The Trump White House finds itself under scrutiny for the death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl who was taken into custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but 18 previous migrant deaths during the Obama years went nearly ignored by the administration’s critics in Congress.
“Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said to a reporter who asked if the administration took responsibility for the child’s death.
In July 2016, Human Rights Watch condemned the Obama administration for 18 migrants who died while in the custody of USCBP, claiming that seven or more of the 18 died as the result of the agency’s “substandard” and “inappropriate” care for migrants at detention centers. The detainees who died then were between 24 and 49 years old. (RELATED: Homeland Security ‘Begging Parents’ To Not Put ‘Their Children At Risk’ After 7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies Of Dehydration)
“In 2009, the Obama administration promised major immigration detention reforms, including more centralized oversight and improved health care,” said Clara Long, U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But these death reviews show that system-wide problems remain, including a failure to prevent or fix substandard medical care that literally kills people.”
The death reviews, HRW wrote, which surfaced through a Department of Homeland Security Immigration Customs and Enforcement FOIA request, were from mid-2012 to mid-2015.
Migrant deaths along the U.S. southern border goes back years, and according to a 2014 report by the International Organisation for Migration, Smithsonian Magazine noted that over 6,000 people died at that point attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Presently, however, Democratic lawmakers are now more interested in investigating the one migrant death of Jakelin Caal Maquin. (Related: Father Of Migrant Girl Who Died In Border Patrol Custody Says She Wasn’t Starving — But There’s More)
Lawmakers within the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have demanded to speak to border patrol agents who arrested and detained the Guatemalan girl and her father before she was transported to a hospital and later died of severe dehydration, USA Today reported.
Additionally, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan asking for more information on the matter.
“While DHS respects the oversight role of Congress, it is important to allow the review process occur unimpeded by politics,” DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement to USA Today. “It is important to preserve the legitimacy of a fair and impartial process out of respect to the agents’ lifesaving mission and the family of the deceased.”