December 29, 2018 3:01 pm
Updated: December 29, 2018 7:35 pm

Donald Trump blames deaths of migrant children at U.S. border on Democrats

WATCH: The president in a tweet chose to link their deaths to ongoing negotiations over border security, saying that Democrats and their immigration policies were at fault, though it's unclear exactly which policies he was referring to.

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U.S. President Donald Trump says the Democrats, who oppose his plan to build a wall at the Mexico border, are to blame for the deaths of migrant children crossing into the U.S.

READ MORE: Guatemalan boy who died in U.S. custody had the flu: officials

“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,” he said in a tweet on Saturday afternoon.

“They can’t,” he continued. “If we had a wall, they wouldn’t even try.”

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Two migrant children from Guatemala, eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo and seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, have died in U.S. custody in the last several weeks, sparking an international outcry.

READ MORE: 8-year-old boy is the 2nd Guatemalan child to die in U.S. custody this month

In a follow-up tweet, Trump said that the children were “very sick” before they were detained.

“The father of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn’t given her water in days,” he said.

Jakelin’s family has previously denied claims from U.S. authorities that she wasn’t provided with enough food or water.

Health officials said Friday that Felipe had influenza at the time of his death, but more tests were required before a cause could be determined.

The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that migrant children in U.S. custody will receive additional screening for health issues.

READ MORE: More health exams instituted for migrant children at U.S. border in the wake of 2 deaths

Trump’s comments come on the eighth day of a partial U.S. government shutdown triggered by the Mexico border wall dispute.

Congress must pass legislation to restore funding for public services but has not done so due to Trump’s demand that the bill include $5 billion in taxpayer money to help pay for a wall he wants to build along the border.

WATCH: U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visits a border detention facility in Arizona 

READ MORE: A Guatemalan boy trekked as long as 3,000 kilometres before he died in U.S. custody

WATCH: White House calls death of migrant boy ‘tragedy’, slams Democrats over lack of action of border security

The wall was a major 2016 campaign promise for Trump, who vowed then that it would be paid for by Mexico, which has steadfastly refused to do so. Trump has since demanded that U.S. taxpayers pay for it at an estimated total cost of $23 billion.

He sees the wall as vital to stemming illegal immigration, while Democrats and some Republicans see it as an impractical and costly project.

On Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visited Border Patrol stations in Texas after her agency instituted expanded medical checks of migrant children following the two deaths. She is also due to visit Yuma, Ariz., the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Saturday.

With files from Reuters

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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