In a lengthy statement on the Department of Homeland Security’s Facebook, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wanted “to provide an update on what occurred and attempt to dispel many of the rumors and much of the misinformation circulating.”
Nielsen’s statement comes after tear gas was deployed as hundreds of migrants attempted to illegally cross the border and some threw rocks at border patrol. She highlighted how the actions should not come as a surprise since they acted similarly when confronted by Mexican border police.
“First, the violence we saw at the border was entirely predictable. This caravan, unlike previous caravans, had already entered #Mexico violently and attacked border police in two other countries,” Nielsen stated. “I refuse to believe that anyone honestly maintains that attacking law enforcement with rocks and projectiles is acceptable. It is shocking that I have to explain this, but officers can be seriously or fatally injured in such attacks. Self-defense isn’t debatable for most law-abiding Americans.”
She further pointed out how the “caravan is far larger and more organized than previous ones. There are 8,500 caravan members in Tijuana and Mexicali. There are reports of additional caravans on their way”:
Third, the overwhelming majority of these individuals are not eligible for asylum in the United States under our laws. Historically, less than 10% of those who claim asylum from #Guatemala, #Honduras, and #ElSalvador are found eligible by a federal judge. 90% are not eligible. Most of these migrants are seeking jobs or to join family who are already in the U.S. They have all refused multiple opportunities to seek protection in Mexico or with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Seeking employment or family reunification are not grounds for asylum under our laws, or any international obligation. There are, however, legal ways to seek a job or to be reunited in the U.S.
Fourth, the caravan members are [predominantly] male. It appears in some cases that the limited number of women and children in the caravan are being used by the organizers as “human shields” when they confront law enforcement. They are being put at risk by the caravan organizers as we saw at the Mexico-Guatemala border. This is putting vulnerable people in harm’s way.
Fifth, we cannot confirm the backgrounds and identities of all caravan members which possess a national security and public safety risk to our country. However, at this point we have confirmed that there are over 600 convicted criminals traveling with the caravan flow. This includes individuals known to law enforcement for assault, battery, drug crimes, burglary, rape, child abuse and more. This is serious. Additionally, Mexico has already arrested 100 caravan members for criminal violations in Mexico.
Nielsen added how pepper spray and tear gas has been used to deter migrants from illegally entering the United States in the past, such as under President Barack Obama, as a way to use non-lethal force and thanked the Department of Defense for the support they have been receiving since October.
Like all law enforcement officers, @CBP has always maintained the right to responsibly protect themselves from those wishing to cause them harm while they do their important and dangerous jobs. Here is an example from 2013. https://t.co/zXGzSsfDLH— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) November 26, 2018
“Finally, this Administration warned about the danger of the caravan,” Nielsen concluded. “We predicted the violence we saw on Sunday. We prepared to address it with additional personnel and DOD deployments. We will continue to prepare for the next assault while looking for lasting solutions with Congress and our Mexican partners.”
The DOD issued a statement after Sunday’s events, saying they will continue to support DHS: “U.S. Northern Command is providing military support to the Department of Homeland Security and Border protection to secure the southern border of the United States.”