Rep. Peter King (R-NY) isn’t too concerned about the deaths of multiple migrant children in the custody of the U.S. government this month because “these are the only two children who have died, certainly, in recent memory.”
During a Friday appearance on Fox News, King defended Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following the deaths of seven-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin and eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, who were being detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after attempting to enter the U.S. with their parents.
Though he noted that “obviously those deaths are tragic,” the New York Republican attempted to downplay them by claiming two children dying in the custody of the U.S. government in three weeks isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
“I think it’s wrong to be blaming ICE,” said King. “They’ve had hundreds of thousands of people that they had custody of over the years and I think these are the only two children that have died, certainly, in recent memory.”
King then cited public housing in an attempt to defend President Donald Trump’s administration: “I know in New York City in housing projects you hear of kids dying.”
“Considering what does happen in housing projects across the country, I think ICE has an excellent record and I’d be reluctant to be doing any piling on here right now to make political points with this.”
Gomez was in CBP custody for six days — despite the fact that a 1997 settlement agreement bars children from being detained for more than 72 hours — before dying on Christmas Day. The eight-year-old was returned to a CBP facility after being taken to a medical center with a 103-degree temperature. In a statement, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Gomez was “harboring illnesses.”
Caal died of severe dehydration on December 8 after apparently being denied medical care for hours before her death. The seven-year-old’s temperature reached 105.7 degrees before she was transported to a hospital.
A DHS statement essentially blamed Caal’s father for putting her at risk by attempting to cross the border. Similarly, Fox News commentator and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said the seven-year-old’s death should send a message to other immigrants that making the journey to the United States “will kill you.”
House Democrats have announced they will hold hearings on the deaths of the young migrant children.
A baby in CBP custody was recently diagnosed with pneumonia after allegedly being put in a “freezing” cell. The child’s mother claims CBP officials withheld antibiotics and responded to requests for help by calling her an “invader” who “wasn’t in a position to be asking for anything.”
A toddler reportedly died shortly after being released from an ICE detention center in July.
Allegations of abuse by immigration agents aren’t limited to children.
Thirty-three-year-old Yulio Castro-Garrido died in ICE custody in January — the third detainee to die at a Georgia facility in under nine months — after accusations of poor medical care.
Twenty-year-old Claudia Patricia Gómez González was shot and killed by a CBP agent in May. Officials initially said the agent was attacked by “multiple subjects using blunt objects” before revising that claim. Trump’s administration moved to deport migrants who witnessed the incident.
ICE is reportedly detaining around 45,000 people per day under Trump.
Though King is perhaps best-known for his long history of Islamophobia during his quarter-century in Congress, the New York Republican has also defended alleged child molester and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), blamed “so obese” Eric Garner for being choked to death by a police officer over untaxed cigarettes, and suggested former President Barack Obama doctored intelligence reports to win re-election.
King survived the closest re-election challenge of his career in last month’s midterms, defeating Democratic opponent Liuba Grechen Shirley by 6.6 percentage points in Long Island’s 2nd congressional district.