The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MAG­GIE HABERMAN

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump blames Democrats and their poli­cies for the deaths of two mi­grant chil­dren in de­ten­tion at bor­der.

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 two­day 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 de­tained, 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.

Law­mak­ers in the party have of­fered Trump $1.3 bil­lion for bor­der se­cu­rity. Demo­cratic lead­ers say they see lit­tle in­cen­tive to ne­go­ti­ate with the pres­i­dent af­ter he re­peat­edly re­versed him­self on bor- der fund­ing, or to al­lo­cate more than $1.3 bil­lion since the ad­min­is­tra­tion has spent only a small frac­tion of the money Congress ap­proved last year for bar­ri­ers along the bor­der.

White House of­fi­cials say the pres­i­dent, who is con­cerned about the col­lapse of his own po­lit­i­cal sup­port, feels good about his stance on the shut­down, and sees no ur­gency to­ward mak­ing a deal with the in­com­ing Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity. And Trump has in­di­cated to peo­ple that he be­lieves the shut­down will slow down the Democrats in other pur­suits, such as over­sight in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The deaths have prompted a wave of crit­i­cism of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion prac­tices. Of­fi­cials with the agency have de­scribed such oc­cur­rences as rare, and have said the sys­tems in place are not set up to han­dle the in­flux of fam­i­lies with young chil­dren try­ing to en­ter the United States.

“They were built 30 to 40 years ago for sin­gle adult males, and we need a dif­fer­ent ap­proach,” the com­mis­sioner of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, Kevin K. McAleenan, told CBS News last week. “We need help from Congress. We need to bud­get for med­i­cal care and men­tal health care for chil­dren in our fa­cil­i­ties.”

Hu­man rights ac­tivists point out that bar­ri­ers along the bor­der and the ex­pan­sion of the Bor­der Pa­trol have forced many mi­grants, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies, to at­tempt cross­ings at more re­mote and per­ilous places. Im­mi­gra­tion lawyers also em­pha­size that it is le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional and U.S. law for mi­grants to re­quest asy­lum in the United States, chal­leng­ing the pres­i­dent’s con­tention that mi­grants are en­ter­ing the coun­try il­le­gally.


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.

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