A caravan the Trump administration discussed at length before the US midterms recently reached a port of entry, and was attacked with tear gas. After this proved controversial, there was much discussion of prior use of pepper spray (and, depending on the source, tear gas) in the Obama era, even at the same port of entry. Some sources claim at least one gas type has been used less frequently since Trump took power (which raises the question of what happened with the other gas).

Is there any important difference between the two eras' policies? For example:

  • Is one gas more harmful, and if so is it now used more or less willingly?
  • Have there been changes in the frequency of such attacks, the standards determining when they are used, or the targets chosen for them?

As a side question, did such practices begin with Obama, or an earlier President?

  • 3
    Related question on Skeptics: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/42871/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 27, 2018 at 19:51
  • 2
    The MSM is pro-Obama and anti-Trump.
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2018 at 18:59
  • @user4012 I had to read a lot of these before I knew what you meant: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSM Guess what: if you look at viewing figures, Fox is about as mainstream as it gets.
    – J.G.
    Nov 29, 2018 at 19:01
  • If you add up 3 big non-cable news networks, Comedy channel, all non-Fox cable networks, all the anti-Trump print media (most big ones except Washington Times and NY Post, as far as I know), the "viewership" becomes far more skewed. Also, Fox wasn't concentrated on pushing "How Obama is bad for illegals" angle, as far as I know, so they may as well have not existed for Obama coverage comparison.
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2018 at 19:08
  • 1
    The implied full statement was "No, there's no meaningful difference, only a difference in how MSM covered both".
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2018 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


Overall militarization of the border came about in the 70's due to Nixon's war on drugs in response to cartel members with guns, but the agents were ordered to only shoot if being shot at. They hung far back from the actual borders so as to catch any tunnelers and prevent agent casualties.

CS was specifically banned in warfare as of 1993 after tear gas grenades caught fire when used against the Branch Davidians compound, killing almost all of them. 1993 was also when Operation Blockade went down, testing the feasibility of stronger border controls.

George W. Bush implemented several post-9/11 policies to put border patrol agents right on the border rather than further back. This provided stationary targets for people on the Mexican side to throw rocks at, and thus increased the risk for Border agents, thus increasing the chances of them having to resort to self-defense.

But yes, it did continue in the Obama administration. That said, he never authorized lethal force.


It's not really a difference in policy, as it is a continuation of a policy that was enacted awhile ago. As for the differences in gases, it's mostly a matter of what they are made of (pepper spray is organic, tear (or CS) gas is not). They delivery methods are slightly different in that tear gas can be delivered by grenade and pepper spray is generally actually sprayed. Pepper spray causes inflammation of the contact area and is painful, tear gas (in my experience) is mostly uncomfortable but prevents you from breathing easily, makes your eyes tear and your sinuses run which makes it feel worse. There's a good description of the differences here: https://www.aftermath.com/content/tear-gas-vs-pepper-spray/

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .