COLUMN: Beware of the new Puritans

If a country isn't allowed to control its borders, is it really a nation at all? That's a question that seems begging to be asked and answered as chaos ensues on our southern border.

Remember that "migrant caravan" the national press corps taunted and lectured President Trump about it being "weeks away" from the U.S. border and insisted was not an invasion? Well, it arrived way ahead of schedule apparently and sure is acting like an invasion.

Assembled in Tijuana, Mexico, prevented from entering the United States and estimated to be over 5,000 strong, the so-called peaceful migrants attempted to storm the U.S. border on Sunday and U.S. Border Patrol agents responded.

After coming under attack with rocks being hurled at them, the agents repelled the mob by lobbing a few canisters of tear gas. It forced back the advancing mob but set off a maelstrom of outraged hysteria. It was fueled by an image of a mom and her two children rushing away from a tear gas canister. Left out of the image were the rock-throwers.

Aside from the assorted D-List celebrities chiming in on Twitter with their uninformed rage, maybe the most unhinged, uninformed response belonged to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D.-Hawaii, who actually tweeted: "Why tear gas? Is this consistent with the Conventions on Chemical Weapons?" Right, Senator, because tear gas is on the same level of oh, let's say, a real chemical weapon like deadly sarin gas. 

He later deleted that tweet but replaced it with an equally uninformed one: "Anyone uncomfortable with spraying tear gas on children is welcome to join the coalition of the moral and the sane. We can argue about other stuff when we’ve got our country back." Again, ignoring the fact that the majority were adult males and were aggressively trying to breach our border.

The national press corps couldn't wait to pile on, even if it meant putting forth a false narrative such as when NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez asserted tear gas was deployed in response to "a peaceful march," completely ignoring the attempt to rush the border that initiated the response.

It also begs the question, how were agents supposed to react? Were they supposed to step aside and allow a mass, illegal entry and not defend themselves? 

One would have thought it was an unprecedented response. However, the policy to use tear gas has been in place since the Obama administration and was in fact used in a similar incident in 2013.

The San Diego Union-Tribune from Nov. 25, 2013, reports a remarkably similar incident that occurred at the San Ysidro port of entry, but it was a much smaller contingent.

From the lead paragraph:

"A group of about 100 people trying to illegally cross the border Sunday near the San Ysidro port of entry threw rocks and bottles at U.S. Border Patrol agents, who responded by using pepper spray and other means to force the crowd back into Mexico, federal officials said."

If you don't remember this incident, don't feel too bad as it was not widely reported. Of course, this occurred during the Obama administration, which the national press corps at that time was more than happy to run cover for and overlook such inconvenient matters. Tear gas was used once a month at the border under Obama.

Just as the national media was enamored with Obama, it has not hidden its dislike of Trump and the resulting reporting reflects that bias. 

There are undoubtedly members of the caravan coming here hoping to achieve a better life, but that does not equate to a grounds for seeking asylum or bum-rushing our borders. Some assuredly were misled by caravan organizers that they would be allowed entry into the U.S. But at the same time, Trump has made it clear they would not be granted entry by use of illegal means.

Hopefully, that message will be passed along to those still intending to breach our borders.

It has become common to frame a desire to control our borders with being anti-immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do welcome those who want to enter the U.S., but who do so in a manner that respects our laws. It is hard to feel very welcoming to groups hurling rocks at our agents while carrying the very flag of the nation they claim to be trying to escape.

One of the most poignant moments I have experienced was being asked to be a witness to a naturalization ceremony for a friend from India as she became a U.S. citizen. I would hope anybody wishing to become a U.S. citizen could experience such an emotional moment.

It is not anti-immigrant to insist upon respect for the law from those seeking to come to the U.S. However, to accept anything less, imperils our very sovereignty.

Ruthenberg is a multiple award-winning columnist and writer for the News & Eagle. Contact him at

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Ruthenberg is a multiple award-winning columnist and writer for the News & Eagle. Contact him at