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Deaths of 2 migrant children at the border trigger debate

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, the likely incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday he will hold hearings on the deaths of two children in Customs and Border Protection custody.

Graham told CNN host Dana Bash he would also be looking at “the policies that entice people to come.”

“One of the mothers of these two children was not seeking asylum, she was just trying to come here to find a job,” he added.

Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, was the second Guatemalan child to die this month while being held by US authorities, sparking outrage from immigration advocates.

The boy’s death followed the death in early December of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, also from Guatemala. She died after being detained along with her father by US border agents in a remote part of New Mexico.

Read more:Jakelin Caal, the 7-year-old who died in DHS custody, isn’t the first immigrant child to pass away after government detainment. Her death shows not much has changed

Graham’s promise comes after top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein last week called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing early next year, saying the committee is “uniquely situated to examine these issues.”

There are currently open investigations into both deaths.

Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that agents did everything they could to get medical help for two children who subsequently died in their custody

McAleenan told host Martha Raddatz it had been a decade since a child had died in the agency’s custody and the loss of two Guatemalan children in three weeks has been “absolutely devastating.”

“Our agents did everything they could, as soon as these children manifested symptoms of illness, to save their lives,” McAleenan said.

After the second death, the CBP said it will conduct secondary medical checks on all children in its custody, with a focus on those under 10.

McAleenan ultimately stayed away from assigning responsibility for the deaths, and instead said the deaths represented “a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution.”

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway called the deaths “tragic” CNN’s “State of the Union,” but objected to the discussion that linked the incidents to policy discussions.

“I don’t like some of these Democrats using these deaths as political pawns,” Conway told host Dana Bash.

Conway went on to criticize Democratic lawmakers and leadership, asking “Where are they?” Conway did not mention Feinstein’s letter to Graham requesting hearings on the matter.

“We haven’t heard from them,” Conway said. “It’s complete crickets.

She added: “Let’s have a bipartisan solution.”

Conway’s comments come a day after Trump tweeted to blame Democrats for the children’s deaths, connecting the gridlock in Congress that has prevented the construction of a border wall.

When asked about a Saturday tweet in which the president said “Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies,” Conway said “the president’s point is an important one.”

Tensions over the Trump administration’s immigration policies reached a fever pitch as the federal government entered a partial shutdown last week over congressional gridlock that failed to secure Trump’s desired $5-billion for a wall along the southern US border.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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