WASHINGTON,. US President Donald Trump yesterday blamed opposition Democrats for the death of two immigrant children in US custody, comments set to heighten tensions as the second week of a government shutdown began over his demands for a wall on the US-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. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!” Trump said on Twitter.
His comments came after the separate deaths of two Guatemalan children, aged seven and eight, who crossed the border illegally with relatives who were taken into custody by US Border Patrol.
The tweet hardened Trump’s tone after an earlier message on Twitter that said the next move in the eight-day budget standoff over border wall funding belonged to the Democrats.
“I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security,” Trump tweeted.
But members of Congress, most of them home for the holidays, kept low profiles, and there were no evident signs of any imminent breakthrough.
One Democratic representative, Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, said in a tweet posted by his staff that Trump was “reaching new lows with these ridiculous tweets. His administration is the cause of pain and suffering that is taking place at the border. Nothing that he says will alter this truth.”
Others called the Trump tweets “disturbing” and pointed out that US immigration policies have been in place for years without children dying in government custody.
When the shutdown began on December 22, affecting a quarter of the federal government, Trump canceled his plans to spend the year-end holidays in Florida and vowed to remain at the White House — though he made a quick, unannounced trip to visit US troops in Iraq.
But as he tries to build pressure on Democrats to help fund the border wall he sees as an urgent priority — threatening even to close the border if no deal is reached — Democrats appear adamant in their refusal to pay for a project they view as a waste of money.
Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be House speaker in the new Congress, has vowed to “swiftly” reopen the government once her Democrats take control of that chamber from the Republicans on Thursday.
She said Democrats “will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House.”
Trump had previously blamed Democrats for policies he said had forced his administration to separate some children from their parents at the border, a claim widely seen as specious.
The effects of the shutdown have been slow to appear — many of the 800,000 government employees sent home or working without pay would have been off for the holidays anyway — but once the New Year arrives, pressure will grow.
The popular Smithsonian museums and National Zoo in Washington, for example, said they found money to stay open through New Year’s Day but will close on January 2 if the standoff continues.
While most of the US military is unaffected, about 42,000 Coast Guard members are working without pay. That branch falls under the Department of Homeland Security, not the Pentagon.
This is the third government shutdown of the year, following shorter closures in January and February. — AFP