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US immigration

Tear gas used on children: this is not my America

  • ‘Immigrant children are still children’: in a civilised nation, that should be unnecessary to say
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 9:34am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 9:34am

Among the uncountable lies Trump has heaped on the American people, perhaps none were as pernicious as the one he told about tear-gassing children at the border. The president remarked, “Why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it’s going to be formed and they’re running up with a child?” Later that day he said it was “a very minor form of the tear gas itself” that was “very safe”.

Almost immediately, the American Academy of Paediatrics called him out. In a powerful response to the tear gassing of children, they stated: “A child's smaller size, more frequent number of breaths per minute and limited cardiovascular stress response compared to adults magnifies the harm of agents such as tear gas.” The organisation of 67,000 primary care paediatricians, paediatric medical sub-specialists and paediatric specialists said: “Immigrant children are still children … we will continue to speak out against their inhumane treatment and advocate for their safety”.

“Immigrant children are still children”. In a civilised nation, that should be unnecessary to say. But after decades of using other words to label these children as something less than human, it has become necessary. They are not aliens. They are not illegals. They are not migrants. They are not border jumpers, grabbers, thugs or criminals. They are still children.

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So no, Mr President, the chemical weapons you authorised and condoned to be used against those children were not safe. The gas irritates mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes burning, crying, sneezing, coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, pain in the eyes, excessive saliva, skin irritation and possibly temporary blindness. There is nothing safe about it.

As Californian Governor-elect Gavin Newsom wrote on Twitter: “These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas … Women and children who left their lives behind – seeking peace and asylum – were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America.”

George Cassidy Payne, New York