Trump blames Democrats for child deaths in de­ten­tion

The Sun News (Sunday) - - News - BY MAG­GIE HABER­MAN

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump blamed Democrats on Sat­ur­day for the deaths of two mi­grant chil­dren in de­ten­tion at the south­west bor­der this month, wield­ing the episodes as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to fund a bor­der wall.

The com­ments came in twin posts on Twit­ter, where the pres­i­dent spent much of the day de­nounc­ing Democrats as the par­tial govern­ment shut­down ap­proached its eighth day over his de­mand for fund­ing for the wall.

“Any deaths of chil­dren or oth­ers at the bor­der are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pa­thetic im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies that al­low peo­ple to make the long trek think­ing they can en­ter our coun­try il­le­gally,” he wrote in one mes­sage, his first pub­lic re­marks about the deaths. “They can’t. If we had a wall, they wouldn’t even try!”

On Christ­mas Eve, a boy, 8, iden­ti­fied as Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died in U.S. cus­tody. Author­i­ties said he had been taken to a hos­pi­tal af­ter show­ing what ap­peared to be signs of sick­ness. He was re­leased but was taken again to the hos­pi­tal, where em­ploy­ees were un­able to re­vive him af­ter he had fainted. Nearly three weeks ear­lier, Jake­lin Caal Maquin, 7, died af­ter she had been taken to a Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tion.

Both chil­dren had been de­tained with their fa­thers af­ter be­ing ap­pre­hended at the bor­der.

In point­ing to Democrats and their im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, the pres­i­dent overtly in­jected pol­i­tics into the chil­dren’s deaths and mis­char­ac­ter­ized the rea­sons cited for them, as well as their fam­i­lies’ re­ac­tions.

“The two chil­dren in ques­tion were very sick be­fore they were given over to Bor­der Pa­trol,” the pres­i­dent said. “The fa­ther of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn’t given her wa­ter in days. Bor­der Pa­trol needs the wall and it will all end. They are work­ing so hard & get­ting so lit­tle credit!”

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 two-day tour of bor­der fa­cil­i­ties in Texas, New Mex­ico and Ari­zona.

Nielsen said in a state­ment re­ported by The As­so­ci­ated Press that “the sys­tem is clearly over­whelmed and we must work to­gether to ad­dress this hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.” She called on Congress to “act with ur­gency.”

Many of the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the boy’s death re­main un­known. It is not clear whether his health de­te­ri­o­rated be­cause of the jour­ney to the United States, ne­glect by per­son­nel in the var­i­ous bor­der fa­cil­i­ties he was moved to or a com­bi­na­tion of those fac­tors.

Bor­der Pa­trol said Jake­lin had not eaten or con­sumed wa­ter for sev­eral days be­fore be­ing de-


tained, but her fa­ther, Nery Gil­berto Caal Cruz, dis­puted that state­ment.

The pres­i­dent abruptly tor­pe­doed a tem­po­rary spend­ing deal last week to avert the shut­down af­ter com­plaints from some of his most con­ser­va­tive back­ers in Congress, and in­stead de­manded ad­di­tional fund­ing for the wall, a sig­na­ture cam­paign prom­ise.

Trump has since sought to blame Democrats for the shut­down, re­main­ing in the White House rather than tak­ing a planned ex­tended trip to his pri­vate club, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida. But he has made no ef­fort to reach out to in­com­ing Demo­cratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in sev­eral days.

The pres­i­dent dug in fur­ther Sat­ur­day, claim­ing: “For those that naively ask why didn’t the Re­pub­li­cans get ap­proval to build the wall over the last year, it is be­cause IN THE SE­NATE WE NEED 10 DEMO­CRAT VOTES, and they will gives us ‘NONE’ for Bor­der Se­cu­rity! Now we have to do it the hard way, with a shut­down. Too bad!”

Democrats have re­peat­edly in­di­cated that they would sup­port sub­stan­tial fund­ing in­creases for se­cu­rity at the south­ern bor­der with Mex­ico. Many voted to do so in 2013 as part of a bi­par­ti­san, com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion over­haul. But they view a wall like the one Trump ad­vo­cates as an in­ef­fec­tive and costly re­sponse to an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem in dis­re­pair.


Kevin An­dres, a Mex­i­can mi­grant child from Oax­aca, crawls to get his back­pack from the barbed wire af­ter jump­ing the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der fence from Ti­juana, Mex­ico, into San Diego on Fri­day.

Kirst­jen Nielsen

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