United States fires tear gas at migrants on Mexican border

Central American migrants hoping to reach the United States queue for food on New Year's Eve at a temporary shelter in downtown Tijuana Mexico

The migrants attempting to cross the border early Tuesday were reportedly part of a caravan of more than 6,000 Central Americans who have arrived in Tijuana since November.

The people affected by the gas included women and children, as well as members of the press. After the skirmish, the Border Protection agents detained 25 illegal immigrants while the remainder withdrew back to Mexico after finding a gap in the fence. "Several teenagers, wrapped in heavy jackets, blankets, and rubber mats were put over the concertina wire", the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

Multiple children were among the migrants attempting to cross, and officers reported seeing some of them lift "toddler-sized children up and over the concertina wire".

When people in this group rushed the border in a second incident, United States authorities fired tear gas to disperse them, an AFP photographer observed.

"No agents witnessed any of the migrants at the fence line, including children, experiencing effects of the chemical agents, which were targeted at the rock throwers further away", the statement said.

CBP said that under its use of force policy, the incident would be reviewed by its Office of Professional Responsibility.

United States authorities fired tear gas into Mexico during the first hours of the new year. The area is flat near the highway, then slopes sharply downward closer to the fence, where most of the migrants were clustered.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NPR's Steve Inskeep, "We think this will disincentivize folks who think that if they can make the transit through Mexico - a very hard and arduous journey where bad things often happen to these migrants - we think they will realize that they won't be able to stay in the United States and disappear into our country".

U.S. security forces have engaged with migrants at the country's southern border with Mexico.

Tuesday's use of tear gas comes a little more than a month after a similar incident along the border near Tijuana. Others have found jobs in Mexico and tried to settle there.

The Border Patrol used tear gas against a storm of illegal immigrants November 25, prompting criticism from some Democrats, including one senator who suggested the chemical deterrent violated global law.

The migrants arrested during Monday night's incident will likely face deportation proceedings but will also have the opportunity to apply for asylum.

The issue of border securityhas paralyzed the government after President Trump demanded an additional $5 billion in funding for securing the frontier and Democrats refused.

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