DHS Statistics: Border Agents Used Pepper Spray More Under Obama Than Trump

U.S. Border Patrol agents stand watch on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence / Getty Images
November 27, 2018

Despite concerns being raised about border patrol agents using pepper spray and tear gas on migrants illegally attempting to cross the border, the agency used the same methods at a higher rate under President Barack Obama than during President Donald Trump's first two years in office, according to government data reported by the Washington Examiner.

In 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection used Pava Capsaicin, known as pepper spray, at a rate three times higher than that of the agency in 2017, Trump's first year in office.

Pepper spray was used 151 times in 2013, 109 times in 2014, and 95 times in 2015, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. The numbers dropped significantly in 2015 and 2016, down to 30 and 49 incidents respectively.

In 2017, the agency reported 56 incidents of pepper spray use. In the first nine months of 2018, 43 incidents were reported.

The frequency of tear gas use by Customs and Border Patrol, while lower than 2012, has increased closer to levels seen at the beginning of the Obama administration.

Tear gas, technically referred to as 2-chlorobenzylidene malonoitrile (CS), was used by CBP officers and Border Patrol agents on 26 occasions in 2012.

That number dropped over the next few years down to three total incidents in fiscal 2016.

The use of tear gas has crept back up to levels seen in 2012 and 2013 during Trump's first two years in office. In 2017, 18 deployments of gas were documented. Twenty-nine were counted in 2018.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been using tear gas since 2010. Only data since 2012 was provided by Homeland Security.

The Trump administration drew fire over the weekend from critics after federal law enforcement at the border used tear gas. Approximately 500 migrants stormed Mexican blockades in an attempt to enter the United States at the border between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. Some migrants threw rocks and projectiles.

Trump has criticized the media coverage of his immigration policies as compared to how they covered similar practices under Obama. On Sunday, he tweeted his response to a "phony" story from "60 Minutes" on child separation policies.

"60 Minutes did a phony story about child separation when they know we had the exact same policy as the Obama Administration. In fact a picture of children in jails was used by other Fake Media to show how bad (cruel) we are, but it was in 2014 during O years. Obama separated...children from parents, as did Bush etc., because that is the policy and law. I tried to keep them together but the problem is, when you do that, vast numbers of additional people storm the Border. So with Obama seperation is fine, but with Trump it’s not. Fake 60 Minutes!"