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Human rights organization releases report on CBP’s use of chemical agents on migrants

Report on Use of Chemical Agents Against Migrants
This report provides an account from the perspective of migrants that were present and affected by the events that unfolded on the evening of December 31, 2018 and the early morning hours of January 1, 2019 at the Tijuana-San Diego border, near Playas de Tijuana, where Border Patrol Agents fired chemical agents at migrants.   Photo: Benjamín Prado / AFSC

AFSC calls for ending practice that endangers migrants, including children


San Diego, CA: The American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program released a report critical of Customs and Border Protection’s practice of resorting to the use of chemical agents to subdue migrants, many of whom are children. The primary focus of the report is based on an incident that took place between the evening of December 31, 2018 and January 1, 2019.

Based on first-hand accounts of six migrants present when Border Patrol deployed chemical agents, some of the findings include:

  • Border Patrol agents indiscriminately fired chemical agents at families, exposing children;
  • Border Patrol agents turned back migrants, including unaccompanied minors, during the incident;
  • CBP statements do not coincide with witness’ accounts, including those of prominent media outlets

“Border Patrol agents are endangering the lives of migrants, especially children, when they use chemical agents as a practice to subdue migrants hoping to turn themselves in to the authorities,” stated Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s San Diego office. “Firing tear gas at migrants is more about generating a false crisis that could only be solved with border walls, militarism, and more enforcement. The real crisis is that the United States is intentionally subverting its international obligations in protecting migrants, especially those seeking asylum.”

AFSC will submit the report to the proper investigative bodies as a formal inquiry for investigation. AFSC staff will continue to monitor use-of-force incidents involving Customs and Border Protection agents.


The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.