In wall-stalemate, Trump blames Democrats for migrant children’s death
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In wall-stalemate, Trump blames Democrats for migrant children’s death

President Donald Trump has come under criticism for blaming Democrats for the death of two migrant children in the custody of US authorities over the past few weeks as the partial shut down of the federal government entered the ninth with signs it is likely to continue into next year.

world Updated: Dec 30, 2018 22:15 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Democrats,US
US President Donald Trump walks from Marine One to Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base September 27, 2017 in Maryland. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski(AFP file photo)

President Donald Trump has come under criticism for blaming Democrats for the death of two migrant children in the custody of US authorities over the past few weeks as the partial shut down of the federal government entered the ninth with signs it is likely to continue into next year.

The president also misrepresented the father of one the two children and blame him for the death.

Earlier in the week, the president had cited the killing of an Indian-origin police officer Ronil Singh in California by an illegal immigrant for garnering support for a border wall, a dispute over whose funding, between him and Democrats has shut down a fourth of the federal government.

Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, died December 6 in the custody of US border authorities just hours after being taken into custody along with her father for crossing into the United States illegally through the border with Mexico. Few days later, on Christmas Eve, Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an eight-year-old boy also from Guatemala, died in US custody. He and his father had been apprehended a week before.

Authorities are investigating the deaths but have said, pending final outcome, Maquin was badly dehydrated and Felipe was diagnosed with influenza. The girls’ family has alleged that they had been denied water four hours while in custody, while border officials have disputed that account and said food and water were made available to them and the girl had had both after days of having none.

As outrage swelled over the deaths, US authorities stepped up medical screening of children in their custody along the border. And the White House initially, after Jakelin’s death, dismissed any responsibility and sought to blame it on those undertaking the long and dangerous journey.

Also read | How a UK plane spotter cracked the secret of Donald Trump’s Iraq visit

President Trump sought to blame Democrats in his first comments on the deaths. “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!” he wrote on Twitter.

In a continuing post he wrote, The two children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol. 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!”

The president’s attempt to deflect blame was seen as politicizing the deaths, and Democrats responded angrily. “”Obviously nothing is too low or cruel for you,” Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “A collective New Year’s wish: For the sake of our country, you can stop now.”

And US congressman Joaquin Castro, who is slated to take over the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, posted this on the microblogging site: “You slander Jakelin’s memory and re-traumatize her family by spreading lies about why she died. You don’t deserve to represent our nation at any level.”

The president and Democrats are in a stalemate on funding for the border wall that Trump had promised to build as a candidate. He has sought $5 billion, and is willing to come down, but Democrats want to allocate only $1.3 billion, for boosting border security, not the wall.

The administration is not calling it a wall anymore though. Trump has said it will be made of steel-slats, and his outgoing chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, the administration gave up on a concrete wall a long time ago.

“The president still says ‘wall’ - oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats,” Kelly told LA times. “But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it. - “we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

Read | Donald Trump tries to deflect blame for migrant children’s deaths, claims they were ‘very sick’

First Published: Dec 30, 2018 22:15 IST