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Trump blames Dems for deaths of migrant kids

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Saturday blamed Democrats for the death of two immigrant children in US custody, comments set to heighten tensions as the second week of a government shutdown began over his demands for a wall on the US-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," Mr Trump said on Twitter.

His comments came after the separate deaths of two Guatemalan children, aged seven and eight, who crossed the border illegally with relatives who were taken into custody by US Border Patrol.

The tweet hardened Mr Trump's tone after an earlier message on Twitter that said the next move in the eight-day stand-off over border wall funding belonged to the Democrats.

But members of Congress, most of them home for the holidays, kept low profiles, and there were no evident signs of any imminent breakthrough.

One Democratic representative, Mr Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, said in a tweet posted by his staff that Mr Trump was "reaching new lows with these ridiculous tweets. His administration is the cause of pain and suffering that is taking place at the border. Nothing that he says will alter this truth".

Others called the Trump tweets "disturbing" and pointed out that US immigration policies have been in place for years without children dying in government custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was in Yuma, Arizona, on a trip to witness border operations first hand after saying last week that the US will take "extraordinary" protective measures to deal with a surge of immigrant children in custody.

Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez, who collapsed after running a fever, died in US custody after travelling with his father from Guatemala.

He died on the same day that Jakelin Caal, a Guatemalan girl who died in US custody under similar circumstances earlier this month, was buried back in her home village.

In the last two months, US Border Patrol agents have apprehended 139,817 people on the south-west border, compared with 74,946 during the same period a year earlier, Ms Nielsen said. More than 68,500 were "family units" while almost 14,000 others were unaccompanied children, she said, and the system has been pushed to the "breaking point". - AFP

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