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Fate of Separated Families Unclear After Trump Reversal; Trump's Executive Order on Family Separation Raises More Questions; House to Vote on Two Immigration Bills Today; Interview with Senator Bill Nelson; Interview with Mayor Bill de Blasio; Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 21, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:02] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And the border battle playing out on Capitol Hill right now. The House getting ready to start voting on two immigration bills, the path to passing, either of them now looking ominous. Just moments ago President Trump cast doubt that either has the supported it needs to make it through.
These votes today are crucial and they're crucial for thousands of immigrant children who were separated from their parents crossing the border, and despite the president's executive order reversing his own policy, the fate of those children already being held. Some of whom you see here is not any clearer this morning.
We wish we could show you more of the images inside these shelters where those children are being held, but we can't because the government has restricted access for journalists inside. All we have are these images and video provided by the government.
But our Nick Valencia is outside one of those shelters. He joins me now from Brownsville, Texas.
Nick, what are you hearing this morning?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, we've made repeated requests to the office of refugee resettlement to get inside these facilities. Our question is if the conditions are so good inside, why not allow journalists to see it for themselves? We first started with Southwest Key, which is the nonprofit that owns two of these so-called tender age facilities. They tell us that we needed to talk to the government. The government has not even responded to our repeated requests.
But we are hearing from the U.S. government in a statement, the form of a statement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We should say that this is the third statement from the government in the last 24 hours. Each of the statement seems to contradict the last. Here's part of what that statement said.
"For those children still in Border Patrol custody, we are reuniting them with parents or legal guardians returned to Border Patrol custody following prosecution." They also said in this statement, Poppy, they're taking specific steps or immediate steps, I should say, to reunite families with their children. They're not telling us those specifics. A lot of questions that still need to still be answered -- Poppy.
HARLOW: And Nick -- Nick, just clarify for us. I mean, HHS came out overnight and said basically we don't know yet. We don't exactly what's going to happen here to the kids that are being held, reunited with their parent, how that might happen, if it will happen and when. But Customs and Border Protection said they are working on reunification. But -- so it's just unclear, isn't it?
VALENCIA: It is. And we know that an individual is supposed to only be in U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 72 hour. So that begs the question. What happens to all of those parents that are currently in ICE custody?
I did talk to a Honduran migrant who is connected to me by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was one of those that had their child ripped from him, 3-year-old child. A child who had asked to go to the bathroom, taken away by two immigration officers, and that father has not seen his child since. I did speak to him by phone and he told that he just doesn't know where his child is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If he doesn't want to have us here, then give me back my son and I will go back to my country even if I'm in danger. One comes here for security, for a better life, but if he won't allow us, don't do that to families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: We have questions about how this process -- this unification process is going to happen and clearly so do those that are still in custody -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Nick Valencia, thank you for being there and for the reporting. Stay on it. I know you will.
All right. Next hour, President Trump will meet with his Cabinet amid all of this confusion over what this executive order really does and does not do. Let's go to the White House. Abby Phillip is there for us.
Good morning, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. President Trump has now caved after saying for days that he could do nothing about the family separation policy at the border. And some of that came from pressure from the Republican party and also from his own family. Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump, both reportedly pressuring the president behind the scenes to do something to end this practice. But now the question turns to what happens next. This policy is likely to be challenged in court. And even if it is not, there are some hurdles that need to be faced in terms of implementation. Here's what we know about the policy so far. First of all, it does
not end the White House's zero tolerance policy at the border. People who cross illegally are still going to be charged with crimes but the Trump administration is saying that what they're going to do is try to house prosecuted adults with their families whenever it is appropriate and they're going to try to also expedite these family cases so that these cased can be adjudicated quickly.
But they do seek the indefinite detention of family units so that they can prosecute these cases. These can take quite a long time and there's no indication that there's the capacity to deal with it. The military might be housing some of these immigrant family units, perhaps at military bases. It's something that they have done before in cases like this. But it also doesn't immediately reunite families. And as Nick pointed out, HHS, the Department of Homeland Security giving conflicting messages about how that is going to work exactly.
There are 2300 children who have already been separated from their families at the border. And it is not clear at all how they are going to be reunited, especially if some of those individuals have already been deported or scattered across the country.
[10:05:05] All of this is really a part of a chaotic picture that has come together just in the last 24 to 36 hours. The White House scrambling to put something together. But the pieces are still scattered all over the place in terms of how this is all going to work out. And we will hear more likely from the president on this later today -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Thank you, Abby. At the White House for us this morning.
And we are hours away from these votes being cast on these immigration bills. They would both tackle this issue of children being separated at the border.
Sunlen Serfaty joins us on the Hill. And I should note, look, even if either make it through the House -- the likelihood of them making it through the Senate is really nil.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And that's an important point to make because we will see a lot of movement over in the House, then voting on bills today, but it basically is a legislative dead end. It doesn't have a chance even it gets out of the House to pass in the Senate. That said, the House is pushing towards a vote on two immigration proposals today that also addresses the family separation issue.
One is that more conservative bill, the Goodlatte bill, the other is the more moderate proposal backed by leadership, the one that they've been whipping votes around. They're been busting members over to the White House who are still undecided trying to really essentially lobby to get their support in these waning hours before they vote on that later this afternoon. That said, it does not appear that either one of these House bills have the support to pass.
And tensions up here on Capitol Hill, Poppy, are certainly running high. There was just a remarkable moment last night on the House floor. You had speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and Mark Meadows, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, essentially having it out, you see them on the House floor, really gesturing wildly, and certainly what Meadows described as a passionate discussion over what exactly is in the bill, what made certain elements of the bill, and another big oops moment last night there had to be an emergency meeting of the House Rules Meeting.
It had to do with the drafting error that would have led to $125 million instead of $25 million over five years for a border wall and security. Certainly no small drafting error there. Certainly we'll be most interested to hear what speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, says when he speaks to reporters up here in the next hour. And the big question is, if both of these bills fail, what is the plan B -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Yes. Right. And, you know, he said yesterday, Sunlen, this is plan B. So, you know, what happens then?
Sunlen, thank you, on the Hill for us.
Let's talk more about all of this, what the executive order was that was signed by the president, the legal hurdles that it could face, because the president could have picked up the phone, call the Department of Justice, ended this policy, but instead he issued this executive order.
With me is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Nice to have you here and all of a sudden at the top of many people's list and the vernacular is the Flores settlement. What is it? Why does it matter?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: OK. The Flores settlement is a case that's been really -- it's been litigated in the federal courts for decades. It's a long running saga about immigration. And the short version is that the courts have held with the agreement of the parties that children cannot be held for longer than 20 days.
TOOBIN: And this creates a -- as you can see on the screen, the case started in 1997, but it's evolved through many iterations and last year the court establishes a rule that there could not be children held for 20 days.
This create a problem for the new approach that the president has outlined in this executive order because he now says children and parents have to be held together. So the question arises, what happens after 20 days because the children can't be held anymore after 20 days.
TOOBIN: According to this agreement. But does that mean they're going to separate the parents and children again? That's what created the whole crisis in the first place. HARLOW: Right.
TOOBIN: Alternatively are they going to release the parents as well? The Trump administration certainly doesn't want to do that. So in the executive order there is a directive to the Department of Justice that says try to get this Flores case, this Flores decision changed somehow to allow us to do something else. Again, it's vague. Not clear what they want to do.
HARLOW: And --
TOOBIN: But it's also not clear whether the court will actually change that 20-day rule.
HARLOW: And to get it changed, they'd have to go in front of the same judge that heard this and dealt with the settlement.
I wonder if you could fact check for us what the Republican lawmaker Dave Brat said on this program last hour, what we hear from a lot of folks who are supportive of this practice even though they don't like seeing the separation. They say this is the law, Jeffrey Toobin.
[10:10:03] This is the law. There's nothing we can do. Congress has to change it. This was the law, Jeffrey, under President Bush and President Obama, right?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. I mean, there is absolutely no requirement that children be held separately. I mean, this was a change in the law ordered in April of this year by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. I mean this crisis of unaccompanied children, the 2300 children who are now in limbo, no one knows what's going to happen to them.
TOOBIN: This is a entirely a problem created by the Trump administration. You know, some people talk about this whole crisis as the Katrina of the Trump administration in the way that George W. Bush's administration never really recovered from its response to Hurricane Katrina, but in a way that's really unfair to George W. Bush because George W. Bush didn't create the hurricane. He didn't start the rain. But this crisis has been was created.
TOOBIN: BY the Trump administration.
TOOBIN: These 2300 children didn't have o be locked up. Now they are. Now we have to figure out how or if they're going to be released.
HARLOW: It's a really important point. Very quickly, these immigrants are not guaranteed legal representation, correct, Jeffrey Toobin? TOOBIN: Correct. It's not like when you're arrested in a criminal
case where you have a right to a lawyer, everybody knows the Miranda warnings. That does not apply in the immigration context.
HARLOW: So if they can afford representation or get it through the legal aid societies, there's that, but otherwise nothing.
Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.
TOOBIN: Out of luck, yes.
HARLOW: Still to come, Florida Senator Bill Nelson says there are children -- right now dozens of children in his state without their parents because of the zero tolerance practice. So now that the practice is ended because of the president's executive order, what happens to the kids that are already there? He will join me next.
Also New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says hundreds of migrant children separated from their parents have been sent to facilities here in New York City. He wasn't even made aware of this. Some children as young as 9 months. He toured one yesterday and he will join me to talk about it from the border.
[10:16:20] HARLOW: Welcome back. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson took the floor of the Senate yesterday to call the administration's separation of children from their parents policy, quote, "straight from the pit of hell." Now that the president has put a stop to his own policy, what's going happen to the 2300 plus kids already in these centers, already taken from their parents?
Florida Senator Bill Nelson tried to get in to one in Homestead, Florida, was turned away, and he joins me now.
Thanks for being here.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Good morning, Poppy.
HARLOW: I understand that this facility in Homestead, Florida, holding a thousand people, 94 of them are children. Walk me through what happened when you tried to gain access?
NELSON: All 1,000 are children, 94 of them are the ones that were pulled away from their moms and dads, but in total in Florida there's 174 of the children that were separated from their parents.
Well, I went there. We'd filled out the paperwork. And we were told by a contractor that we could get in. I get on the phone with the deputy secretary of HHS, the ruling agency, and he said, no, we're not going let you in because you have to wait the required two-week period. I said, Mr. Secretary, you and I both know that that is balderdash.
I am the senator from Florida and I have a right of oversight to see that you are treating these children correctly and that you're spending your money wisely, and you're telling me that you're not going to let me in to check on my people in Florida? And he said, oh, you have to wait the required two-year period. So they turned me away.
HARLOW: You know, last hour I had your Republican counterpart in the House, Representative Dave Brad of Virginia, on. And he takes issue with your party and Democrats and says you're not helping, you're obstructing. I want you to listen to what he said on this and respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: They're obstructing every single piece along the way, so all you can conclude is that the Democrats want a talking point --
HARLOW: The issue --
BRAT: -- in November.
HARLOW: So Congressman --
BRAT: They don't want to help the kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: He says you don't want to help the kids. What is your response?
NELSON: That's sad and it's pitiful that this is -- this mindless kind of approach that Republican senators and Republican members will not stand up to the president. You've already seen the intense pressure that caused the president to come out with an executive order that, by the way, doesn't do very much. It didn't address the 2300 children including those 94 in Homestead about reuniting them with their families, and it says we're going to keep going forward, families together, but indefinite detention. That's against the law as it stands now, which is you can't keep a child more than 20 days.
HARLOW: Than 20 days. So on all of this, the compromised bill, the Ryan bill that's going to come up in the House for a vote today. We know it has the president's support. It doesn't look like it has the votes to make it through the House and certainly not through the Senate. but because it addresses DACA and Dreamers, and a path to citizenship for Dreamers, something that you and your fellow Democrats have been pushing hard for, what are you willing to give?
[10:20:03] I mean, could you support that bill? The compromise Ryan Bill if it came to the Senate?
NELSON: Well, obviously I can't tell you if I support something that I don't know what it is, and it changes --
HARLOW: Well, you know the -- (CROSSTALK)
NELSON: No, no.
HARLOW: You know the main points of it.
NELSON: It changes by -- it changes by the minute. They've got two factions over in the House. They are so much in chaos. They don't know what they're doing and you just said it's probably not going to pass. Now you want to know what I want. I want comprehensive immigration reform like I voted for.
HARLOW: I actually want to know, Senator, where --
NELSON: Like six years ago.
HARLOW: Where you're willing to give. For instance, will you --
NELSON: Well, I want DACA.
HARLOW: Will you -- OK. I know that. That's not a give. That's a get. You want that. What will you give? Will you give -- will you vote for any bill, for example, that allocates money towards building a wall?
NELSON: We already agreed to that back six months ago to solve the DACA problem. So if that --
HARLOW: So you will.
NELSON: If that were on the table and the question is how much, that's another issue, if we could solve DACA and we could solve this reunification of families, and don't keep children past 20 days, if we could put all of that and solve the Dreamer issue, yes. As we did before six months ago. We'd give them the wall, but not some outlandish figure.
HARLOW: Well, how much? They want $25 billion.
NELSON: I can't negotiate that with you here on the air. But you asked what I'd give, and that's what I'd give.
HARLOW: You wouldn't give $25 billion.
NELSON: Let's see, Poppy.
HARLOW: Senator Nelson, thank you. And also, please let us know if you do get into that center where those children are being held, OK?
NELSON: I'm trying this weekend.
HARLOW: Thanks, Senator. Nice to have you.
NELSON: Thanks, Poppy.
HARLOW: Overnight, children arriving in New York. Migrant children, a federal source tells us, to be held in a shelter in Harlem. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio toured that facility yesterday, was appalled by what he saw. He joins me next.
[10:26:45] HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And President Trump has signed an executive order to halt the separation of families at the border. But we have new video showing young girls being taken to a shelter facility in New York City. This was shot by our affiliate New York One. A federal source says these girls were separated from their parents at the border, however, the woman escorting the girls says that's not the case.
Also overnight protesters gathered at New York's LaGuardia Airport where planes were rumored to be carrying separated minors that were brought to New York to go to one of these facilities. People on the ground say they saw children being escorted to a van, carrying their belongings in plastic bags.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says at least 239 children are being taken care of at one of those facilities in Harlem. More could be throughout the city. He toured that Harlem center yesterday, was appalled at what he found out, and what he saw, and he joins me now from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: You're very welcome, Poppy.
HARLOW: We'll get in a moment to why you're at the border and what you're hoping to do there today. But just tell me what you saw in this Harlem facility?
DE BLASIO: Poppy, it was shocking. Here's a social service facility in the middle of New York City. We had gotten no notification from the U.S. government that children were being sent there from 2,000 miles away, separated from their parents, sent to some place they didn't know, no connection, too.
I went in there yesterday to inspect the situation. The folks who work there, the social service workers, are trying to help these kids. They told me there were 239 kids right that moment in that center of New York City. No one had any inkling of the scale of this.
And I went to visit a classroom. About 30 or 40 young children from Guatemala, separated from their mothers or parents, trying their best to make sense of this situation. It's appalling. And we have no idea how many kids we're talking about and when they're going see their parents again.
HARLOW: What is the condition -- I mean, just to be clear, are all 239 of those children separated at the border because of this policy?
DE BLASIO: Yes. This was all --
HARLOW: OK. DE BLASIO: All of these kids were taken from their parents because of
this new family separation policy of the Trump administration, and they're all from the southern border. So they were all sent 2,000 miles. There's a young boy, 9-year-old boy from Honduras named Eddie. It was at -- taken from his mom at Eagle Pass, Texas, put on a bus with a federal escort to go 2,000 miles to New York City. Has no idea when he's going to see his mom again.
HARLOW: And their condition?
DE BLASIO: I mean, think of the trauma of what's happening to these kids.
HARLOW: The conditions? I mean, what did you see in terms of their physical well-being, their mental state?
DE BLASIO: The folks who work there were trying their best to help these kids, and I admire -- you know, kids are so strong and resilient. But here's the problem. They're expensing mental and health challenges and trauma because of the separations. There's also physical health challenges. The health workers, they were telling us these kids because they were held in group facilities when they came across the border, some have lice, some have bed bugs, chicken pox, all sorts of contagious situations.
And, you know, just think of the chaos of all this, both what the kids are going through emotionally, mentally, but also, you know, kids who unfortunately contracted some kind of disease.
HARLOW: Yes .
DE BLASIO: That are being sent to where a whole bunch of other kids are.
HARLOW: So --
DE BLASIO: There's no rhyme or reason to it.
HARLOW: So tell me why -- I mean, you traveled from New York down to Texas, down to the border --