House Democrats Assail Trump Officials Over Migrant Child Deaths

Democrats on House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday seized on the deaths of three children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in accusing Trump administration officials of failing to protect the health of migrants in custody.

Committee members cited a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released ahead of the hearing that they said showed Customs and Border Protection officials misspent emergency funding requested for the care of migrants, using some of the money to buy all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and dog food.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who leads the panel, accused the Department of Homeland Security of failing to address concerns about two child deaths in 2018 and another last year, and faulted the agency’s inspector general for failing to go beyond simply clearing the agency of wrongdoing.

“Let me be blunt, this administration’s treatment of migrant children has been appalling,” Representative Lauren Underwood, an Illinois Democrat, said.

Republicans rallied around Representative Mark Green of Tennessee, a physician and combat veteran, in defending the performance of government workers, arguing that the shortage of medical care available at the border is no worse than in many other parts of the country.

“We can’t take those people where Americans aren’t even getting care and put them on the border,” Green said. “What we really need to do is give advanced training to our CBP personnel.” The Republicans also said that migrants’ physical trauma from their long journeys and unwillingness to disclose illnesses further complicate efforts to care for them.

Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari defended his assertion that there was no misconduct or malfeasance on the part of any agency personnel, saying they “exhibited great concerns for the children’s welfare and obtained medical treatment without delay.”

Democrats on the committee were unmoved, with Thompson acknowledging that border patrol agents acted with compassion, but faulting Cuffari and others for failing to address the “many troubling questions that these deaths raise.”

“The administration went down a road to collect these people and lock them up in cages,” said Representative Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat. “Then when something happens, ‘oh, well, we didn’t have anything to do with it.’”

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