In the weeks leading up to the U.S. midterm election, President Trump ramped up his rhetoric against migrants and asylum-seekers. A caravan of migrants (the second one to reach the U.S. this year) had left from Honduras, traveling together to keep safe.
But after the midterms, Trump went silent on the issue. Then, on November 25th, a picture by photojournalist Kim Kyung Hoon began to circulate: A mother, Maria Mesa, and her twin daughters running from a canister of tear gas deployed at the border; the girls were in diapers, and one was barefoot, as Mesa wrenched them away from danger.
It was a hard-hitting image that came at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, when many Americans had just spent time with family. In the reports that followed, Kim said that Mesa and her children, who had traveled from Honduras as part of the caravan, were trying to reunite with the children’s father in Louisiana.
Though the outlet The Gateway Pundit quickly spread a conspiracy theory that Kim’s image was fake due to the presence of other photographers, border patrol confirmed they used tear gas to move the crowd back. The day had spun out of control at the Tijuana crossing point, following a peaceful march over the days-long wait time to plead a case for asylum. According to U.S. officials, border patrol responded with “less-lethal” force when people began to rush the border and throw “projectiles,” though accounts on the ground have varied.