President Donald Trump on Saturday blamed Democratic lawmakers for the deaths of two Guatemalan children who perished while in government custody earlier this month, and claimed the tragedies could have been prevented by the construction of his proposed wall along the U.S.-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,” the president tweeted.
“They can’t,” Trump added. “If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!”
Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal crossed the border with her father and a group of migrants on Dec. 6 before surrendering to border patrol personnel near Lordsburg, New Mexico. After she began experiencing seizures, Caal was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died two days later. The Washington Post reported that Caal died of dehydration.
Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo was arrested with his father by immigration agents in El Paso, Texas on Dec. 18. He died late Christmas Eve at a New Mexico hospital after suffering coughing, vomiting and a fever, according to law enforcement. New Mexico authorities say an autopsy revealed the boy had the flu, according to the Associated Press.
“The two … children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol,” Trump wrote online Saturday. “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!”
Caal’s father signed a form attesting that his daughter was in good health shortly before she died, but it remains unclear how well he understood the document.
Trump’s statements — the first in which he has addressed the children’s deaths — came on the second day of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s tour of border communities throughout the southwest U.S. following Gomez Alonzo’s death earlier this week, which she has called “deeply concerning and heartbreaking.”