the people seeking asylum in the U. S. “other” and, importantly, a threat to our security.
Some publications, like Vox, took this photo as an opportunity to talk to members of Congress on the use of tear gas and Trump’s decision to condone it.
Vox reached out to seven Senators to discuss their views on the use of tear gas. They displayed a wide range of political views.
Senator Kamala Harris said: “We cannot be tear-gassing children who are arriving at our borders seeking asylum because they are fleeing the murder capitals of the world. It’s not reflective of our laws.”
Senator John Kennedy said: “when our agents are attacked, they should be allowed to respond.”
Kennedy echoed Trump who claimed that “three Border Patrol people yesterday were very badly hurt through getting hit with rocks and stones.”
This contradicts a statement from CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan released that states that four border agents were struck by rocks, but were wearing protective gear and did not suffer any serious injuries.
Publications defending the actions of the President cited that President Obama also used tear gas on migrants attempting to cross the border.
The National Review wrote: “The same tear-gas agent that the Trump administration is taking heat for deploying against a border mob this weekend is actually used fairly frequently — including more than once a month during the later years of President Barack Obama’s administration, according to Homeland Security data.”
The Washington Times also cited the same statistics to challenge the “current anger” Democrats have expressed over the Border Patrol’s use of tear gas.
However, The New York Times and the Huffington Post both wrote about the physical and emotional impact that tear gas will have on children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as cited in the New York Times, claims that tear gas can cause burning eyes, nose, mouth and skin, as well as shortness of breath and a choking sensation. Children are more vulnerable to these chemicals that, at their worst, could cause blindness or chemical burns.
The Huffington Post said that tear gas is “a chemical weapon that is banned on battlefields in almost every country.” They also discussed that children who experience tear gas attacks “are at a greater risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as they grow up.”
The Arizona Republic wrote about the Mayor of Tijuana, Juan Manuel Gastelum, and his reaction to the migrant caravan. He feared that the caravan would fracture the relationship that Mexico has with the U.S. and called for bi-national unity.
Mayor @Kevin_Faulconer and I are showing the world how a binational mega-region employs, invests and produces benefits for its citizens. Let's stay strong together by working with our respective federal authorities. People of Tj-SD deserve all our effort, they trust in our work. pic.twitter.com/0nQWS68uhx
— Juan Manuel Gastélum (@ALCDETI) November 26, 2018
At this time, many members of the migrant caravan are camping out near the border. After the clash between the migrants and the U.S. Border Patrol, there has been growing tension between the migrants and the locals in Tijuana. There is also tension between Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and President Trump. While the U.S. is processing fewer than 100 asylum cases a day, campgrounds in Mexico have to hold thousands of migrants waiting at the border.