House

Democrat grills DHS chief over viral image of drowned migrant and child

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) grilled acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during a hearing Thursday over a viral image of a Salvadoran man and his 23-month-old daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande.

Connolly, a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, asked McAleenan during a hearing if he agreed with comments by acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli that the pair died because the father "didn't want to wait."

The Democratic lawmaker noted that the migrant, Oscar Alberto Martinez, had drowned while attempting to rescue his daughter Angie Valeria after she tried to follow him back across the river.

"I think what happened to Oscar and Valeria is a tragedy [and] they deserve better," McAleenan said in response, repeating his call for an overhaul of the asylum application process.

Asked by Connolly whether he would have jumped into a river to save one of his own children, McAleenan responded that he would have.

Connolly also questioned McAleenan on a case in which an 8-month-old Honduran child was separated from his father and spent six months in a facility in Arizona while his father was deported after two months.

McAleenan responded that he did not know all the details of the specific case but said that in such circumstances, it was likely because of another issue relating to the father.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), in his own questioning of McAleenan, asked the Trump official to confirm that the number of border personnel currently needed to work on housing or care are diverting resources from border security, which McAleenan agreed with.

Roy went on to claim that House Democrats "don't give a damn about the migrants coming here and they prefer to use children as political props," prompting Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to warn that committee members "need to be careful about the motives of our members, and that goes to both sides."

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) questioned McAleenan about a secret Facebook group in which border patrol agents joked about migrant deaths and made misogynistic comments about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), asking McAleenan if he himself had belonged to the group.

McAleenan denied that he had and said that while he did not know whether acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan was a member, he did not believe him to be.

McAleenan assured Krishnamoorthi that the Department of Homeland Security was "moving very quickly to hold people responsible for conduct that doesn't meet our standards," adding that an update on the investigation of the group was likely later in the month.

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