Any fireworks still being shot into the air to celebrate the New Year near the Tijuana/San Diego border were obscured by clouds of smoke as Customs and Border Patrol agents fired tear gas into Mexico in the first hours of the new year in an attempt to deter a group of 150 immigrants trying to get over the fence already in place at this section of the boundary.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. authorities launched three volleys of gas over the fence onto the Mexican side of the border near the beach in the Mexican border city early Tuesday morning in an incident that most experts say may violate international law.
The clouds of stinging gas, the use of which is outlawed as a chemical weapon under international treaties governing warfare, affected not just the immigrants attempting to cross the border but nearby members of the press covering the refugee crisis and women and children in the area.
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The affected migrants told the Associated Press that they have been waiting at the border seeking asylum since they arrived as part of a caravan of refugees from Honduras last month.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency issued a statement saying that the tear gas was aimed at people on the Mexican side of the fence who were throwing rocks at their agents as they helped children who were being passed over the fence’s concertina wire into the United States. The agents detained 25 refugees as part of the action according to the Customs and Border Protection statement.
The Border Patrol agents were involved in the tear gassing incident were among the small percentage of the Department of Homeland Security employees who were deemed essential and not furloughed as part of Trump’s government shutdown over the building of exactly the type of physical barrier such as the immigrants were climbing over. They will not receive paychecks for the hours they worked on New Year’s Eve until the shutdown is resolved.
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Original reporting by The Associated Press.