Customs and Border Protection (CBP) closed the San Ysidro Port of Entry, one of the world's busiest international crossings, to vehicle and pedestrian traffic for several hours on Sunday afternoon after a protest by migrants on the Mexican side of the border. After some migrants reportedly rushed toward the border area, US Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at the group. Video and photos of families and young children running from the tear gas sparked international outrage by immigration advocates and politicians. Citing migrants throwing “projectiles” at agents, CBP says on Twitter: "Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents' safety."
Beginning a few weeks ago, groups of Central American migrants have been arriving in Tijuana, with many of them planning on applying for asylum in the US. Tijuana's mayor has not welcomed the migrants and has called on the Mexican government and the international community for aid. In response to the incident on Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen says in a statement: "DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons. We will also seek to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our front-line operators, or violates our nation's sovereignty.”
Immigration attorneys and advocates are criticizing the backlogged system that makes asylum-seekers wait weeks before they can seek to enter the US for refuge. León Rodriguez, who served as the director of US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) from 2014 to 2017, says the incident at the border seems to be “a foreseeable result of the US policy of placing every conceivable obstacle in the way of orderly legal migration and of not having a policy that [recognizes] the desperate circumstances driving migration.” Héctor Gandini, who will soon be the spokesperson for Mexico’s Interior Ministry after the new president is sworn in, says the US’s use of tear gas on migrants was “not correct.” He adds: “You have to respect migrants’ human rights.”