United States (MNN) – Recent reports say families and children were tear-gassed by the United States border patrol after a protest broke out into violence and became a run for the border.
The BBC reports that about 500 immigrants from Central American countries joined in a march in Tijuana, Mexico towards the border. The report says the march was peaceful at first and people carried banners and shouted, “We aren’t criminals! We are hard workers!”
However, the BBC reports that once the protesters passed the security barrier, they began racing for the border. Some border patrol officers were assaulted and hit by rocks.
For protection, U.S. border patrol officers shot canisters of tear gas out to push immigrants back during the chaos.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol tweeted on November 25, “Today, several migrants threw projectiles at the agents in San Diego. Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety. Several agents were hit by the projectiles.”
Using the tear gas, men, women, families, and children were caught in the midst.
NDTV reports on a photo that went viral of a mother, Maria Meza, and her three daughters who ran from a tear gas canister.
Meza told NDTV that she never thought the border patrol would fire the bombs because there were so many children present.
Following the protest, the U.S. shut the border crossing for several hours, and President Trump threatened to close the border permanently.
Fleeing for Safety
A majority of families and unaccompanied minors who are at the border have fled from their countries due to gang violence.
“When you hear the interviews by media of families who are fleeing or children who are fleeing, consistently we hear the stories about extortion and gang violence, and how unsafe their communities are, and how their government and police force can no longer keep them safe,” Bethany Christian Services’ Dona Abbott says.
“Remember, they represent countries that have the highest child murder rates in the world. When you think of that, no wonder families are fleeing with their children. They want to keep their children safe like all of us want to keep our children safe.”
Often, families have traveled together in small groups from Central American countries riddled with gang violence, especially Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
However, children have also been sent alone by their parents on the journey to the border because parents have family members or contacts in the U.S. who can take care of them.
“Like many people worldwide, when you flee a situation, or you find yourself in trouble, you reach out to extended family members,” Abbott says.
Of the unaccompanied minors that have fled to the border, Abbott says 95 percent have contacts in the U.S. who are willing to help support them and help them adjust to the U.S.
“So, often even though they’re fleeing from something, they’re also fleeing to somebody who can offer them safety and protection.”
Abbott says this journey from their home country to the U.S. southern border is scary, unpredictable, and uncertain. Kids are unprepared and don’t know how to react to unexpected violence or a lack of food on the way, and they don’t know how to make an asylum claim at the border.
So far, CNN reports that 14,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are in U.S. custody, which is a record high.
Abbott says there are 67 million displaced people in the world fleeing from different situations.
“It’s not surprising to hear that a few hundred thousand of them would be at our border asking for the safety that millions are asking for from others around the world.”
The unaccompanied children, as well as families who have gone to the border seeking asylum, are still being put in detention centers while their cases are being processed.
Abbott says Bethany believes, “when people approach the United States, asking for asylum, they ought to be given a fair opportunity for their asylum situation heard and that while that’s happening, that they’re treated humanely with compassion, that their basic needs are met and then above all else, that families can care for and protect their children and that unaccompanied children have a family-like atmosphere to wait in while their asylum case is being processed.”
Abbott also thinks that the U.S. should set itself up as a compassionate model of how a country should respond to people fleeing for their lives. It should offer sanctuary or should assist the Central American governments in creating a plan for how they can bring safety to their communities once again so people do not feel like fleeing is their only option.
Bethany has helped over 5,000 families reunite with children who have either been separated at the border or who’ve been unaccompanied.
They also help about 500 unaccompanied children a year through temporary foster care.
Abbott encourages you to be educated about immigration and why people are fleeing from their countries in Central America. You can also act as a volunteer and help support kids and families. You can help by being a foster parent, a tutor, or donating.
Help support Bethany’s work as they reach hurting immigrant families and children.
Pray for wisdom for the U.S. government and the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Header photo by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash.