Return to Transcripts main page


Separated Families In Limbo After Trump's Reversal; Trump Administration Separated Families To Reunite After Prosecution; Soon: House Takes First Vote On Immigration Bills; Governors Pull Troops Resources From Border Over White House Policy. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 11:00   ET



POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- care, with relatives, and if that's not the case, then they're at some of the centers across the country right now, the centers we've been showing you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Polo. Appreciate the update on that news. Thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. I'll hand it over to my colleague, Kate Bolduan. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. This is a pivotal hour in the immigration showdown. You're going to hear from President Trump just 24 hours after his stunning reversal to end the separation of families at the border. You're going to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan ahead of today's votes on immigration proposals.

Two bills proposing the biggest changes in years to the immigration system. But it is not going to be easy. When is it ever. First and foremost, how many Republicans going to support these? Here's how we got here.

Trump announces a zero-tolerance policy at the border. That leads to children being separated from their parents. That leads to those heartbreaking images of confused and distraught children caught in limbo. All the while the Trump administration said this is a problem, yes, but they can't fix it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only Congress can fix this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fundamentally, we're enforcing the law.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We hope Congress will actually do their parts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): He won't take executive action that's unconstitutional. Congress makes the laws of this country, not the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I can't do it through an executive order.


BOLDUAN: And suddenly that's exactly what he could do and did. The presidential about face with the presidential executive order.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: We don't like to see families separated. At the same time, we don't want people coming into our country illegally. This takes care of the problem. Thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: The problem is nothing we read in the executive order and nothing we've heard from the administration takes care of the problem. What about the more than 2,300 children right now separated from their parents and what about the 1997 judge's decision that restricts children from being held in detention for longer than 20 days? What about it all?

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House for us. Abby, what is the White House saying this confusion now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kate. The answer is basically we're working on it. The White House hastily put together this executive order just in the last 36 hours or so, leaving a lot of details unspecified in the document itself.

The first thing that we know is that the zero-tolerance policy is going to continue, which means that the people crossing the border illegally will be charged with a crime. But what happens next is important.

They're going to be detained together, according to the Department of Homeland Security whenever it's possible, and for the folks who have already been charged, who've already been separated from their kids, here is what the Customs and Border Protection Agency says about that.

"For those children still in Border Patrol custody, we are reuniting them with their parents or legal guardians returned to the Border Patrol custody following prosecution as specified by the order. Families will not be detained together when doing so would pose a risk to the child's welfare."

That last part is more in line with the policy that had been in place with past administrations, but, again, following prosecution, what does that mean, how is that going to take? How long are those 2,300 some children going to continue to be in custody?

Now, President Trump has tweeted this morning about part of this issue, indicating that he opposes the idea of adding more judges to this process. He says, "We shouldn't be hiring judges by the thousands as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the wall, and hiring border agents and ICE, and not letting people into our country."

He's calling it a legal phrase that they are told to say is their password, but he's talking about the asylum process. Many of these immigrants are coming to the United States in order to claim asylum. One of the problems that Congress is currently trying to fix is that there are simply not enough immigration judges to adjudicate these cases quickly which leads to lengthy detention periods. The president seems opposed to that idea -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Is he now opposed to an asylum in general? I mean, that's kind of a question I get out of that tweet as well. Abby, thank you so much.

Joining me right now to try to clear some of this up, Immigration Attorney Raul Reyes. I mean, it's a tall order to try to clear this up. You know, the White House says we are working on it, but what do you take from the executive order? What does it mean?

RAUL REYES, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: OK, what I think is important to know from this order, and it's right here, it's written very broadly. But basically, still, remember, we've talked about this settlement before. All the roads will go back to the settlement.

What this order does, it doesn't end family separations, and in fact, there's nothing in it that prohibits family separations. It just says that it's not going to be their official policy subject to some conditions.

[11:05:03] So, they could still occur. What it does, it asks the attorney general to go to the court, the Flores settlement, and revisit it and asking them to basically set aside those standards for the protection of children in detention.

But why that's a problem is when you go back to the original Flores settlement, what it did was it set things like you can't strip search children in detention. They have to have recreation, be in licensed facilities. The core principle of the Flores settlement was the welfare of the child.

So, now, if you have the government going back to that same judge and asking her to set it aside, the fact that there's a political crisis, the fact that maybe the government is not logistically ready to handle this, there's outside pressure, that really is not a balanced with the best interest of the child in the legal sense.

BOLDUAN: What's likely to happen? Let's say the judge comes back and says, sorry, guys.

REYES: It's very likely that the judge will not for two reasons. Just for what it's worth, this is a judge who is the daughter of Chinese immigrants appointed by President Obama. And when the Obama administration went back to this same judge and they asked to loosen the requirements for detention.

Not only did the judge say, no, she expanded those guidelines to include all immigrant children, not just the unaccompanied children. So, that's one way this will go back to the judge.

The other route is that if Congress passes the law to super seed the Flores settlement, which it can do, and if the president signs it, it still has to go back to that judge to validate it because the federal government, it wasn't a court case that was decided by the Supreme Court or a district court.

It was an agreement entered into by the federal government that still goes back to the judge, and it will be relitigated and subject to her discretion again.

BOLDUAN: I want to get to the confusion now and why folks seemed to say it was much more simple than it seems to be right now. I remember when Lindsey Graham came on the show and he said that President Trump could fix this separating families with one phone call.

What he meant was stop the zero-tolerance policy so not all parents were arrested, and all the families were separated. But because the president has made clear that he wants to keep -- he wants both. He wants to keep the zero-tolerance policy in place and keep families together. Is that why we've entered kind of this new area of confusion?

REYES: Right. Because basically he's going for a position of family separations to one of just family detention, and he's really thrown a wrench into the mix in my view when he is talking about not wanting to add more immigration judges. The system is already overwhelmed.

BOLDUAN: How do you make it work?

REYES: Right. Right now, the average length of time for an immigration case to be resolved is 718 days. For asylum cases, it's over a thousand days. So, we need -- in the whole country, there's only about 300 immigration judges for the entire country. So, we need a bigger pipeline to handle what's going to be due process, claims, all of these things that are ramping up right now. Our system is not equipped to handle.

BOLDUAN: To be clear, a Republican is proposing doubling the number of immigration judges. That's Ted Cruz, but that's only doubling what exist when the president says they are looking for 5,000, 6,000 new judges, which he said. People are calling for right now. Still confusion persists. Raul, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: So, as the House is getting ready to vote today on two competing immigration bills, a reminder that the divisions within the Republican party on this, it runs deep and run all the way to the top.

On the House floor, last night, a rare site, Speaker Paul Ryan arguing with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows in view of the C-SPAN cameras. Meadows downplayed the argument but did tell reporters that the so-called compromised bill that is up for a vote today in his view is not ready for primetime.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill. Sunlen, what do we know right now? What's the state of play with the votes today?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as of this hour, it doesn't seem either bills have the votes to pass here in the House. We will start to see in the next hour procedural votes start to happen on a more conservative measure, the Goodlatte measure, and then that's all pushing toward a final vote later today.

But as of now, those bills do not have the votes to pass, which means a big question for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan when he addresses reporters at this hour. What is the plan b essentially? He said yesterday this is the Plan B.

So, what is Plan C, would be the next logical question. Many members are pushing for a standalone measure that would specifically address the family separation issue to that would be the question to the House speaker if indeed both of these bills later today plan to pass, would he will be in support of bringing a standalone measure to the floor. When and if they vote later, that will happen later this afternoon -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Stand by to stand by, Sunlen. Thank you so much. Joining me right now on the state of play as Sunlen perfectly laid out, number two Democrat in the House, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer. Congressman, thank you for coming in.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Sure thing, Kate. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. First off, do you applaud the president signing this executive order?

HOYER: I don't applaud the president. He created a crisis. He said he solved the crisis. He has not.

[11:10:04] As was pointed out by previous people including yourself, he did not solve the problem. He can change it tomorrow. And Very frankly the solution that he suggests we are not going to wrench children from the arms of their parents.

We're going to incarcerate children with their parents. That's not a humane -- that's not an American decency as John McCain pointed out, nor is it a moral policy as Laura Bush said.

The fact is he has not solved the problem. In fact, he makes it more complex, more confusing for the public, and his actions, I think, are going to perplex his party as well as the American people.

BOLDUAN: Any long-term fix, of course, would come from Congress. Two Republican bills on the floor, Sunlen laid kind of the state of play, which is it's not looking good, but does this crisis that is playing out get you any closer to supporting the compromised measure?

HOYER: Look. You have some 47 Republicans with 193 Democrats, meaning you have 240 or more people in the house of representatives that already has agreed upon a compromise. The problem is --

BOLDUAN: You're talking about the discharge.

HOYER: Well, the discharge, but I'm talking about the rule itself that provides for consideration of four options, one of which gives the speaker the right to put any option he wants on the floor. One of which is the Goodlatte bill that we will be putting on the floor this afternoon.

Two others, one supported in a bipartisan way to just protect DREAMers and another to address border security on other matters, which is known as Hurd-Aguilar bill. The Hurd-Aguilar bill in my opinion has over 240 votes. The speaker has refused to put it on the floor.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, the speaker says the president won't sign any of those so --

HOYER: I don't care -- very frankly --

BOLDUAN: Isn't it important to find a compromise that the president will sign when we're facing a crisis?

HOYER: The criteria is not for doing what a president who on my opinion unfettered by principle, but the criteria ought to be is this the right thing to do. The 240 members of the House of Representatives believe it is. Let us pass. Let us send it to the senate. Let the Senate deal with it.

In my opinion, it will have 60 votes in the United States Senate, and then send it to the president. I don't think the criteria ought to be for the separate and equal branch of government to say we won't act if the president doesn't allow us to. That is not a good policy, particularly with a president whose views change on almost minute by minute basis.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, do you think that if these votes failed it today because there isn't enough Republican support to push them through, and Democrats aren't going to be supporting it. Do you think -- do you have any confidence that a standalone measure will see the light of day in terms of separation of families?

HOYER: I don't know that. Certainly, I think almost every Democrat would want to support a stand Iowa loan measure which deals with making sure that children aren't wrenched out of the arms of their parents and traumatized in the process. I think I would be surprised if you don't put a bill on the floor like that. As a matter of fact, Jerry Nadler, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has a bill like that and we support it.

BOLDUAN: Explain to me, Congressman, though, and my viewers why Democrats don't have a responsibility right now to step up when we've seen these images, we hear these crying children at the border. You say the president is not fixing with the executive order. Why Democrats don't have a responsibility to step up, pick up the phone, and work out a compromise, which means give and take with Republicans and get this done? HOYER: We have a compromise on the DREAMer bill. We could affect a compromise on the children's bill. We're opposed to that. The country is opposed to that. Laura Bush, John McCain, say, it's an immoral and disdainful policy.

It can be solved as Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina says, by one phone call from the president. He has refused to get that phone call. I don't know what's compromising about we don't want children rip out of the arms of their parents. We think it's wrong.

We think it's not consistent with American values. We have a duty, yes, to compromise. We have compromised. We have a bill that is supportive as I said by over 40 Republicans and all Democrats, that's a compromise.

And it will pass the House. So, we've done that. To simply say, oh, well, the speaker doesn't like it, the majority of the House likes it --

BOLDUAN: Congressman, can I also -- can I play something for you something because when the president came to the Capitol on Tuesday to meet with Republicans, something really struck me this moment when he was in the Capitol. Watch this.


[11:15:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quit separating the kids. Mr. President, don't you have kids?


BOLDUAN: That's Democratic members of Congress protesting the president of the United States yelling at him as you heard there as he is entering the Capitol as a guest of other members of the chamber. Are you comfortable with that?

HOYER: I think that's -- it's not appropriate. But having said that, there are very strong feelings, and nobody engenders stronger feelings and says worse things or acts in a more confrontational manner than the president of the United States. That does not, however, justify us following suit.

However, you say he came to the Capitol. He came to talk about the policies that we're considering today and one of the things he did was go after Senator Sanford and berate him for losing the election.

His own Congress booed him in that process, so he came here in a confrontational mode. That's not unusual. He's always in a confrontational mode.

BOLDUAN: But behind closed doors is very different than something that's out. I know, but behind closed doors is something very different than out in full view of the public. I remember you telling I think it was WTOP after Joe Wilson and the infamous you lie to President Obama, you called it shameful.

HOYER: It was.

BOLDUAN: Is this the same?

HOYER: Kate, I've already said I think that was not appropriate and some other venue ought to be chosen to make those points. So, I'm in agreement with you. But having said that, the president has said on television in a meeting with Durbin and myself and 23 other members of the Congress, the United States Senate and the House, has said, look, we need to do the proper process of solving the DACA/DREAMers issue.

You pass a bill, I will sign it. He has done anything but that. Every time the Senate, for instance, try to get a compromised, 54 members of the Senate have voted for it. I'm convinced 60 would have voted for it except the president said I'll veto it. That's not what he said on television where the American people seeing his chest and say, I'll take the heat for some in this issue.

BOLDUAN: These are critical days. Let's see what happens now. Congressman, thanks for coming in. Always appreciate it.

HOYER: Kate, let me just say, what should happen is I think these two bills are hopefully going to be defeated. We ought to go to the options that the majority of members of the Congress think ought to be put on the floor. Let democracy work.

BOLDUAN: Let's -- House Speaker Paul Ryan holding his weekly press conference today. Let's see if he gets those questions and see what happens. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.

HOYER: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, a number of U.S. governors are taking action to protest the separation of families at the border pulling back state resources to make the point. Has the president's executive order changed that? We're going to ask Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Plus, this just in, more than a dozen cases suddenly dropped in a Texas immigration port involving immigrant parents who have been separated from their children. Details on that ahead.



BOLDUAN: While the president was dug in and Congress was still debating what to do, it was some of the nation's governors who were actually taking action. Democratic and Republican governors announcing they were pulling National Guard troops from the border or canceling deployments in response to the Trump administration's zero- tolerance policy separating families at the border.

Now with the president's policy reversal on separating families, what do they do? Well, it's not enough for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This executive order, I don't think, does anything of legal significance. I think it's more of a press release than a legal document.


BOLDUAN: Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper, he signed an executive order on Monday, limiting the use of state resources to separate children from parents or legal guardians on the sole ground of immigration status. And Governor Hickenlooper is joining me right now. Governor, thanks for coming in.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: You bet. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: So, does the president's executive order change anything for you?

HICKENLOOPER: No, I don't think so. I think the problem was they made a decision for this program -- to enforce the program called zero tolerance. There were amazing unexpected negative consequences, right, unintended consequences. It is a form of child abuse, right? It almost looks like police state down there.

BOLDUAN: You think it is?

HICKENLOOPER: Yes, absolutely. I was with the former head of our School of Medicine, at the University in Colorado, who spent 40 years as a pediatrician. He said this is child abuse, there's no question about it. So, the president's executive order doesn't do anything to get rid of that zero tolerance. We haven't moved anywhere.

BOLDUAN: Before you signed your executive order, what state resources were being used to separate immigrant families in your state?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, we hadn't had any -- well, none that I know of had -- no dollars that I was aware of have ever been used in Colorado to separate families from children based on any kind of immigration unless if somehow, we perceived there was a legal issue that the child was at risk.

But what the executive order really was focusing on is making sure that we weren't going to have our assets, employees, resources, used in some further place, distant place to make sure that, again, the children would not be removed from families. We wanted to make sure that didn't happen.

BOLDUAN: Preventing any of those children from being sent to Colorado, is that what you're saying?

[11:25:02] HICKENLOOPER: No. We just didn't want -- there's a question of -- we hadn't had a specific request, but we'd had a couple of nonspecific requests for our National Guard to come down. That's fine.

As long as we're doing homeland security or homeland defense, civil support, even training, international partnerships, those are all appropriate uses of National Guard assets. But to go down and be part of this kind of circus, I mean, watching children being separated forcibly from their families, it's inconceivable that this is happening in America.

BOLDUAN: But, Governor, you're not blaming the Guard troops that are down there or Customs and Border Patrol agents who are down there, who are following orders?

HICKENLOOPER: No, I'm not casting anywhere -- I'm not trying to blame anyone. What I'm trying to say is we want to be part of a solution, not part of expanding a problem.

BOLDUAN: You're not afraid to work across the aisle. You and Governor Kasich are chummy chum. What do you say to Democrats in Congress who are facing a vote right, something of a compromise bill that would fix the separation issue as well as offer a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in exchange for limits on legal immigration, and funding for the border wall. What should they do?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think Minority Whip Hoyer said it best. I mean, first, they should look at the specific, what is the compromise that gets this separation of children from their families, resolves that immediately and looks at how do we reconnect those kids, 2,300 kids that have been forcibly separated from their families, how do we get them back together with their families.

BOLDUAN: That's not clear.

HICKENLOOPER: Right. That's unclear. I think there's probably a compromise in there somewhere. I think that Democrats -- I mean, Democrats I've talked is happy to work towards the appropriate compromise of resolving an issue. It has to be a fair compromise and have a sense of urgency that's going to address this family situation on the border immediately.

BOLDUAN: I wonder if the urgency is now gone as maybe some of the fallout from the president doing the executive order yesterday. On broader politics, though, Governor, do you think they've found a consistent winning message for the midterms this fall?

HICKENLOOPER: I see a lot of things. You know, getting rid of pre- existing conditions in terms of our health care, exposing -- you know, some people say up to 120 million people if they switch jobs could lose their health care, there are a lot of big issues.

This specific issue of, again, state sponsored child abuse in this country at our southern border, we should fix this one way or the other. I don't care whether it's politically advantageous or not. This is something we should not as a country tolerate or accept.

BOLDUAN: Should Democrats run for the midterms on a promise to impeach the president?

HICKENLOOPER: You know, I'm not going to -- each -- each congressional race, each Senate race is going to have their own dynamics. It's not my job to tell what works and what doesn't. I do think that Democrats and we're beginning to see this in the primaries, we are the ones coming up with solutions and real -- you know, I think --

BOLDUAN: So, anti-Trump fervor is not enough.

HICKENLOOPER: Yes. I think Colorado Democrats and I think we are, you know, similar to all Democrats across the country, we feel that there's got to be solutions. We can't just criticize. We've got to come forward with viable solutions to get us out of this -- this, you know, zero-sum game, right. This country has got to come together in some ways and make sure we resolve these difficult issues.

BOLDUAN: Governor Hickenlooper, thanks for coming in. Really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, we're going hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan very soon. There is an empty lectern. That means he hasn't started yet. The House is preparing to vote on what could be a more permanent fix to the crisis at the border. Are the votes there though? Paul Ryan will answer that.