WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump has blamed opposition Democrats for the death of two immigrant children in US custody, comments set to heighten tensions as the second week of a government shutdown began over his demands for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
"Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can't. If we had a Wall, they wouldn't even try!" Mr Trump said on Twitter.
His comments came after the separate deaths of two Guatemalan children, aged seven and eight, who crossed the border illegally with relatives who were taken into custody by US Border Patrol.
The tweet hardened Mr Trump's tone after an earlier message on Twitter that said the next move in the eight-day budget standoff over border wall funding belonged to the Democrats.
"I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security," Mr Trump tweeted.
But members of Congress, most of them home for the holidays, kept low profiles, and there were no evident signs of any imminent breakthrough. One Democratic representative, Mr Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, said in a tweet posted by his staff that Mr Trump was "reaching new lows with these ridiculous tweets. His administration is the cause of pain and suffering that is taking place at the border. Nothing that he says will alter this truth".
Others called the Trump tweets "disturbing" and pointed out that US immigration policies have been in place for years without children dying in government custody.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was in Yuma, Arizona, on a trip to witness border operations first hand after saying last week that the US will take "extraordinary" protective measures to deal with a surge of immigrant children in custody.