3. Dems plan to probe deaths of migrant kids
"The deaths of two migrant children in just over two weeks raised strong new doubts ... about the ability of U.S. border authorities to care for the thousands of minors arriving as part of a surge of families trying to enter the country," AP's Nomaan Merchant reports from Houston:
- "An 8-year-old boy identified by Guatemalan officials as Felipe Gomez Alonzo died in U.S. custody at a New Mexico hospital on Christmas Eve after suffering a cough, vomiting and fever."
- "The cause is under investigation, as is the death Dec. 8 of another Guatemalan child, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal."
The big picture: "The U.S. government's system for detaining migrants crossing the border is severely overtaxed."
- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement: "[T]he death of a child in government custody is deeply concerning and heartbreaking. ... I will be traveling to the border later this week to see first-hand the medical screenings and conditions at Border Patrol stations."
House Democrats plan to take up the issue after they take control Jan. 3:
- "There is a real failure here that we all need to reckon with," said incoming Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat elected last month to represent El Paso in Congress. "We need to know how many other Jakelins and Felipes there have been."
- Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat who sits on a key subcommittee overseeing border funding, said he has pushed to fund more alternatives to detention such as ankle monitors, which he said could have been issued to Felipe's father.
P.S. "The Trump administration ... will keep open through early 2019 a tent city in [Tornillo,] Texas that now holds more than 2,000 migrant teenagers, and also will increase the number of beds at another temporary detention center for children in [Homestead,] Florida." (AP)