Customs and Border Patrol fired pepper balls at a group of Venezuelan migrants after one of them assaulted an agent with a flag pole shortly after noon on Monday near El Paso, Texas, officials said.
The Venezuelan protesters, one of them hoisting a large Venezuelan flag, attempted to illegally cross the Rio Grande International Boundary into the United States around 12:20 p.m.
“One of the protesters assaulted an agent with a flag pole, at which time agents responded by initiating crowd control measures,” a CBP spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “These measures included the use of the authorized less-lethal force pepperball launching system.”
The altercation comes after the Biden administration announced a new policy earlier this month mandating that Venezuelans be returned to Mexico if they are caught entering the U.S. illegally.
The National Border Patrol Union tweeted that migrants were also throwing rocks and corrected a reporter who said the agents were firing rubber bullets.
“Agents were using pepper ball launchers which are designed to disperse large crowds of unruly people,” the union said.
A new parole program was also introduced to allow for up to 24,000 Venezuelans to enter the U.S. by air, but they must have a financial supporter in the U.S., pass biometric screening, and complete public health requirements. It’s similar to a program that the U.S. implemented for Ukrainian migrants after Russia’s invasion.
SOUTHERN BORDER MIGRANT ENCOUNTERS ROSE TO OVER 200,000 IN AUGUST, AS NUMBERS FROM VENEZUELA, CUBA SPIKE
Venezuelan migrants have increasingly been fleeing to the United States in recent months amid political and economic turmoil in their home country.
There were more than 25,000 encounters of Venezuelan migrants at the border in August, an increase 4,000 in April and just 6,000 in August 2021.
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Encounters of Venezuelan migrants have fallen in the past three weeks in the wake of the new policy mandating that they remain in Mexico.
“The number of Venezuelans arriving at the southern border decreased sharply nearly every day since we launched additional joint actions with Mexico to reduce irregular migration and create a more fair, orderly and safe process for people fleeing the humanitarian and economic crisis in their country,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement.