Trump hits Dems over kids’ deaths
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attempted Saturday to politicize the deaths of two immigrant children who were in custody of the Homeland Security Department in his latest bid to score points against Democrats in his fight for border wall funding.
In a pair of midday tweets, Trump asserted that the children, both from Guatemala, already were ill before being apprehended by federal authorities.
He called the deaths of all children at the border the “fault” of Democrats because of their “pathetic immigration policies” — even though his administration created new policies aimed at slowing the ability of immigrants to seek legal paths into the country.
“Border Patrol needs the Wall and it will all end,” Trump wrote.
The tweets marked Trump’s first public comments about the deaths of the children, and he offered no empathy to the families and took no responsibility for the government’s handling of their
The deaths of Jakelin Caal, 7, on Dec. 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, last Monday, have raised questions about the care of immigrants who are in U.S. government custody under the administration’s tougher rules for those entering the country without authorization — including families with children.
The administration has sought to limit the ability of immigrants to seek asylum protections and has worked with Mexico to create a program in which migrants, most from Central America, must remain in that country as their asylum cases are processed.
Trump’s tweets came amid a standoff with Democrats over a funding bill that lapsed eight days ago, forcing a partial government shutdown.
The president has refused to accept a bill that doesn’t include at least $2.5 billion for the border wall, but Democrats have said they won’t go above $1.3 billion for border security provisions that don’t include a wall.
In his tweets, Trump said Dem- ocrats support policies that “allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!”
U.S. law allows migrants to seek asylum protections and, in most cases, win the right to a hearing before an immigration judge.
The immigration court system has lengthy backlogs, and migrants often are released into the country to wait for their hearings.
The Trump administration has sough to close what it calls legal “loopholes,” detain immigrants longer and speed deportations.
Democrats have said any such changes should be part of a more comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws and they have opposed rolling back due process rights for migrants.
Jakelin Caal and her father, Ne- ry, weren’t provided water when they were held for eight hours at a border station in New Mexico, the family’s attorney said, and the girl began vomiting during a 90-minute bus ride.
Her condition rapidly deteriorated and she died of dehydration and shock, authorities said.
Customs and Border Protection officials disputed the father’s account, saying water and food were available and that the girl had consumed both after having had no food or water for days.
Felipe Gomez Alonzo and his father were held at a facility in Alamogordo, N.M., on Christmas Eve after days of being shuttled from one Border Patrol facility to another.
They expected the government was about to release them to await a deportation hearing, as the smugglers had promised. Instead, the boy vomited and spiked a fever; he died at a hospital. The boy has tested positive for influenza B, and the cause of his death remains under investigation.
With her agency facing criticism over the treatment of migrants, Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen announced new medical screenings for children, and she embarked Friday on a two-day tour of border facilities in Texas and New Mexico. On Saturday, she went to Yuma, Ariz., but her department released no further details.
On her inspection tour, Nielsen met with emergency medical technicians as well as local officials.
Daniel Ochoa de Olza / Associated Press Kevin Andres, a migrant child from Oaxaca, Mexico, crawls to get his backpack from the barbed wire after jumping the border fence to get into the U.S. at San Diego.