(KMSP) - Some Minnesota human rights advocates are saying that the visuals of violence at the border are masking the picture they see behind it.
The Trump administration said that officials responded with tear gas after crowds threw rocks at them and that the border needs higher security. Meanwhile, some activists argue that a more "compassionate" approach is necessary.
Sarah Brenes is director of the Refugee and Immigrant Program for the Minneapolis-based Advocates for Human Rights. She said that images from this weekend’s border clashes in Tijuana present a misleading picture of the real situation.
“It's a misnomer to paint this group as people seeking to do any harm to anyone in the U.S. These are women and these are children; these are families who are doing nothing more than seeking a safe place to live,” she said.
By now, many have seen the pent up frustration felt by thousands of asylum-seekers waiting at a crossing that can process no more than 100 requests a day.
“The reason for that is they’re fleeing for their lives, and so the response should be a humanitarian response, not using tear gas on them,” Brenes said.
President Trump defended the use of tear gas, stating "They had to use it; they were being rushed by some very tough people," Trump said. "And so they used tear gas. Here's the bottom line: No one's coming into our country unless they come in legally."
As part of a nonprofit who provides legal help to hundreds of refugees each year, Brenes believes the U.S. needs a better process in which more officers handle the applications, culminating in a humanitarian response, rather than just sending them back home.
“I think, at the end of the day, we all agree that we don’t want people to be in harm’s way in their own homes,” she said.
Brenes said she's heard many stories from migrants who’ve been coming here for years, escaping government corruption and gang violence, risking cartels and kidnappings to get this far.
“The fact that someone had no other choice but to leave their home…it rests heavy on us, but that’s what propels us to continue to do the work,” Brenes said.