The Latest: Trump blaming Democrats for border deaths

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on two Guatemalan children who died while in U.S. government custody (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is seeking to deflect blame for the deaths of two Guatemalan children in U.S. custody by claiming they were “very sick” when they arrived, even though immigration authorities have said both children passed initial health checks

In tweets on Saturday, Trump also pointed to Democrats and what he called “their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally.”

The tweets were Trump’s first comments on the Dec. 8 death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal and the death on Christmas Eve of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited Border Patrol agents and medical officials at the southern border on Saturday amid promises of more thorough health screenings for migrant children.


3:45 p.m.

The government of El Salvador is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s assertion that it doesn’t do enough to stem migration to the United States.

The Central American nation says it has made strides in economic and social improvements to try to tamp down the root causes of the phenomenon.

It says in a Saturday statement that El Salvador “has propelled numerous actions with an eye to diminishing irregular migration and contributing to the fight against people-trafficking.”

The statement adds that the Salvadoran government has pushed a media campaign urging its citizens not to risk their lives making the dangerous journey.

Trump threatened via Twitter the previous day to cut off aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. He has made similar threats in the past without following through.


12:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is denying that his administration bears any blame for the deaths of children detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, even as his Homeland Security secretary was traveling in Arizona to meet with medical staff.

Trump tweeted Saturday that any deaths 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.”

It marks his first public comments following the Christmas Eve death of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the second Guatemalan child to die in government custody in three weeks.

Trump is claiming the “children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is embarking on a tour of care facilities along the border.



Homeland Security says U.S. Border Patrol leadership has instituted more thorough medical screenings for migrants after two Guatemalan children died this month in government custody.

More in-depth initial health exams will be performed and secondary medical screenings have been established.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman said in a statement that Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was briefed on the new procedures Saturday in Yuma, Arizona, where she is continuing meeting with Border Patrol officials. She was in El Paso, Texas, on Friday.

An 8-year-old boy died Dec. 24 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Authorities there said that he was initially diagnosed with a cold but that an autopsy showed he had the flu. A 7-year-old girl died this month in El Paso.

Nielsen said the system is “clearly overwhelmed” and called on Congress to “address this humanitarian crisis.”

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