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AFSC Disputes CBP Account of Tear Gas Attack

People watch from the Mexico side of the border during the Love Knows No Borders action in San Diego, December 2018. Photo: Wambui Gichobi / Survival Media Agency

Quaker org condemns violence, calls for funding cuts

TIJUANA and WASHINGTON DC (January 3, 2019) On New Year’s Day, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) fired tear gas at migrants approaching the border in Tijuana. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that works against border militarization and in defense of human rights in both San Diego and Tijuana, spoke out against the attack.

“We condemn the use of violent tactics like tear gas, plastic pellets, and pepper spray against children and adults seeking safety and refuge,” said Karen Romero, an AFSC consultant based in Tijuana. “Based on the accounts of four people who were part of the group that attempted to cross, Border Patrol agents used lights to blind them before throwing the tear gas canisters by hand. Then, Border Patrol shot rubber bullets without warning. They clarified that there was no rock throwing by the migrants.”

Romero works to support migrants in Tijuana, and yesterday traveled to the Barretal shelter, where many migrants are being held. 

In Mexico and Central America, AFSC programs work to strengthen civil society networks, and AFSC staff are working alongside other Mexican organizations to support the migrant caravans with humanitarian aid, accompaniment and human rights monitoring. In the U.S., AFSC organizes for just and humane immigration policies. In December, the organization mobilized hundreds of faith leaders to come to the border for “Love Knows No Borders,” a procession and civil disobedience action where over thirty people were arrested while calling on the U.S. government to respect the human right to migrate, end the militarization of border communities, and stop the detention and deportation of immigrants.

Observers in the border region say the Trump administration’s policies are pushing migrants into even more desperate situations. “People attempting to cross the border in this way is a direct result of the administration’s cruel policies limiting people’s ability to apply for asylum at ports of entry,” said Adriana Jasso, program coordinator for AFSC’s U.S.-Mexico border program in San Diego. "Instead of endangering our communities with more militarization, U.S. authorities should concentrate their resources on expediting asylum requests and safeguarding human rights.”

This most recent assault on migrants comes amid a government shutdown over President Trump’s demands for funding for the border wall.

“This ongoing violence against migrants and border communities again reminds us that we must defund CBP and demilitarize the border region,” said Kathryn Johnson, Policy Advocacy Coordinator for AFSC. “We call on Congress to cut funding for border militarization, not just for the wall, but also for agents, technology and weapons that have proven deadly for migrants and border communities.”


The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.