The Trump administration has once again come under fire from Connecticut legislators and activists after border patrol agents shot tear gas at migrants and asylum seekers at the Tijuana border last Sunday.

New Haven-based immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Acción and other local activist groups condemned the actions of Washington at the border, and called for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known by its acronym ICE.

“People keep claiming this is a country that champions liberty and freedom. Then you see this, and you think that’s not true anymore,” ULA organizer John Lugo said. “The people who are seeking political asylum are protected by international law.”

On Monday, ULA organized a protest of the border clash in front of the federal courthouse on Church Street on Monday that drew around two dozen activists and religious leaders to denounce the use of tear gas, a substance that has been banned through several international treaties. The border clash drew further outrage after the publication of several photographs depicted young children running from the tear gas.

Lucas Codugnolla, executive director of CT Students for a Dream,  a statewide organization of undocumented students, said in a statement to the News that he was “appalled” by the news from the border.

“It is all the more ironic that this tear gas attack took place days after Americans around the country gathered for Thanksgiving, in celebration of America’s founding myth of refugees being welcomed on America’s shores seeking asylum and a better life”, he said.

In response to the administration’s actions, Codognolla called on Connecticut’s delegation in Washington to “vote down any and all funding” for ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Lugo also drew parallels between the border clash and the death of transgender Honduran woman Roxana Hernandez, who died from HIV-related complications at an ICE detention center in New Mexico in May. According to an autopsy report released this month, Hernandez was beaten shortly before her death.

The Trump administration has also faced criticism from elected representatives from the area for the government’s actions at the border. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D.-New Haven — the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services — released a report on Nov. 21 revealing that 117 children detained over the summer are still in federal custody. This is five months after the family separation policy was terminated and the Trump administration promised to reunite all families by July 26. Under the policy, federal agents separated children from their parents or relatives who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It has been at least seven months since the Trump administration began traumatizing thousands of families and they still have not fully resolved this tragedy,” DeLauro said in a statement in conjunction with the report. “I will continue to press the Administration for answers over the coming days and in the new Congress.”

According to the report, the child separation policy has cost the federal government upward of $80 million — with an average of more than $30,000 spent per separated child. The report also pointed out that 30 parents were deemed unfit to be reunited with their children, but no details were given on the reasoning of these decisions.

Lugo expressed hope regarding the actions of the Connecticut delegation to the U.S. Congress, which he called “very progressive” with regard to immigration policy.

Activists around the city have organized in support of New Haven residents who face the threat of deportation. This Friday will mark Ecuadorian-born undocumented immigrant Nelson Pinos Gonzalez’s 365th day seeking sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, after he was ordered to leave the country in November 2017. In response, ULA has hosted demonstrations and walkouts throughout the year.

According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, the agency used tear gas at the border dozens of times during the Obama administration — but usage has hit a seven-year high under the current administration.

ULA was founded in 2004.

Nathalie Bussemaker |