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Trump Wrongly Says Democrats Are Responsible for Children’s Deaths at the Border

A child had not died in Border Patrol’s custody for a decade until the Trump Administration

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock

As Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen travels to the border in the wake of two children dying in Customs and Border Patrol’s custody, President Donald Trump is tweeting from the White House that Democrats are to blame for the deaths. (True to form, he is also blaming Democrats and Nancy Pelosi for the shutdown.)

His tweets are the president’s first public comment about the deaths of two children, an eight-year-old boy named Felipe Gomez Alonzo and a seven-year-old girl named Jakelin Caal, who were taken into custody with their parents after attempting a dangerous crossing into the United States at the Mexico border. “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. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!” the president tweeted.

But that claim is absurd. It is Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and restrictions on asylum seekers that is necessitating these children be held at government facilities that are not prepared to hold so many people, especially young children. And because they implemented these policies, the administration should have anticipated a need for medical services for migrants coming across. But only after two children have died is the administration even talking about making changes.

Earlier this week, Nielsen said that the agency “is considering options for surge medical assistance,” which is what it should have done as soon as the policy was implemented. But the Dr. Colleen Kract, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics says that physicians who have visited the facilities where children are held are disturbed by the conditions. “These children are not given the basic needs of food and water and medical care,” she told TIME.

Even Trump’s CPB Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told CBS This Morning that a child had not died in CPB custody in “more than a decade” and that the agency needs to take “a different approach” to how it manages children in its care.

Democrats, however, are refusing to take the blame and plan to hold hearings investigating the children’s deaths. “[Trump is] just making stuff up again. In January the House of Representatives will hold hearings with witnesses under oath and find out what happened,” Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted in response to the president.

In This Article: Donald Trump, Kirstjen Nielsen

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