The caravan of Central American migrants seemed at times to have put women and children in the front when storming the U.S. border on Nov. 25, according to Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security secretary.
“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,” she said in a Nov. 26 statement. “They are being put at risk by the caravan organizers.”
The caravan is one of several that have embarked since October from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, bent on reaching the United States.
On Nov. 25, some 1,000 of the migrants attempted to break through the U.S.–Mexico border in Tijuana, but were repelled with tear gas after they threw stones and other projectiles at U.S. law enforcement officers, U.S. border security officials stated.
While Nielsen said the caravan members are “predominantly male,” some media focused on women and children among the migrants who were close enough to be affected by the tear gas.
Nielsen said the Border Patrol responded to violence with non-lethal means, just as it did in the past during the Obama administration.
“Our Border Patrol agents and officers responded admirably and responsibly to the events on Sunday,” she said. “It is a testament to their training and professionalism that no one was injured.”
She asked parents who try to enter the United States with their children “to avoid violent caravan groups and refrain from attempts to illegally enter our country.”
“These acts will put your children in danger,” she said.
A representative of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group that is helping to organize the migrants, objected to Nielsen’s use of the word “shields.”
“We reject the representation of women and children as sheer instruments of the men. They have bravely assumed the struggle to defend their own rights, and portraying them as ‘shields’ undermines the legitimacy of their demands and their human standing as well,” the person told The Epoch Times via the Facebook Messenger app.
The migrants commonly seek asylum in the United States, but historically, 90 percent of those who claim asylum from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are found not eligible by a federal judge. Based on media interviews with the migrants, most seek jobs or better-paid jobs and many mention violence in their home countries. Neither represents grounds for asylum, which is reserved for people facing certain kinds of persecution from their governments.
Update: The article was updated with a response from Pueblo Sin Fronteras.