Trump blames Democrats for mi­grant child deaths

The Herald-Sun (Sunday) - - Nation - BY DAVID NAKA­MURA

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.

DANIEL OCHOA DE OLZA AP

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.

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