Story by Kelsey Dassance, Columnist
Children. Mothers. Families. Tear gas. That was the scene at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry between Tijuana and San Diego late last month. A group of migrants seeking asylum in the United States were turned away by tear gas before they reached the border.
There are a number of factors that influence the need to seek asylum in the United States. Oftentimes, persons and families are fleeing the dilapidated effects of climate change, violence, unstable economies, and criminal activity. It is important to note that the act of seeking asylum does not automatically equate to illegal immigration. Asylum seekers are motivated by desperation to flee an unlivable environment in hopes of finding refuge in a safer location.
According to the American Immigration Council, U.S. Law provides asylum seekers who arrive in the United States the right remain in the Country while their case from asylum is being heard. The law also allows the U.S. government to detain individuals, most of which are vulnerable mothers and children who have experienced trauma, but guarantees the right to have their case heard.
This privilege was not granted to the group of migrants in Tijuana. When the migrants approached the United States, they were met U.S. border patrol agent and sprayed with tear gas while still in their home country. Later in the day, the U.S. closed the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry between Tijuana and San Diego.
The debate on immigration in the United States is an extremely polarized discussion that has been characterized by fear-mongering, misunderstanding and dishonesty. During a press conference following the incident at the Tijuana border, President Trump responded to a question regarding the morality of spraying tear gas at children by saying “We didn’t. We don’t use it on children.” However, multiple news sources have provided footage of the event that directly contradicts the President’s statement. Tear gas was undoubtedly sprayed at children and their families as well.
Earlier this year, this discussion was centered around families being separated at the border. Before that, it was “The Wall.” With every controversial event, we become seemingly more polarized as our leaders respond with denial or condemnation. However, a 2017 Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans considered immigration a positive pathway for our Country. Yet we seem to be moving backward in efforts to reform our broken system.
What does it say about our nation when we greet vulnerable, asylum-seeking migrants with violence and more fear. Surely not the greatest nation on earth. The policy for immigration should be enforced appropriately in order to ensure the safety of all. We shouldn’t be using a chemical weapon illegally by dispersing it across international borders on migrants who are seeking hope in the United States.
We don’t move forward by closing our doors and assigning blame to whichever political party we don’t agree with. We don’t move forward by ignoring inhumane and hateful crimes. We move forward by recognizing the need for change. This discussion on immigration has become a humanitarian issue that deserves the effort of both sides of the aisle. The dignity of every person exists before politics, and should be recognized in foreign policy by ridding it of the fearful rhetoric promoted by the current administration. We are better than this. We have to do better.