President Donald Trump has defended the use of tear gas on a crowd of migrants at the United States-Mexican border, claiming it was “very safe.” The government has been strongly criticized after border agents used tear gas to repel a crowd of migrants at the border, as pictures showed parents fleeing with their barefoot, crying children. However, the president defended the decision during a press conference, as reported by the New York Times.
“They [border agents] were being rushed by some very tough people and they used tear gas,” Trump said, referring to the angry rock-throwers who were among the crowd.
“Here’s the bottom line — nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally.”
When asked about his opinion regarding the pictures showing women and children fleeing in panic, the U.S. president claimed the tear gas was “a very minor form of the tear gas itself” that he considered “very safe.”
“Why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it’s going to be formed and they were running up with a child?” he asked.
Trump also suggested that some of those men and women were not parents, but “grabbers” — people who steal children so they have a better shot at claiming asylum in the United States.
The so-called “migrant caravan” consists of a group of mainly Central American immigrants hoping to be granted asylum status in the U.S. after fleeing violence and misery in their own countries and crossing Mexico. On Sunday, they arrived at the American border and clashed with border patrol agents, who at one point decided to fire tear gas against the crowd. Trump had previously denied the use of tear gas on children, as reported by the Inquisitr. However, Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan confirmed that his agents did fire the tear gas.
“[CBP] effectively managed an extremely dangerous situation involving over 1,000 individuals who sought to enter the U.S. unlawfully in large groups. They did so safely and without any reported serious injuries on either side of the border,” McAleenan said.
The president has been slammed for reportedly trying to spin the migrant caravan story in order to benefit his own political agenda. While Trump portrays them as a threat to national security, the immigrants are legally allowed to enter the country and request asylum. While campaigning for the November midterm elections, he often described the group of migrants, consisting of nearly 5,000 people (including nearly 900 children), as “criminals.”
“You can call it scary, you can call it hopeful, you can call it a sign of human misery. You can hang whatever angle you want to on it,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute.