U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said late Monday night that some migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have been using women and children as ‘human shields’ in clashes with federal agents, confirming what U.S. Border Patrol officers and their labor union claimed hours earlier.
And she said hundreds of convicted criminals including rapists and cihld abusers are known to be among the ‘predominantly male’ convoy of Central Americans who have set up camp in Tijuana, waiting to cross into California.
‘It appears in some cases that the limited number of women and children in the caravan are being used by the organizers as “human shields” when they confront law enforcement,’ Nielsen said in a statement posted on Facebook.
President Donald Trump claimed Monday evening in Mississippi that some of the adults trying to cross the border illegally aren’t related to the children who accompany them. He called them ‘grabbers.’
Nielsen also increased DHS’s count of known convicts in the ‘organized’ caravan, saying: ‘This is serious.’
‘[A]t this point we have confirmed that there are over 600 convicted criminals traveling with the caravan flow,’ she said. ‘This includes individuals known to law enforcement for assault, battery, drug crimes, burglary, rape, child abuse and more.’
Homeland Security Secretary Kinstjen Nielsen said Monday in a lengthy statement that the mostly male migrant caravan is using women and children as human shields, and that at least 600 criminal convicts included rapists and child abusers are among them
Most media coverage about the caravan has emphasized some migrants’ claims that they are fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Slavador, and plan to seek asylum status in the United States.
But President Trump’s top Homeland Security official said only a tiny proportion of them, about 10 per cent, will pass muster.
‘Most of these migrants are seeking jobs or to join family who are already in the U.S. They have all refused multiple opportunities to seek protection in Mexico or with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency,’ she said.
But the result of simmering tensions and uncertain futures has driven some to ‘entirely predictable’ violence against the uniformed border agents whose job is to keep them on the Mexican side of border fences, according to Nielsen.
‘I refuse to believe that anyone honestly maintains that attacking law enforcement with rocks and projectiles is acceptable. It is shocking that I have to explain this, but officers can be seriously or fatally injured in such attacks. Self-defense isn’t debatable for most law-abiding Americans,’ she said.
U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while officers in California held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence; they fired gas canisters and winds blew the fumes southward toward the advancing crowd
Nielsen’s statement came hours after the top U.S. Border Patrol agent in the San Diego region, and the leader of the agents’ union, both warned about ‘human shield’ tactics among caravan migrants as they hurled rocks and debris at officers.
‘Several agents were actually struck by rocks,’ Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said in a CNN interview.
‘What we saw over and over yesterday was that the group – the caravan, as we call them – would push women and children to the front, and then begin, basically, rocking our agents,’ he claimed.
Scott said three Border Patrol agents and several vehicles were struck. Agents responded with rubber bullets and canisters of pepper spray.
In an afternoon Fox News interview, National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd backed up Scott’s view that migrant men are using women and children as shields while they hurled projectiles at uniformed agents.
‘The way these people rushed the border was absolutely monstrous,’ Judd said.
‘They pushed women and children up front. And then behind those women and children, they started throwing rocks, cement bricks, they started throwing bottles at our Border Patrol agents,’ he recalled.
Rodney Scott, the chief border agent in San Diego Sector Border Control, said Monday that most of the people in the migrant caravan that has reached the U.S.-Mexico border are job-seekers, not genuine asylum-seekers
A caravan migrant, one of thousands traveling from Central America to the U.S. border, was photographed hurling a rock toward U.S. border patrol on Sunday
National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd said it was ‘absolutely monstrous’ for caravan men to shove women and children to the front while they attacked border guards
A migrant woman and her children famously captured on film fleeing tear gas in front of the Tijuana-San Diego border wall may be an example of defenseless Central Americans put in harm’s way by rock-throwing men who gambled that Border Patrol wouldn’t retaliate if females and minors were present
Carla Provost, the chief of U.S. Border Patrol, said in a Fox News Channel interview that a large group of migrants ‘were throwing rocks and bottles at my men and women, putting them in harm’s way as well as other members of the caravan.’
President Trump said hours later during a political rally in Tupelo, Mississippi that his administration will continue to take a hard line on migrants who try to fight or harm border guards.
‘We will not tolerate any form of assault or attack upon our border agents, like happened yesterday,’ he said, ‘or any attempt to destroy federal property, overrun federal authorities or bring chaos and violence to American soil.’
‘And if you look at what’s happening along the border, you see what’s happening. The mayor of Tijuana, he said, these are tough people. These people fight when you talk to them. These are tough people.’
Scott claimed also on Monday that most of the migrants now waiting in Tijuana won’t qualify for asylum in the U.S. because they’re job-seekers, not legitimate refugees.
Border Patrol chief Carla Provost, told the Fox News Channel on Monday that ‘our agents were being assaulted’ – as video played of a caravan member hurling a rock toward the border fence
An estimated 7,000 migrants have traveled 2,000 miles through the length of Mexico from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The Trump administration is defending the southern California border and insisting Mexico deport anyone trying to sneak across.
Media reports have described the migrants as refugees seeking escape from repressive regimes and drug cartels. But Scott said on CNN that ‘I do not believe that is true.’
‘The vast majority of those, from what we call the northern triangle, they are economic migrants. They don’t meet the qualifications to get asylum here,’ he said.
Scott acknowledged that ‘they can still apply.’ But the Department of Homeland Security is processing only about 100 asylum applications per day.
A Honduran migrant in the caravan held a sign as he crossed from Guatemala into Mexico reading: ‘Donald Trump, we are not criminals, we are workers who want to work’
President Trump has commented on the frequent sight of Honduran flags among the migrants, defying conventional wisdom that they are trying to escape persecution in their home countries
Applicants have to persuade an interviewer that they have a ‘credible fear’ of harm if they return to their homelands.
The Refugee Act of 1980 lays out other criteria: They must have experienced persecution – or have a reasonable expectation of persecution – ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’
They are also expected to request asylum from federal agents when they reach U.S. soil, whether they arrive by land, air or sea.
As a group of hundreds of caravan migrants stormed border fences on Sunday, dozens made it through. Scott said they evaded Border Patrol.
‘What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to Border Patrol agents and asking to claim asylum,’ he said.
Agents arrested 42 border-jumpers, including some in a group who ‘passed 10 or 15 marked Border Patrol units’ that were walking along the fence.
‘They were chanting, waving a Honduran flag, and throwing rocks at the agents,’ Scott said.
‘If they were truly asylum seekers, they would have just walked up with their hands up and surrendered. And that did not take place.’
Scott said Monday on CNN that migrants who managed to jump the border on Sunday tried to evade patrols, rather than turning themselves in and asking for asylum
Asylum applicants must persuade American officials that they have a ‘credible fear’ of returning to their own countries, a task made harder when they wave those nations’ flags
President Donald Trump threatened to ‘permanently’ close the U.S.-Mexico border if members of a migrant caravan who stormed the heavily guarded fences near Tijuana aren’t sent back to their Central American countries
President Donald Trump has expressed doubts about the migrants’ motives, underscoring on social media that people who claim to be fleeing their home countries are waving those nations’ flags at the U.S.-Mexico border.
‘Isn’t it ironic that large Caravans of people are marching to our border wanting U.S.A. asylum because they are fearful of being in their country – yet they are proudly waving their country’s flag,’ he tweeted ten days ago.
‘Can this be possible? Yes, because it is all a BIG CON, and the American taxpayer is paying for it!’
Trump threatened to permanently close the U.S. border with Mexico on Monday, saying he’ll take the drastic action if caravan members are not deported back to their Central American homelands.
Border Patrol officers fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at a group of migrants Sunday, including families with young children, as hundreds tried to storm the border.
Scott told CNN that when the migrants approached border fences, they ‘immediately started throwing rocks and debris at our agents, taunting our agents.’
‘And once our agents were assaulted and the numbers started growing – you know we had two or three agents at a time facing hundreds of people at a time – they deployed tear gas to protect themselves and protect the border.’
Trump has expressed doubts in the past about media reporting that framed the migrant caravan as a large number of asylum-seekers eager to leave their native countries behind
The president waved as he arrived back to the White House with first lady Melania Trump on Sunday night following his Thanksgiving holiday in Palm Beach, Florida; he’s taking a far tougher line than his predecessor, President Barack Obama
U.S. Border Patrol officers were pelted with rocks and bottles on Sunday, and responded by firing pepper spray canisters whose output blew toward the advancing crowd
Carla Provost, the chief of U.S. Border Patrol, told the Fox news Channel that ‘our agents were being assaulted. A large group approached the area and they were throwing rocks and bottles at my men and women, putting them in harm’s way as well as other members of the caravan.’
The confrontation produced chaos and new dangers that prompted U.S. officials to close the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, stopping everyone in their tracks – including thousands travelling legally between the U.S. and Mexico.
The border reopened Monday morning, but Trump tweeted a stern warning to Mexico: Deport the migrants, a horde that includes ‘stone cold criminals,’ or see the economically critical crossing sealed permanently.
He called for Congress to fund his border wall with Mexico at a time when congressional Democrats are counting down the final weeks before they take over the House of Representatives.
‘Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A.,’ Trump tweeted. ‘We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!’
The president’s ultimatum played on TV screens worldwide Monday morning, alongside images of children screaming and coughing in Sunday’s mayhem at the San Ysidro Port of Entry as Border Patrol officers tried to push the surging mass of people back.
The crowd control tactics began when migrants tried to cut a hole in razor wire on the Mexican side of the fence.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told CNN on Monday that Border Patrol was guilty of an ‘overuse of force.’
‘There are women and children out there. Using tear gas in this situation does not seem justified,’ he said.
But Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she would not put up with the ‘lawlessness’ and threatened harsh punishments for ‘anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our sovereignty.’
Nielsen confirmed that border personnel were ‘struck by projectiles thrown by caravan members.’ She condemned those responsible for their ‘dangerous’ actions that were ‘not consistent with peacefully seeking asylum.’
Mexico also vowed to deport about 500 migrants who tried to ‘violently’ and ‘illegally’ cross the U.S. border on Sunday, according to the Mexican Interior Ministry.