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Rep. Joaquin Castro On Death Of 7-Year-Old Migrant Girl


For more on this story, we turn now to Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas. He's chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Congressman, thanks very much for being with us.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: You released a statement last night about this girl's death, essentially blaming the tragedy on the Trump administration's immigration policies. I mean, this is a horrible thing that has happened. But migrants have been in jeopardy and have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for many years, including during the Obama administration.

CASTRO: That is true. But it's the Trump administration that has changed the policy in limiting the ability of asylum-seekers to present themselves at a port of entry for asylum. And so if you follow the story, the family had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. So that's what some of these asylees are doing. They're crossing over because they're not allowed to just go up to the Border Patrol and present themselves at the port of entry. So once they crossed over, then they presented themselves. And then she was taken in. And eight hours later, she died. So by limiting the ability of folks to present themselves at the port of entry, they're basically - the Trump administration is making it more dangerous for these folks.

Also, the administration has a horrible track record when it comes to migration. They had a family separation policy without any way to track the kids or the parents or reunite them. They've had kids in cages. There was a girl named Marie who was a toddler that spent time in detention and then later died. Also, I think it's important to realize that CBP Commissioner McAleenan went in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 11 and didn't say a word about the death of this young girl. These incidents are supposed to be reported to Congress, to the appropriations committee, within 24 hours. And so that's why I say there's a lot of disturbing things that have gone on here with the administration.

MARTIN: As to this case in particular, do you have any more details about what border agents - how they handled this situation, why she wasn't administered with food and water?

CASTRO: We don't. In fact, you know, we don't even know her name. And there does have to be a thorough investigation as to what happened. I think it's true that 163 people, for a small Border Patrol station, is a lot of people to deal with. But you would also think that you can identify somebody who is on the verge of death. And so we've got to figure out whether she made requests for food or for water, for medical attention and if so, whether those requests were answered or not in a timely way.

MARTIN: What are you going to do? As you come in as the new chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, what is your first course of order in terms of trying to reshape the administration's immigration policies?

CASTRO: For the first time in two years, this administration will be held accountable by Congress on behalf of the American people. So I'm asking for an investigation, not just by the inspector general but by the congressional oversight committees in the House of Representatives. So on January 3, we'll get to that.

MARTIN: Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat representing Texas' 20th Congressional District.

Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

CASTRO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FAIT'S "SURRENDER TO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.