Trump blames Democrats for migrant child deaths
President Donald Trump on Saturday attempted to politicize the deaths of two immigrant children who died while in custody of the Department of Homeland Security 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, were already 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 to slow 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.
With her agency facing increasing criticism over the treatment of migrants, Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen announced new medical screenings for immigrant children and she embarked Friday on a twoday tour of border facilities in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Nielsen said in a statement that “the system is clearly overwhelmed and we must work together to address this humanitarian crisis.” She called on Congress to “act with urgency.”
The deaths of Jakelin Caal, 7, on Dec. 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, on Dec. 24, have raised questions about the care of immigrants who are in U.S. government as the Trump administration has toughened 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 new 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 does not include at least $2.5 billion for the border wall, but Democrats have said they will not go above $1.3 billion for border security provisions that do not include a wall.
In his tweets, Trump said that Democrats 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 are often released into the country to wait for their hearings. The Trump administration has sought to close what officials call legal “loopholes,” detain immigrants longer and speed up 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.
Kevin Andres, a Mexican migrant child from Oaxaca, crawls to get his backpack from the barbed wire Friday after jumping the U.S.-Mexico border fence from Tijuana, Mexico, into San Diego.