Over Thanksgiving weekend, a holiday fronting as a time for family gatherings, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents fired tear gas at migrants, including children.
Images of women and children at the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing tear gas are circulating through the media. The CBP said agents fired the tear gas after migrants tried crossing the border, according to The Hill. Some migrants said they did this after being denied access to the port of entry where they could claim asylum.
According to NPR, authorities at legal border crossings have limited the number of people who could request asylum. About 40 to 100 people are currently allowed each day.
Approval of more asylum requests could take months, not including when the process is granted, adding years to the wait. Asylum-seekers can remain in the U.S. throughout this process, but the Trump administration wants migrants to stay in Mexico.
“Well I do say why are they there? First of all, the tear gas is a very minor form of the tear gas itself. It’s very safe. The ones that were suffering to a certain extent were the ones putting it out there,” Donald Trump said when asked how he felt about the images.
The migrants were part of a larger group of nearly 6,000, according to NBC News. Local Mexican shelters attempted to accommodate the migrants, but resources dwindled quickly. Families are using donated clothes, branches and garbage bags to build shelter.
Despite the anti-immigrant sentiments projected by the Trump administration, particularly toward those in Latin-America, people continue making the journey from their motherland to the U.S.
What could possibly be so bad that you would willingly face family separation, imprisonment and hate speech from the son and husband of immigrant women? Mary Anne Trump is from Scotland and Melania Trump is from Slovenia.
Asylum-seekers are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, according to the BBC. People in these countries face persecution, poverty and violence. For some, the option is to flee or die.
I am the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, and I’ve been to El Salvador. When I talk about returning, the subject gets shot down. I could risk being kidnapped as soon as I exit the Salvadoran airport and be held for ransom.
When my grandparents visit El Salvador, they don’t answer the phone or door after a certain hour because of the danger. These are everyday realities for Salvadorans.
In Guatemala, according to CNN, half the children under the age of five are malnourished. Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America. El Salvador has one of the world’s highest homicide rates.
“Why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming? And they’re running up with a child,” Trump said.
Families are traveling with children who could fall prey to gangs if they don’t leave. Some of these migrants have been threatened or extorted by gangs in their hometowns.
For Trump to ask why parents are doing what they’re doing and to belittle what they are experiencing at the border demonstrates his lack of compassion and basic decency.
My father fled war-torn El Salvador in the ‘80s. He, like today’s migrants, was not seeking handouts or to infiltrate drugs or crime into this country like Trump and his administration describe migrants.
My father, like today’s migrants, was seeking peace, stability and an opportunity to create something greater in a country where anything seems possible.
It is no exaggeration to say fleeing is a matter of life or death. The corrupt governments, unlivable wages, constant crime and risk of persecution for those in the LGBT community drive people to do the unimaginable.
U.S. and international laws protect the right to seek asylum, and yet tear gas is being used by U.S. agents against children.
Being the daughter of immigrants is something I am damn proud of but something that fills me with guilt as I see images of women and children being treated as less than human. They are simply fighting for a better life.
So here’s to next Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully, by then, the U.S. will have learned how to treat asylum-seekers with dignity — and acknowledge that it’s a holiday based on a massacre, not family togetherness.