Trump hits Dems over kids’ deaths

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Front Page - By David Naka­mura

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

cases.

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.

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