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Dem rep: 'Evidence is clear' that migrant child deaths are 'intentional'

Dem rep: 'Evidence is clear' that migrant child deaths are 'intentional'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodNew coalition aims to combat growing wave of ransomware attacks Lawmakers call for lowering health care costs to address disparities in pandemic Overnight Health Care: First signs of Thanksgiving wave emerge | FDA says Pfizer vaccine is highly effective, even after first dose | Biden aims for 100 million vaccinations in first hundred days MORE (D-Ill.) said at a Wednesday congressional hearing that she believes deaths of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border are "intentional."

Her comments, made to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan as he testified to the House Homeland Security Committee, come days after the announcement that a Guatemalan teen was the fifth minor to die at the border since December.

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"With five kids that have died ... 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," the freshman Democrat, who is a nurse, told McAleenan.

McAleenan argued that an increase in funds to the agency would have prevented the deaths. He said that the influx of people at the border is draining resources for the agency to be able to adequately respond, which is why he is asking for more money in the fiscal 2020 budget.

"The crisis is exceeding the resources provided,” he said.

"People keep dying and so this is obviously more than a question of resources," Underwood responded. 

McAleenan called Underwood's accusation "appalling."

"Our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day," he said. "We’ve asked for [these] resources three weeks ago ... and we’ve asked for changes in authorities for the last three years that would have prevented this from happening."

Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersOvernight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Top Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the committee, asked for Underwood’s comments to be “taken down,” according to USA Today, saying the congresswoman accused the Department of Homeland Security of committing murder. His request was approved through a 9-7 vote, raising the possibility that Underwood could be punished for her comments, according to the report.

But other Democrats backed Underwood, according to the report, with Rep. Nannette Barragán, (D-Calif.) saying she agreed the deaths were "intentional" due to Trump administration immigration policies.

The tense exchange followed news that a fifth migrant child died from the flu recently after being apprehended by authorities. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has stopped processing new migrants at the border facility tied to the teen's death after identifying an outbreak of flu-like symptoms.

McAleenan, while serving as CBP commissioner, declared in March that the situation at the border had reached a "breaking point" amid a surge of border crossings. He added that authorities were "doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility.”