Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Il.) inspired heated debate among The House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday when she claimed that the Trump administration is “intentionally” killing migrant children captured at the border.
Underwood was referring to a recent string of recent migrant children deaths — there have been five since December — during the testimony of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
“The evidence is really clear that this is intentional,” Underwood said. “It’s intentional. It’s a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration, and it’s cruel and inhumane.”
McAleenan was understandably shocked by the congresswoman’s accusation.
“That’s an appalling accusation,” he shot back. “Our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day.”
Underwood’s words did not sit well with the rest of The House and Homeland Security Committee. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) stepped in to say Underwood was accusing the Homeland Security department and McAleen of murder. Rogers, the ranking member of the committee, asked that the comments from Underwood be stricken from the official record.
Underwood tried to defend her comments by saying she did not specifically say the word “murder.”
“I did not say murder,” she said. “I said five children have died as a result of a policy choice.”
The committee then voted nine to five to have Underwood’s comments stripped from the record.
Check out part the exchange below:
.@Repunderwood: "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 a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration. And it's cruel and inhumane." pic.twitter.com/dY4wh7a0jX
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 22, 2019
Underwood’s comments are even stranger when you consider the testimony that came before that. McAleenan was testifying about improved medical conditions for migrants and migrant children that are captured. Previously the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, McAleen detailed the positive changes he has made in his new position.
McAleen has ordered increased medical screenings of children at the border and he has brought extra medical personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Public Health Service to help in the process. He has also requested $800 million in funding for humanitarian assistance from Congress.
“I’m proud of that record,” McAleenan said at one point.
“We’re working hard to address it,” he added about migrant children deaths.
Once Underwood’s comments left her mouth though, Democrats on the committee immediately followed suit in getting extreme with their language and their accusations. Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) agreed with Underwood about the migrant children deaths being “intentional.” Her reasoning was that the Trump administration has taken actions to limit the number of people allowed to get asylum within the United States.
The congresswoman also went after McAleenan for praising his record when five children have died under his watch.
“That is despicable to say,” she said. “You should not be proud of a record of having five children die under your watch.”
McAleenan fired back that the true responsibility lies with Congress. He said Congress needs to act to put forth laws that allow migrant families to stay together, to more quickly deport migrant children and to open refugee processing centers in Central America.
“Every day Congress does not act puts more lives at risk,” McAleenan said.
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