On Monday morning, pictures began circulating of Sunday’s confrontation on the U.S./Mexico border between dozens of Central American asylum seekers and U.S. Border Patrol agents—though let’s be real: The “confrontation” was one-sided.
As multiple news outlets reported, U.S. Border Patrol launched tear gas and pepper balls at a group of 70 or 80 migrants, which included children. In multiple shots of the chaos on the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, families can be seen fleeing, adults clutching their frightened, barefooted children and running to safe ground.
It was an unprecedented and unspeakably cruel act—seeking asylum, after all, is legal, and many asylum seekers in the past have initiated the process within the U.S. with no incident (this is called affirmative asylum processing). But with Trump threatening to “close the border permanently” on Twitter today (another move that’s never been done, according to the Washington Post), the cruelty shows no sign of abating.
Enter the folks at Fox & Friends, who kicked their spin cycle into overdrive this morning as they tried to justify the government’s actions.
In an interview segment, former Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ron Colburn predictably defended the border patrol’s use of tear gas on asylum-seeking families. What wasn’t so predictable was this sunburned, hard-boiled egg of a human having the caucasity to fold in a seasoning recommendation.
“To clarify, the type of deterrent being used is O.C. pepper spray,” Colburn told host Steve Doocy. “It’s literally water, pepper, with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes. It’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it. So it’s a good way of deterring people without longterm harm.”
Republicans can’t handle being yelled at in restaurants; now they’re claiming they can eat their nachos with pepper spray. And in case you were wondering if O.C. meant something special, like “Okay for Children,” it doesn’t. It stands for oleoresin capsicum, the active ingredient in pepper spray.
If Colburn’s logic smells like some very spicy bullshit, that’s because it is. One NPR reporter a half mile from where the tear gas was shot said he could feel the effects of it—as could other people, including children, who weren’t close to the scene.
And for some perspective, here’s what happened a little more than a month ago, when a school security deputy deployed tear gas at an elementary school in Seffner, Florida: Not only was her ass put on leave, but Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister released a statement calling O.C. pepper spray “a serious tool that we use in field and it has no business being deployed around the children we are supposed to keep safe.”
“We have zero tolerance for the misuse of our equipment in this manner. This deputy did not adhere to her training or our standards and she will be held accountable for her actions,” he continued.
Hrmmm. No mention of O.C. pepper spray doubling as a great streak marinade, remarkably enough.
So how can the same can of pepper spray invoke such different responses from Colburn and Chronister—both men who presumably know full well its effects and proper uses? The answer lies in how you see the people upon whom the pepper spray was deployed: whether they’re vulnerable and worthy of protection or pests that need to be deterred. The difference between the two is whether you regard the victims as human.
It’s pretty clear where Colburn stands.