CARAVAN PART III

According to a story in the “San Diego Union”: “A group of about 100 people trying to illegally cross the border at the San Ysidro port of entry threw rocks and bottles at US Border Patrol agents who responded by using pepper spray…” This news account was not from this week’s edition of the newspaper, but, rather from November 25, 2013. I quoted that story to prove a point, which is that this past week’s actions, as unpalatable as they might have been, especially with children among the victims, were not unique. Additionally, according to an article in the Associated Press similar incidents occurred at various times throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Hopefully, this will add some perspective to the current situation. The 2013 incident was not widely reported, nor did it engender the same outrage in the media that we are seeing now. To me, this is a further example of a biased media. Who was president in 2013? Mr. Obama, not Mr. Trump. According to multiple sources, for instance, the “Washington Times” and “Newsweek,” President Obama authorized the use of tear gas and pepper spray on many occasions during his tenure. Chances are it was the appropriate action at the time, just as is the most recent example.

As I said, this action has drawn widespread outrage. Many politicians, news commentators, and average citizens have strongly criticized this tactic, the Trump administration, and Mr. Trump, personally, without really understanding all the facts of the situation. A sampling:

1. NY Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand characterized the use of tear gas as “horrendous.”
2. California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom tweeted “That is not my America.”
3. Ben Rhodes, former advisor in the Obama administration tweeted that “it was wrong to gas women, children and the elderly.” (I would like to denote that Mr. Rhodes was an advisor to the Obama administration during 2013 and likely was complicit in the decision to tear gas migrants during his tenure.)
4. And, my personal favorite: Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz called the border agents who used tear gas and pepper spray “Nazis” and accused them of committing “war crimes.” Nazis? War crimes? Really? Hyperbole like this from an elected official is unnecessarily inflammatory and makes me wonder how he ever got elected in the first place.

The fact of the matter, as related by multiple witnesses on the scene, news video footage, and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is that a mob of several hundred migrants rushed the border, which is weak at that point (no real wall), and threw rocks at the agents in an effort to gain entry into the US.

Several agents were injured, and they used the tear gas and pepper spray to protect themselves. That was, in their judgment, the least lethal response they could employ. It was a legal response. The agents on the scene are authorized to do so if, in their judgment, it is “objectively reasonable and necessary to carry out law enforcement duties” and to protect themselves “when other techniques are not sufficient to control disorderly or violent subjects.” Anyone viewing the media footage would have to agree that the agents acted appropriately. Moreover, it is a standard tactic used by law enforcement personnel all over the world. President Trump defended the action. He told reporters “No one is coming into our country unless they come in legally.”

Yes, the optics of women and children being tear gassed and pepper sprayed were offensive. No sane person would be in favor of that. But, they were interspersed in a group of single men who had attacked the agents. Some observers have even postulated that they were used as human shields precisely for the purpose of generating sympathetic optics. In summary, I don’t think it is fair to blame the border agents.

There are thousands more migrants presently housed in Tijuana, and more caravans may be enroute. Mario Figueroa, Tijuana’s Director of Social Services has estimated that of the 5,000 or so being housed in the Tijuana sports complex some 3,100 are adult men. He didn’t say how many of them were single or part of a family unit. Again, we don’t know and need to find out.

CONCUSION

Fair-minded people should recognize that the immigration issue is a complex one with, essentially, two competing narratives. One is that the immigrants are refugees fleeing violence, tyranny and economic hardship and hoping for a better life in the US for them and their children. Most of us can identify and sympathize with that. However, the counterview is that imbedded among these people are, or could be, gang members, terrorists, and other violent people who pose a threat to our national security. They advocate following the process for vetting these immigrants in accordance with our laws. We don’t have the resources to take in everyone, regardless of the circumstances. I have to hope and believe that somewhere there is room for a compromise.

Let’s remember that President Trump offered one last year, which was basically trading a path to citizenship for the “dreamers” in exchange for funding for the Wall. The Dems and some GOPers in Congress rejected it. I think that could still be the basis for a compromise, but I won’t hold my breath.

As most of you know, we do have laws and a process that govern immigrants seeking to enter the country. President Trump and his administration did not promulgate these laws unilaterally. They were passed by previous Congresses, approved by previous presidents, and upheld by previous Supreme Courts. The Trump administration is merely enforcing these laws and processes as they are bound to do constitutionally. The way our system works is if you don’t like a law, don’t rail about it (falsely) in the media; don’t incite violence; petition Congress to change it.

Over the weekend there was a story circulating of a possible deal whereby migrants would be vetted while being held on the Mexican side of the border. If their asylum claims were accepted they would be admitted to the US. Otherwise, not. This seemed to me to be preferable to the much maligned “catch and release” policy. Apparently, the Mexican authorities denied such a deal had been agreed upon, but I think it would be an acceptable compromise to the issue. Perhaps, it will be revisited by the incoming (Mexican) administration. As President Trump likes to say “we’ll see what happens.”

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