The new year brought continued tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border as U.S. authorities fired tear gas at migrants from the Central American caravan that has gathered there.
Authorities fired the gas into Mexico to keep roughly 150 migrants from breaching the border fence in Tijuana.
An Associated Press photographer witnessed at least three volleys of gas launched onto the Mexican side of the border near Tijuana’s beach early Tuesday. It affected the migrants, including women and children, as well as members of the press.
Migrants who spoke with AP said they arrived last month with the caravan from Honduras.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement that the gas was aimed at rock throwers on the Mexican side who prevented agents from helping children being passed over the concertina wire. The agency says 25 migrants were detained.
Katie Waldman, a Homeland Security spokeswoman, said: “Once again we have had a violent mob of migrants attempt to enter the United States illegally by attacking our agents with projectiles. As has happened before - in this and previous administrations -- our personnel used the minimum force necessary to defend themselves, defend our border, and restore order. The agents involved should be applauded for handling the situation with no reported injuries to the attackers."
According to her, "initial reporting indicates that once the attempted illegal entry was thwarted by agents, the mob began pushing women and minors to the front, forcing minors to climb dangerous concertina wire, and encouraged conveniently invited media to begin filming their illegal acts."
Later Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called upon Congress to address the border crisis by amending the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and ending the Flores agreement, a deal regarding the treatment of underage migrants that was negotiated during the Clinton administration.
Clashes such as Tuesday's have been common as the migrants, who have put their names on a waiting list that is thousands of names long, have grown restless, with some opting to force their way across the border.
U.S. border agents have responded to such moves with tear gas.
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said last year that the Border Patrol’s use-of-force policy allows agents to use tear gas and other nonlethal methods.
In November, after a group of migrants tried to rush the border, McAleenan defended the use of tear gas: “As the events unfolded, quick, decisive and effective action prevented an extremely dangerous situation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.