Deaths of two migrant children your fault, Trump tells Democrats
President also tries to pin blame for tragic loss of youngsters in border custody on grieving parents
Donald Trump has blamed his Democrat opponents for the deaths of two migrant children in US custody - as well as accusing the children's parents of mistreating them.
On Christmas Day, it was announced an eight-year-old boy from Guatemala had died, the second migrant child to pass away in the administration's custody this month.
A seven-year-old girl died on December 8, soon after being held by border agents. She had crossed from Mexico into the United States with her father.
The US president insisted the Democrats, who have not held the majority in either the House or the Senate for almost four years, were to blame for the deaths.
He is currently engaged in a standoff with the Democrats over their refusal to fund his flagship border wall policy, which has led to a shutdown of the US government.
"Any deaths of children or others at the Border 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," Mr Trump tweeted.
"They can't. If we had a Wall, they wouldn't even try!"
The president then turned to blame the children's parents, claiming: "The two children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol.
"The father of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn't given her water in days.
"Border Patrol needs the Wall and it will all end. They are working so hard & getting so little credit!"
The families of both children have disputed claims that they were already unwell before being taken into custody.
Meanwhile, the government shutdown wore on with no sign of ending. Most Homeland Security employees, including Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are among federal employees required to report for work without pay.
In Guatemala, the mother of eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died on Christmas Eve, said her son was healthy when he left with his father on their journey hoping to migrate to the US.
"When he called me, he told me he was fine. He told me not to worry because he was fine," Catarina Alonzo said from the family's home in the remote village of Yalambojoch.
The other child, Jakelin Caal (7), died in El Paso. She showed signs of sepsis shock, a potentially fatal condition brought on by infection, officials said.
Mr Trump's outgoing chief of staff admitted yesterday that the president's planned wall along the US and Mexico border would be more like a fence, as he gave his final interview before leaving office.
Gen John Kelly, who leaves the administration on Wednesday after a rocky 18-month tenure, broke with the president on key areas during an interview with the 'LA Times'.
It emerged that he fundamentally disagreed with Mr Trump's characterisation of illegal immigrants as criminals who were invading America. "We do have an immigration problem," he said, but added: "Illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly, are not bad people," describing many as victims of traffickers. "I have nothing but compassion for them, the young kids."
He described his role spending 15-hour days alongside Mr Trump as "bone crushing".
And, speaking of the wall, Gen Kelly said that after consultation with border patrol agents it became clear that a continuous, opaque structure would not be suitable. "To be honest, it's not a wall," he said. "The president still says 'wall' - oftentimes, frankly, he'll say 'barrier' or 'fencing', now he's tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.
"They said: 'Well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people."
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Mr Trump in a New Year letter released yesterday that Moscow was ready to open a new dialogue.
The Kremlin added that Mr Putin had said he was prepared for talks on a "wide-ranging agenda" following a series of failed attempts to hold a new summit.
At the end of November, Mr Trump cancelled a planned meeting with Mr Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina, citing tensions about Russian forces opening fire on Ukrainian navy boats.
Mr Trump and Mr Putin also failed to hold a full-fledged meeting in Paris on the sidelines of the centenary commemoration of the Armistice.
The two held their only summit in Helsinki in July. (© Daily Telegraph London)