Hundreds of migrants attempted to rush the port of entry at San Ysidro, California today. They ran around – and sometimes over – Mexican police who were protecting the border and tried to get into the United States.
The American border agents refused them entry, which led to some at the border throwing rocks at the agents. American agents responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. The crowd included many young children. The National Institute of Health reports that tear gas used for crowd dispersal has a history of causing severe and permanent injury to young children.
This isn’t the first time they’ve been gassed. The same thing happened when they tried to enter Mexico.
Those are the facts.
Now for some other facts.
Most aspects of this is legal. The only way for a person to apply for asylum in America is to actually be on American soil. They can’t do it from Mexico. That’s not how asylum works. They can apply for residency from another country; they can’t apply for asylum.
Walking somewhere and following the law while doing so is not an invasion. It’s called obeying the law, which in theory is something which should be appreciated, particularly by anyone concerned about whether the people involved are hardened criminals. Only after they spent weeks of their life traversing hundreds of miles were they told that the border had been closed to them. Unlike people from Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia, who are still allowed to apply for asylum at ports of entry into the US, Hondurans are disallowed. They are specifically seen as “invaders”.
Now to the illegal part: people aren’t allowed to attack border patrol agents. Even throwing rocks.
This brings up another question, though: what is the proper response? Firing tear gas into a crowd with children to keep people from continuing to follow the law seems draconian. It also seems duplicitous to insist that people follow the law while refusing to allow them to do so.
There are three responses which are dominant here. One calls for keeping them all out. This is an interesting response; I do wonder if those who ascribe to it have thought through their position. As an example, would they advocate for keeping a Christian fleeing likely execution in North Korea from being given entry? Because that is exactly what they are doing. They are holding a hard line, not on the law, but rather on their view of what the law should be.
Our troops will do as instructed, up to the point where they are being given an unlawful order. That does not mean the orders are moral, or right. Those who are cheering this…
…should consider that they’re cheering the suppression of all people trying to stay alive in the face of violence. This is not a moral position.
The other calls for letting them all come in. We’re a rich country, we can absorb more. The problem there is that we are not really a rich nation; we are a nation deep in debt, an issue that never seemed to concern Democrats and no longer concerns Republicans. And when our borders are completely open, they can be abused by violent criminals. This is also not a moral position.
A third calls for letting people who are attempting to seek asylum actually seek asylum, rather than demonizing them or pretending that asylum is the same as trying to get legal residency. This is the interesting part: the third option is the one that is actually written into our laws, and which is reflected in international law as well. It’s as if most of the world recognizes that it’s a good thing not to tear gas children or throw rocks at border patrol.
Oh, and when people seek asylum? Many of them don’t get it. Traditionally, a “hard line” was simply strict interpretation of the rules. Under a lenient administration, someone who claimed domestic abuse would likely get asylum. Under a restrictive administration, the same claim, unverified, usually meant deportation. But both interpretations were completely legal… and completely moral.
Remember when we were a shining city on a hill? Attacking those who appreciate that city is the ultimate embrace of dehumanization, the ultimate disregard for the history of both the Republican party and the American experiment.