Trump immigration official: People who die seeking asylum should blame themselves


Trump official Ken Cuccinelli won't acknowledge the impact of the Trump administration's heartless immigration policies.

Ken Cuccinelli, Trump's top immigration official, refused to accept responsibility for the role Trump's cruel asylum policies in the death of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old Valeria, who drowned attempting to come to the U.S. to seek asylum. Instead, Cuccinelli blamed the dead father during a Thursday interview with CNN.

"That father didn't want to wait to go through the asylum process in the legal fashion, so decided to cross the river. And not only died but his daughter tragically as well," Cuccinelli, the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told CNN's Erin Burnett.

The family tried to cross the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico, but turned back after learning the Trump administration had closed the bridge for the day. In an act of desperation, Oscar tried to swim across the U.S.-Mexico border.

An AP photo of the bodies of Oscar and Valeria, facedown on the river bank with Valeria's arm around her father's neck, drew worldwide attention, highlighting Trump's cruel anti-immigrant policies.

Immigration experts are pointing the blame somewhere else: the Trump administration's "metering" policy for asylum-seekers.

"This particular incident highlights that there are many humanitarian tragedies resulting directly from our current immigration and border enforcement policies that are entirely unnecessary," Woodson Martin, of the non-profit migrant assistance group Team Brownsville, told the Washington Post.

"The direct cause of the death of that father and daughter is the metering policy at the bridge," he said.

This new policy restricts the number of asylum-seekers who are allowed to present themselves at ports of entry to make asylum claims each day, forcing families to remain in Mexico rather than make their asylum claim in the U.S.

Oscar and his family reportedly spent time in Mexico waiting for the opportunity to claim asylum, staying in a border camp that did not have adequate food as temperatures soared to 110 degrees.

"This metering policy is basically what prompted Óscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river," Julián Castro, President Obama's former secretary of housing and urban development, said Wednesday night during the first Democratic primary debate.

Trump has made clear that he is unhappy with immigrants coming across the southern border, even those legally seeking asylum. The metering policy, combined with his family separation policy and the deplorable conditions of his child detention centers, show a through-line of cruelty in Trump's approach to immigration.

And rather than take any responsibility for the harm and possible deaths resulting from this administration, Trump's officials are pointing fingers at a dead father who was desperately seeking a better life for his family.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.