Trump officials refuse to address children dying in US custody


Five immigrant children have died in U.S. custody since December, and the Trump team doesn't want to talk about it.

The Trump administration is ignoring congressional inquiries into the deaths of five immigrant children in the past six months, according to statements made Tuesday by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

"Instead of responding to multiple requests from committees of jurisdiction for this Congress, the administration has stonewalled Congress, dismissed our concerns and doubled down on their cruel policies," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), told reporters on Tuesday.

Castro slammed Republican members of Congress for their silent complicity, which Castro described as "a tacit acceptance of the Trump administration's inhumane border policy."

The increased pressure from Castro and others comes as two immigrant children from Guatemala died in U.S. custody in the last week, bringing the gruesome total to five dead children in six months, all from Guatemala. Castro noted that prior to the Trump administration no immigrant child had died in U.S. custody in more than a decade.

On May 14, a two-year-old toddler died about a month after he and his mother were detained by U.S. authorities. And on May 20, Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old immigrant child, died a week after being apprehended.

The Trump administration has spent more than two years implementing cruel and heartless immigration policies. From an unconscionable family separation policy, to corralling immigrants in inhumane conditions, to plans to detain immigrant children atop a toxic waste dump, the policies of this administration have made the situation at the border worse, according to experts.

In order to improve the situation, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) will introduce legislation mandating undocumented immigrants receive proper medical care and shelter so that no more lives are needlessly lost. The legislation will require medical screenings and prioritize vulnerable populations such as infants, toddlers, children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

Ruiz slammed Trump administration officials for trying to ignore their own culpability.

"It is the neglect of one's own consciousness that they try to bring reasons as to why it's not their responsibility if a child dies, if there is any child, any minor, or anybody who's liberties have been taken because they are under the custody and detention of an agency, then it is that agency's responsibility to ensure that  the basic needs of individuals are met," Ruiz said Tuesday.

As Congress tries to gather more information about what happened and seeks to prevent further deaths, the Trump administration continues to stonewall.

"It's Congress' responsibility to provide oversight and it's our job to work to prevent these deaths and hold the administration accountable," Castro said. "By failing to respond to our inquiries the administration is preventing Congress from having critical information so that we can make decisions on how to make things better."

Members of the CHC, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Congressional Black Caucus, along with others, will soon demand internal investigations by the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to look into the death of Vasquez.

Given Trump's abhorrent policies, it is unclear if Vasquez will be that the last immigrant child to perish on Trump's watch.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.