Border patrol official says tear gas fired at border was for safety of agents, migrants

Border patrol chief of operations Brian Hastings on Thursday said that agents were forced to fire tear gas for the safety of their own forces, as well as women and children, on Monday after a group of 150 migrants attempted to breach a Tijuana, Mexico, border fence. 

"We continued to see the group put women and children up front. We saw folks that were actually pushed over the fence into the U.S. and, for the safety of our agents, and, for the safety of those folks, we did deploy tear gas," Hastings told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the use of tear gas was employed to combat a group of migrants who were throwing rocks. 

"As [migrants] tried to come across in that area and under the fence where they had actually dug holes underneath, as our agents tried to approach to make the arrest, they were rocked," Hastings said. "We had one agent that was hit squarely in the face with a rock. Luckily he had on his helmet and a face mask, or he would have been likely badly injured." 

An Associated Press photographer first reported seeing a minimum of three rounds of gas launched on Mexico's side of the border near Tijuana.

However, the AP reported that rocks were only thrown after the tear gas was deployed, which impacted migrant women, children and journalists. 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokeswoman Katie Waldman told The Hill in a statement that the migrants "encouraged conveniently invited media to begin filming their illegal acts." 

CBP maintained that it did not witness migrants experiencing the effects of the tear gas. 

A previous incident at the border involving tear gas was reported in November when photos circulated showing women and children at a port of entry near San Diego fleeing tear gas, which was fired by CBP agents. 

The agency said in a statement the tear gas was deployed in that incident after migrants attempted crossing the border illegally, some of them throwing rocks at border agents.

— Julia Manchester