Trump Takes No Responsibility For Two Migrant Children Who Died in Border Patrol Custody

The president used the deaths of two children as a political talking point on Twitter.

Niall Carson/PA Wire/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Two children, aged 7 and 8-years-old, died this month while in Border Patrol custody. On Saturday, President Donald Trump offered his first response to the deaths, but rather than offering condolences he lashed out and blamed Democrats for not funding his wall, while trying to absolve his administration of any responsibility by calling the children “very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol.”

The two children from Guatemala, Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8, died this month while in Border Patrol custody in New Mexico. Caal’s father has refuted the Trump administration’s claim that his daughter had not been drinking water in the days before Border Patrol took her into custody.

Their deaths have raised questions about the health conditions of holding facilities and the lack of medical care available to migrants. They have also brought more attention to the pervasive and underreported problem of migrant deaths. Border Patrol has counted more than 7,000 deaths along the border since 2000, a figure that likely dramatically underestimates what has actually occurred. As the border has become harder to cross, deaths have climbed along the desert journey, often from exposure and dehydration.

But Trump is linking the deaths to his demand to fund a wall, a stalemate that predicated the now eight-day government shutdown.

Adam Isacson, a expert on Mexico and director of the defense oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America, recently explained to Mother Jones how Trump’s immigration policies risk more migrant deaths. He pointed to Trump’s policy to require migrants to wait in Mexico while their applications for asylum in the US are pending. It has nothing to do with the wall:

If you’re looking at three years in Mexico, you’ll probably have fewer people approaching [Customs and Border Protection], approaching Border Patrol. You’re going to have many more people taking their children through the most remote parts of the desert and trying to evade capture instead of doing what they’re doing now, which is going up to a Border Patrol agent. I worry that instead of just young men trying to evade capture, you’re going to see three-year-olds with their parents trying to do the same thing. It’s just not going to work. People are going to die of dehydration and exposure.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend