A Border Patrol leader just gave a racist defense of Trump’s gassing of migrant kids


Yesterday, the nation was shocked by the horrifying news that Border Patrol agents used tear gas and pepper spray against asylum-seeking families with toddlers at the southern border as the Trump administration made an example of asylum seekers and showed the world once again that they aren’t afraid to use violence against children in order to make a political point.


On cue, the conservative propaganda machine kicked into high gear to try to justify and excuse the appalling behavior by the United States Border Patrol at the entry port city of  San Ysidro.

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The most astonishing take came from Ronald Colburn, the President of the Border Patrol Foundation and former national deputy chief of the Border Patrol, who had the stunning gall to make the excuse that gassing children with toxic chemicals wasn’t that bad because pepper spray was “natural.”

To add insult to injury, Colburn jammed in a racist stereotype, joking that the migrants could put the pepper spray “on their nachos and eat it.”


Pepper spray may be commonly used as a personal defense weapon but that doesn’t make it any less painful — especially when used against children.

While pepper spray is indeed made from “natural” sources, you obviously could not put it on your food. An article published by the Essilor vision care company on the dangers of pepper spray remarks that “to give you an idea of just how hot pepper spray can be, consider the fact that while a jalapeno pepper is around 8,000 SHU (Scoville heat units) and a habanero is close to 350,000 SHU, typical pepper spray is rated between 500,000 and 5,000,000 SHU.”

Pepper spray triggers a burning sensation in the upper respiratory system and in the eyes, and can lead to temporary blindness as well as difficulty breathing, and can take up to days to recover from.

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On the other hand, tear gas is defined as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which prohibits its use in warfare but somehow still allows it to be used against civilians. The UK’s Independent describes the effects of it as “a burning, watery sensation in the eyes, difficulty breathing, chest pain, excessive saliva, and skin irritation. But those who face heavy exposure can also suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea.”

The racism and the ease with which the former Border Patrol chief dismisses their suffering is a shocking glimpse into the inhumanity with which the Border Patrol and other immigration enforcement cops treat people in desperate need of help. These are not chemicals to be made light of and the use of them against innocent families with children is an appalling overreach that we cannot allow to go unpunished.

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Natalie Dickinson

Natalie is a staff writer for the Washington Press. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been freelance blogging and writing for progressive outlets ever since.