“You Could Actually Put It on Your Nachos”: Former Top Border Patrol Official Defends Tear Gas

“It’s natural.”

Migrant caravan from camp Centro Deportivo Benito Juarez marches to the Tijuana-San Diego border on November 25, 2018. They were met by a line of Mexican police in riot gear at the bridge but managed to run past them, climbing up steep walls, crossing the Rio Tijuana and difficult terrain, reaching the border but were met at times by tear gas from U.S. agents when they tried to climb over fence and were pleading to be let in. Carol Guzy/ZUMA

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On Sunday, US authorities fired tear gas onto hundreds of migrants attempting to enter the United States, a chaotic scene that left scores of mothers and small children choking as they were violently pushed back from the US-Mexico border. 

“I felt that my face was burning, and my baby fainted,” Cindy Milla, one of the migrants whom agents shot at on Sunday, told the Wall Street Journal. “I ran for my life and that of my children.”  

But Milla’s account, one of the many harrowing stories that emerged as lawmakers and human rights advocates condemned the use of tear gas by Border Patrol agents, would apparently be news to Ron Colburn, the former deputy chief of US Border Patrol. Colburn, now the president of the Border Patrol Foundation, a group that honors the memory of fallen agents, appeared on Fox News Monday morning to defend the agents’ actions. He also claimed that the contents of tear gas were “natural” and safe for consumption.

“Absolutely,” Colburn responded when asked if the use of tear gas was warranted. “To clarify: The type of deterrent being used is OC pepper spray. It’s literally water, pepper, with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes.”

He continued, “It’s natural. You can actually put it on your nachos and eat it. So, it’s a good way of deterring people without long-term harm.”

Colburn’s appearance came hours after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared to blame the “lawlessness” of migrants for forcing agents to use tear gas on them.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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