- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2020

The Border Patrol followed policy in deploying tear gas to stop caravans of migrants who breached the border en masse in 2018 and 2019, an audit found — though the agency didn’t properly certify all of the agents who used less-lethal force in those incidents.

And during the 2018 event the agency deployed a sound machine that could have caused hearing damage without getting advance authorization, the Homeland Security inspector general said in a report released Monday.

The review comes as policing tactics nationwide are under review — and particularly use of tear gas, which has been deployed to disperse riots stemming from racial justice protests in major American cities this year.

The two border incidents drew intense scrutiny at the time, with President Trump’s critics saying agents were too heavy-handed in repelling the border breaches.

In the first, on Nov. 25, 2018, about 1,000 migrants attempted to storm through outdated fencing in San Diego. A smaller breach was attempted a little more than a month later, on New Year’s Day.



Agents used tear gas in both cases, and the inspector general said it was a proper decision given the threat from 1,000 migrants who pushed along a three-mile stretch of the border, at some points actually puncturing the outdated fencing. The battle lasted three hours, until Mexican authorities responded and dispersed the groups.

Agents said they were so outnumbered, and the crowd was so unruly, throwing large rocks and shouting threats, that they felt the totality of circumstances justified the tear gas. Six agents were hit by rocks, and one suffered enough of an injury that he was still out on disability eight months later.

“CBP’s use of tear gas and other authorized less-lethal devices may have contributed to the de-escalation of the dangerous situations, preventing further injuries to officers and Border Patrol agents, avoiding serious injuries to migrants, and possibly avoiding the use of deadly force,” the inspector general concluded.

But the sound machine, or “acoustic device,” used in the 2018 incident did violate policy because agents used a piercing alert tone, which could have caused hearing damage, the audit found.

Using the machine as a loudspeaker was approved, but the alert tone was not authorized, the inspector general said.

And of 12 agents who used less-lethal weapons against the migrants on the New Year’s Day incident, eight of them weren’t certified for them.

“Given the emergency situation on January 1, 2019, use of the devices was not a violation of policy, but uncertified agents carrying the devices before and after the actual incident was an infraction,” the inspector general concluded.

In its official response Customs and Border Protection said the two incidents marked an “unprecedented surge” of illegal immigrants that demanded a stern response.

The agency accepted all four recommendations for improvements, including ensuring only certified agents can access less-lethal weapons.

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