Migrants Tijuana border tear gas
Tear gas fired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers rises as Central American migrants gather near the US and Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. (Photo: Getty Images)

Responding to news that U.S. authorities had fired tear gas on migrants and asylum-seekers at the southern border, a Fox News guest said, “It’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it."

The guest was Ron Colburn, the former national chief of the U.S. Border Patrol and current president of the Border Patrol Foundation. His belief that this weekend's use of tear gas was justified. "Absolutely," Colburn said when asked if the use of tear gas was warranted. "To clarify: The type of deterrent being used is OC pepper spray. It’s literally water, pepper, with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes."

"It’s a good way of deterring people without long-term harm," he added.

Colburn also asserted that the group of asylum-seekers — most of whom are fleeing oppression and violence in Central America, and were turned into a midterm campaign issue by President Trump — had entitlement issues. The so-called caravan "has a core of violence to it that basically communicates a sense of entitlement," he said. "These are persons that one would like to think are true refugees but they are not showing that in their actions."

On Sunday near Tijuana and California, U.S. authorities deployed the tear gas against hundreds of asylum-seekers when some attempted to cross into the U.S. through a fence. Women and children screamed and coughed as they were enveloped by the gas, an Associated Press reporter said. "I felt that my face was burning, and my baby fainted," Cindy Milla, one of the migrants who was fired upon, told the Wall Street Journal. "I ran for my life and that of my children."

Experts say that mere exposure to tear gas is dangerous (to say nothing of consuming it). "I am very concerned that Mr. Colburn is misrepresenting the potential harms from pepper spray and tear gas,” said Sven-Eric Jordt, an associate professor in anesthesiology, pharmacology and cancer biology at the Duke University School of Medicine, in the Washington Post. He added that pepper spray and tear gas are sometimes confused with one another.

"Yes, the burning, painful ingredient in pepper spray, capsaicin, is of natural origin, distilled from chile peppers," said Jordt. "However, capsaicin is used at several thousandfold higher concentrations in the spray. It would never be used at these concentrations on food." He pointed out that some prison inmates who were exposed to pepper spray died from it.

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