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Dec. 29, 2018 / 7:37 PM GMT

By The Associated Press

President Donald Trump on Saturday tried to deny that his administration bears any blame for the deaths of children detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, even as his Homeland Security secretary was traveling in Arizona to meet with medical staff.

Trump tweeted Saturday that any deaths 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.”

It marked his first public comments following the Christmas Eve death of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the second Guatemalan child to die in government custody in three weeks.

Trump is claiming the “children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is embarking on a tour of care facilities along the border.

The DHS says U.S. Border Patrol leadership has instituted more thorough medical screenings for migrants after the two Guatemalan children died this month in government custody.

More in-depth initial health exams will be performed and secondary medical screenings have been established, officials said.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman said in a statement that Nielsen was briefed on the new procedures Saturday in Yuma, Arizona, where she is continuing meeting with Border Patrol officials. She was in El Paso, Texas, on Friday.

An 8-year-old boy died Dec. 24 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Authorities there said that he was initially diagnosed with a cold but that an autopsy showed he had the flu. A 7-year-old girl died this month in El Paso.

Nielsen said the system is “clearly overwhelmed” and called on Congress to “address this humanitarian crisis.”


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