Facing mounting public criticism over two deaths of immigrant children over the past month who were in the custody of U.S. law enforcement agents, President Donald Trump sought to put the blame elsewhere.
In two tweets issued on Saturday morning by the commander-in-chief, Trump seemed to put the blame for the death of the two children on Democrats, suggesting that funding for a border wall would have somehow prevented the outcomes. He also falsely claimed that both children were “very sick” before they were handed over to border agents.
“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,” Trump wrote in his first tweet. “They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!”
In his second tweet, Trump tried to explain away the children’s deaths as not being the fault of border agents.
“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.”
Were both children sick before being detained? Many are likely to dispute that claim, with one child possibly being sick before detention, and another not showing any signs at all of illness before he was detained for a week, after which he died.
Trump’s characterizations of how the first young child, Jakelin Caal Maquin, had perished are disputed by family members of the girl, according to reporting from NBC News.
Doctors warn more children in border patrol stations could die like Felipe and Jakelin https://t.co/gzzHIVoFVO
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 29, 2018
Caal and her father had been traveling mostly by bus, her family said, and had regularly been given food and water while making the trek from Guatemala.
Administration officials sought to admonish the father for bringing his daughter on the journey after reports of her death surfaced. According to several reports, the two sought asylum status immediately after crossing the border.
Per reporting from the Washington Post, Caal and her father had been in custody at a border patrol station for eight hours before she started having seizures, the result of dehydration. It’s unclear whether she was given treatment during those eight hours in custody. She died later at a hospital.
A second immigrant child, an 8-year-old Guatemalan migrant named Felipe Gomez Alonzo, also died last week. He and his family were detained on December 18, before he started showing signs of illness nearly a week later, on December 24. He was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with having a cold, and discharged, before having to return after feeling nausea and vomiting. He died during his second visit to the hospital.
Gomez’s family said he was not sick before they crossed the border, reporting from the Hill indicated.
Despite Trump’s claims, agreement to fund a wall on the southern U.S. border likely wouldn’t have done much to prevent these particular families from crossing. Any construction on a proposed border wall would have taken months to complete, at the earliest, and these families were already en route and in the country before Trump made demands for funding the border wall, tying them to general funding of the federal government.