Freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) earned a rare bipartisan rebuke Wednesday for accusing the Department of Homeland Security of “intentionally” killing at least five illegal immigrant children who died while in Customs and Border Protection custody.
All five of the children were seriously ill when they arrived in the United States and received emergency medical care from CBP. But anxious to pin the deaths on DHS, Underwood tore into acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who was testifying before her House committee on Wednesday, accusing McAleenan of presiding over actual murder.
“Why do these tragedies keep happening,” Underwood asked McAleenan, according to Hot Air.
“They’re happening because the crisis is exceeding the resources provided,” McAleenan replied. “That’s why we’ve asked for more and we’ve asked for more authority to deal with it, to prevent this crisis from happening in the first place and from the children being put at risk … We’ve deployed medical practitioners. We now have over 100 certified medical practitioners in our two busiest sectors. We’ve asked for more money to extend that.”
Five children have died in CBP custody since late last year, including a 16-year-old who died from complications of influenza last week. In all five cases, the children presented with symptoms of an illness were given medical attention and were transferred to hospitals where they stayed for days (and in some cases, weeks).
The border patrol acknowledges that they do not have the facilities or the manpower to handle an ever-increasing number of border crossers — more than 100,000 per month — and that they lack the medical facilities to care for those migrants who are seriously ill when captured or processed. After months traveling on foot from Guatemala and Honduras to the U.S.-Mexico border, many arrive dehydrated and ill, some with serious diseases, like the flu and the mumps.
But Underwood wasn’t willing to take the border patrol’s needs into account. According to her, McAleenan and his team were “intentionally” allowing migrant children to die.
“But people keep dying, sir,” Underwood replied. She added, “So this is obviously more than a question of resources. Congress has been more than willing to provide the resources and to work with you to address the security and humanitarian concerns. But at this point, with five kids that have died, 5,000 separated from their families, I feel like and the evidence is really clear that this is intentional. It’s intentional. It’s a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration, and it’s cruel and inhumane.”
McAleenan responded by calling Underwood’s statement an “appalling accusation,” and she was quickly rebuked by Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). She then denied she’d accused McAleenan of murder, despite her statements being on the Congressional record.
Rep. Mike Rogers said, “You cannot impugn the character of the witness by stating that he intentionally murders children. That is completely inappropriate and her words should be taken down. She was very explicit.”
“I did not say murder. I said that five children have died as a result of a policy choice that he has said…” Underwood said.
Rogers interjected, “You said it was intentional. That is murder.”
Underwood then tried to accuse McAleenan of refusing to care for sick immigrant children as a matter of policy. McAleenan denied the accusation, noting that there is no longer a child separation policy and that the border patrol is asking for increased funds to directly address the issue.
Underwood was then the subject of a rare bipartisan rebuke and in a 9-7 vote, her comments were stricken from the Congressional record.
Underwood’s comments were stricken from the record after protests by Republican members — one Democrat, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), joined Republicans in 9-7 vote https://t.co/fZlcMiNEHQ
— David Wright (@DavidWright_CNN) May 22, 2019
McAleenan is continuing a round of testimony this week in an effort to convince Democrats that assistance is needed to control chaos at the border.