Flashback: That Time the Border Patrol Deployed Pepper Spray to Repel Crowds During the Obama Administration

Posted: Nov 26, 2018 1:05 PM
Flashback: That Time the Border Patrol Deployed Pepper Spray to Repel Crowds During the Obama Administration

This minor history lesson (content warning) is only necessary because much of the mainstream media, led by scores of reactionary 'blue checkmarks' on social media, isn't interested in covering stories with any depth or balance.  They're interested in fomenting anti-Trump emotionalism through dumbed-down narratives, so these images -- which definitely seem intentionally choreographed -- are positively irresistible.  If the goal of those bum-rushing the border, or urging others to do so, was to generate a wave of "this is not who we are!" virtue signaling, then mission accomplished.  Among the chief signalers are former members of the Obama administration, who have apparently forgotten (or, perhaps more likely, never knew, thanks to muted or nonexistent coverage) that the US Border Patrol used similar tactics on their watch, too.  It's almost as if numerous expressions of outrage are nakedly selective and partisan in nature.  Here's a contemporaneous report from the San Diego Union Tribune:

A group of about 100 people trying to illegally cross the border Sunday near the San Ysidro port of entry threw rocks and bottles at U.S. Border Patrol agents, who responded by using pepper spray and other means to force the crowd back into Mexico, federal officials said...The incident occurred about a quarter-mile west of the San Ysidro border crossing in the Tijuana River channel. No one was seriously injured, no shots were fired and no arrests were made, said Mary Beth Caston, a Border Patrol spokeswoman. The group first approached a lone agent stationed about 1/8 of a mile north of the border. They ignored his commands to stop, so he fired pepper balls to try to stop them and protect himself, Caston said. As the crowd kept advancing and throwing rocks and bottles, she said, more agents came to the scene and used other “intermediate use-of-force devices” to push back the group...

Caston said several agents were struck in the arms and legs with rocks, and that one agent was hit in the head with a filled water bottle. “While attacks on Border Patrol agents are not uncommon, the agents showed great restraint when faced with the dangers of this unusually large group, and fortunately no one was serious injured,” said Paul Beeson, San Diego sector chief for the Border Patrol...This type of rush on the border has not been seen since the late 1980s and early ’90s, when groups of border-crossers would run into the U.S. while agents tried to apprehend as many people as possible. The practice mostly disappeared after Operation Gatekeeper began in 1994 and brought with it tall fences, walls and more agents.

It seems that wasn't an isolated incident, either.  A few thoughts spring to mind: (1) Was this a humanitarian outrage back in 2013?  If so, where was the accompanying self-flagellation?  If not, why not? Perhaps those are rhetorical questions.  (2) Based on the results of 'Operation Gatekeeper,' is sounds like physical barriers and increased enforcement actually make a tangible difference in outcomes.  Fascinating.  (3) In case you were curious, yes, reports suggest that some of the alleged asylum-seekers who were dispersed and repelled by tear gas and pepper spray over the weekend were throwing rocks and projectiles at US law enforcement officers:

US Border Patrol agents fired tear gas to repel rock-throwing migrants who tried to storm through a border fence separating California and Mexico on Sunday. Some of the migrants, part of the caravan that traveled to the border from Central America, threw “projectiles” at border agents as they approached the fence, officials said. Video appeared to show rocks being thrown. US Customs and Border Protection later tweeted that several agents were struck and tear gas was used “to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety.”

I'm generally pretty moderate on immigration reform. I found some of the quasi-hysterical caravan coverage to be overblown. And I think public officials should speak carefully about the threats associated with illegal immigration, and that the language of "invasion" was used to stoke fear. That said, a sovereign country cannot allow groups of unauthorized immigrants to storm its borders; indeed, average people might even view such acts as an attempted...invasion. And while virtually no one relishes the sight of women, children, or elderly people struggling with the effects of tear gas, what was the Border Patrol supposed to do? The crowd was ignoring orders, attempting to overwhelm the United States border, and hurling rocks at American officials. Also, it must be said that domestic police routinely use teargas and other non-lethal force to control and disperse unruly situations, including against US citizens -- so spare me the ridiculous "gassing children" and "chemical weapons" hyperbole.  It's insulting. 

I'm hardly an expert in crowd control, and I'd certainly like to imagine better outcomes than the use of tear gas and pepper spray.  But Border Patrol agents have a duty to defend the nation's boundaries against unlawful entries, and to protect their brethren from physical attacks.  The facts of this weekend's situation clearly called for quasi-aggressive measures, in order to fulfill both duties.  And because it apparently needs to be said: Peaceful asylum-seekers do not bum rush the border, nor do they pelt immigration control officials with rocks and other items.  I'll leave you with two observations: First, the weaponization of caravan-style acts of mass illegal immigration activity (in which many innocent people are reportedly manipulated and used as pawns) is not unique to the Trump era, and people seeking to saddle the current administration with blame probably aren't interested in a rational debate about policy: 

Second, the notion that Trump alone exploits immigration-related dramas and clashes to stir emotions is absurd.  As usual, the dysfunctional Trump/media relationship is symbiotic. The obvious retort to a potshot about Fox's supposed sensationalism:

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