United Nations officials on Wednesday declared that the United States has a duty to protect the human rights of the migrant caravan coming from Central America.
In a letter addressed to the governments of the United States, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, the officials urged the countries to follow international laws regarding asylum and the rights of refugees.
The letter was signed by Dr. Seong-Phil Hong, head of the U.N.’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Obiora C. Okafor, an expert on human rights and international solidarity.
The U.N. address comes after reports confirmed that U.S. border patrol agents on Monday shot tear gas at migrants near the Tijuana border crossing in an attempt to disperse their ongoing protests.
According to the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons is prohibited during warfare, but does not apply to domestic law enforcement agencies attempting to quell civil unrest.
The experts criticized the rhetoric coming from U.S. officials, particularly President Donald Trump.
“Rather than fueling tensions with hate speech and threats, governments should work together to tackle inequality, poverty, social exclusion, violence, insecurity, environmental degradation and persecution as the main drivers of migration in Central America,” the letter said.
This mother feared for her young daughters' lives as U.S. Border Patrol fired tear gas at them pic.twitter.com/VuOs45UHMa
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 27, 2018
Trump has ignored requests from the U.N. to permit entry for asylum seekers by announcing that his administration would deny asylum applications from migrants who do not come through legal ports of entry.
U.S. law states that immigrants can request asylum by presenting themselves at ports of entry or at any time after entering illegally.
The Trump administration’s motion has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge this past month.
Officials from Customs and Border Protection told the Washington Post that they are currently processing less than 100 asylum applications per day.
Critics of Trump, including Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, compared the plight of the migrants to the “Jewish families fleeing Germany” during the Holocaust.
She added that “Asking to be considered a refugee and applying for status isn’t a crime.”
Since October, nearly 14,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, have trekked through Guatemala and Mexico in an attempt to reach the United States.
On Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen released a statement declaring that the U.S. government “will not hesitate to shut down [ports of entry]” in order to prevent migrants from entering the United States.