By Rondell Treviño, Founder and Director, The immigration Project
Under the Obama Administration, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border troops used 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile—the official name for tear gas—at the U.S-Mexican border at least 79 times during Obama’s presidency. Pepper spray, another substance commonly used to disperse crowds, was deployed by U.S. troops at the border at least 434 times when Obama was president. Another interesting thing to note is under the Obama administration, more undocumented Immigrants have been deported than any other President in the history of Presidents. Now, although CBP data does reveal how often these gases were used, that’s about all it reveals. The circumstances under which the Obama administration deployed tear gas at the border are entirely unclear; crucially, there’s no information about how many people, if any, were injured in the deployments.
Under the Trump administration, Trump hasn’t yet been in office for two years, yet he’s ramped up America’s use of tear gas at the Mexican border. Trump set the record in 2018 for the most tear gas deployments at the border, according to Newsweek, with a total of 29 incidents so far.
Five important lessons here.
1. We cannot categorize Trump as the only President to ever deploy tear gas on Migrants. This is not true because Obama did the same thing. Christians must recognize both.
2. We cannot use Obama launching tear gas at Migrants during his Presidency as justification that it’s okay for President Trump to do the same to the many Migrant Fathers, Mothers, and Children who were in fact wanting to seek asylum legally at the U.S.-Border, yet were victims of tear gas that should have ONLY been used on the 500 or so Migrants who tried to illegally cross the border fence.
3. Tear gas isn’t poison, and since the Government has a job to uphold the rule of law, even though the current Immigration system is sorely broken and in need of reform, we pray and trust the Government is doing what’s necessary to protect our borders. When the nearly 500 out of 8,000 Migrants (Mostly men) tried to cross the border fence illegally while throwing rocks, Border Patrol had an obligation to get them away and tear gas seemed as an viable option for those who tried to cross illegally. BUT, the Migrant Parents and children who were trying to be peaceful and seek asylum, legally, who were recipients of tear gas is unjust.
4. We must understand that in all likelihood, the reason why Trump has drawn more scrutiny than Obama for using tear gas at the border is because, unlike Obama, he’s demonized immigrants throughout his political career and proposed draconian, possibly unconstitutional policies to punish immigrants, documented and undocumented. He has also generalized all undocumented Immigrants many times as murderers, rapists, and criminals. He has also and continues to use Immigrants and Migrants as political chess pieces to gain support, get funding for a wall, and stir in his supporters excitement and xenophobia (fear of Immigrants). Obama never did this.
5. Immigration, as we can see, is very complex. The Bible gives us principals to live by (Obeying the law (Romans 13:1-4; Luke 10:25-37), but no specific policy. Therefore, good hearted Christians will disagree on what should be done but we must remember that we can love and respect one another while doing so. This is our calling. Period.
The immigration Project exists to love and welcome Immigrants.