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Separated Families Desperate to Reconnect; Migrant Kids Allege Abuse; Turkey's Erdogan Faces Crucial Election; 2018 World Cup. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2018 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Confusion at the top. After calling on Congress to pass an immigration law, Donald Trump now tells lawmakers, don't waste your time.

A crucial weekend begins in Turkey. After more than 15 years in power, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces possibly one of his hardest and most uncertain reelection battles.

And a World Cup first: Argentina's superstar Lionel Messi once again not living up to his legend on the global stage. Can he turn things around?

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. Great to have you with us.

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VANIER: Chaos, confusion and hope: three words that summarize immigration in the United States right now. More than 2,000 children are still separated from their families and in legal limbo, even after President Trump signed his executive order to end family separations.

There's confusion over just how those families will be reunited. Many parents don't even know where their children are or how to contact them. Still they hang onto the hope that one day soon they will be together again.

The Trump administration says some 500 families have been reunited. At the same time, the president is trying to change the focus from families separated at the border to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Here's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump appeared to make light of children separated from their parents at the border, turning his attention to families who say their relatives were killed by undocumented immigrants, calling them permanently separated. TRUMP: These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. The word permanently being the word that you have to think about, permanently.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president then took a swipe at undocumented immigrants, suggesting they commit more crime than native born Americans, despite studies that show that is not true.

TRUMP: The answer is it's not true. You hear it's like they're better people than what we have than our citizens, it's not true.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The mayor of El Paso, a border city, begs to differ.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: El Paso is the safest city in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no issues on the criminal side.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Two days after the president seemed to reverse course and announced he was halting the practice of separating migrant children from their parents...

TRUMP: We're going to have a lot of happy people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- the White House briefing room sat empty. For the second straight day, there were no officials to explain how the children will be reunited with their families.

But there were plenty of reminders the issue isn't going away. Protesters played audio of separated children outside the home of the Homeland Security secretary...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-three hundred babies and kids. I think the American people need to hear this.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- as did Congressman Ted Lieu up on Capitol Hill.

As some of the children were returned to their mothers, lawmakers who have visited the detention facilities talked about the kids who are still locked up, in cages the administration is hiding from the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we saw was a lot of kids in cages. We weren't allowed to talk to them. But the real issue here is these kids are removed from their parents, so they're bewildered and they're scared.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Attorney general Jeff Sessions even tried to cover up his own comments, telling Christian broadcasting that the administration didn't intend to split up migrant families...

JEFF SESSIONS (R), U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It hasn't been good. And the American people don't like the idea that we're separating families. We never really intended to do that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- even though he warned of that last month.

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SESSIONS: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you, as required by law.

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ACOSTA (voice-over): Over on FOX News, one host said the kids coming over the border just aren't American enough.

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BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: Like it or not, these aren't our kids. Show them compassion, but it is not like he is doing this to the people of Idaho or Texas.

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ACOSTA (voice-over): No surprise the president is now abandoning efforts to pass immigration reform, tweeting, "Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after the November elections."

That's after he tweeted earlier this week, "Change the laws, get it done."

TRUMP: We're also wanting to go through Congress. We will be going through Congress. We're working on a much more comprehensive bill.

ACOSTA: Still the question remains whether the administration really has a plan to return all the children who were separated back to their families. As one top GOP congressional aide put it to me, quote, "I'm not sure what the plan is." -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: President Trump's zero tolerance policy was not the first to separate migrant children from their families. Thousands of migrant kids were already in the federal system when Mr. Trump's hardline policy began in May.

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VANIER: And that actually forced the separation of an extra 2,300 migrant children from their parents.

The U.S. government estimates it now holds nearly 12,000 immigrant minors. Those children are often moved without notice among more than 100 youth detention centers across 17 states.

These facilities are contracted with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, the ORR, which is responsible for the children's whereabouts and welfare.

Disturbing allegations of abuse have been filtering out of some of those detention facilities for years. They including unsanitary conditions, invasive monitoring of phone and mail, un-air conditioned rooms in summer and forcibly giving the children powerful mood- altering drugs, often described as just "vitamins."

One civil rights attorney says the conditions these children must endure are appalling.

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NEHA DESAI, NATIONAL CENTER FOR YOUTH LAW: The care they receive is shocking. What we have witnessed shocked my conscience and I have to repeatedly remind myself that this is actually happening in our country.

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VANIER: All right. With us from San Francisco is a colleague of the woman you just heard, Jesse Hahnel. He is executive director of the National Center for Youth Law. It was one of the civil rights organizations behind the so-called Flores agreement. You've heard of that in the last few days.

That agreement intervening in 1997, which dictates how children are to be treated in the federal system. The reason you heard of it is, famously, it says children can't be locked up or detained for more than 20 days.

Thanks for joining us. What --

JESSE HAHNEL, NATIONAL CENTER FOR YOUTH LAW: Happy to be here.

VANIER: Where are we in this legal process right now?

I understand there is a lawsuit underway.

HAHNEL: Absolutely. So the Flores settlement has been in effect since 1997 and the government has agreed to abide by certain provisions, both related to the conditions that detained immigrants should be protected and also when they should be released.

We've spent the last year going to these detention facilities all around the country, conducted hundreds of interviews. And what we found is appalling and horrific. And so, back in April, we filed a rather extensive motion to enforce, demanding that the government follow the Flores settlement.

VANIER: When you say you found appalling, horrific conditions, can you tell us a little bit more?

I set out the bare bones, the outline a minute ago.

HAHNEL: Sure. Everything from children being forcibly medicated, held down on the floor and injected with drugs against their will without parental consent, to youths being strapped naked to chairs, with bags over their head for days on end.

These are not trivial things. These are systemic violations of the basic human rights of children in our country.

VANIER: But your organization acts as a government watchdog on this, essentially. So you have the power, as you said, to go in and check how they are being treated and then hold those centers to account.

So when you talk to them and you point this out, what have they said to you?

HAHNEL: They deny that it's happening or deny that it's a problem. They --

VANIER: How can they deny it's a problem?

HAHNEL: They simply say that these things are not violation to the Flores settlement. I can't comment on this litigation because it is pending. But the most recent thing that the administration has done pursuant to the executive order is ask to be exempt from provisions that prevent the administration from indefinitely detaining children.

VANIER: Right. The administration is trying to essentially break up the Flores ruling, correct?

HAHNEL: That is correct.

VANIER: And with a view to keeping children for more than 20 days.

HAHNEL: Children should not be raise by an institution. They should be released immediately to their families or loved ones or caregivers. Research has shown over and over again that children don't do well and suffer incredible trauma when they are detained.

The Flores settlement does allow the government to detain children and families if certain conditions are met. These are basic minimum conditions upon the type of facilities in which these children are warehoused. And the government is asking to be exempted from those basic minimum conditions.

VANIER: But as far as the treatment of the children, I mean, you say you can't comment on the lawsuit.

But essentially is the government saying this is OK?

We are allowed to keep them on a chair for 2.5 days, as has been alleged?

Or as we are allowed to keep a paper bag over their heads or we're allowed to give them injections that they don't want?

HAHNEL: I am not going to speak for the government.

VANIER: OK. On the other side of this lawsuit, it's the --

[02:10:00] VANIER: -- government, though, right?

It's not just independent centers?

HAHNEL: That's right. The government has filed their own defense, in which they're saying that denying some of these allegations, as Mr. Trump has done, saying they're fabricated, and in other times saying they don't fall into the Flores settlement. And I should be clear, these children are protected, not just by the Flores settlement but also by the U.S. Constitution.

VANIER: Jesse Hahnel, thank you very much. It has been very interesting speaking to you. We will continue this story and it'll be interesting to see what the litigation amounts to. Thank you, Jesse.

HAHNEL: My pleasure.

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VANIER: Now to an exclusive look inside another shelter for unaccompanied immigrant minors, this one in Virginia. Some of the children at this facility were separated from their parents due to President Trump's zero tolerance policy. Our Brian Todd reports.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is typically three boys to a room?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, maybe two.

TODD (voice-over): A clean, modest and comfortable room for three immigrant boys who've had a harrowing journey; 46 boys live in this 18-bedroom house. Many have to be taught some of the most basic life skills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do it all. They learn how to wash clothes, do their laundry.

TODD (voice-over): This is part of a 200-plus acre campus operated by a non-profit called Youth for Tomorrow. It's in Bristow, Virginia, about 30 miles outside Washington. It was founded by former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs in 1986 and one of its primary roles is to house unaccompanied immigrant minors.

Today, it's also sheltering children separated from their parents at the border because of President Trump's zero tolerance policy. Many arrive here in an extremely fragile emotional state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been physically beaten. Many of the girls have been sex trafficked and sexually abused, sexually exploited. Many the boys have been threatened with their lives if they don't sell drugs.

TODD (voice-over): CNN got exclusive access inside the facility. But due to federal law, we were not allowed to film any children or even to talk to them off camera. Officials here say that if images of these children are shown to the public, they could be targeted by gangs or human traffickers.

Most of the more than 100 immigrant children here are between 10 and 17 years old. All of them are unaccompanied. But there are also some infants who are housed here with their mothers. Some of those babies were even born here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a crib for the baby and the mommy and if two girls, two teen girls came, then they would be able to share a room. But when a mommy and me comes, we just give them a room for just the two of them.

TODD (voice-over): CNN has reported extensively in recent days on abuses, neglect and poor conditions in detention facilities faced by many immigrant children in the current wave of migration. Officials at this group home want to show another side of that story, a place that takes pride in caring for the most vulnerable and traumatized of the recent immigrants.

Virginia senator Tim Kaine was coming out of the facility as we entered.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VA: This a high-quality program. These are all girls' homes for domestic and immigrant children.

TODD (voice-over): There are 10 spacious houses on the complex. They have a library here, well-appointed classrooms, a soccer field and a gym. The immigrant children are housed and schooled here but are kept completely separate from American children.

The American children here are troubled. Many have criminal backgrounds and behavioral problems. The work here for staff members is challenging, tough and emotionally exhausting, all channeled toward one goal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our goal with every immigrant child who comes here is to reunite them with family in America. So we are parents to those children until they are reunited with someone in the family.

TODD: Some advocates for those children and some political leaders have said in recent days that it will be extremely difficult to reunite separated children with their families. And some have said that some of the children will never be reunited.

But officials here say they have a 99 percent success rate in reuniting the immigrant children here with some members of their families in the United States -- Brian Todd, CNN, Bristow, Virginia.

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VANIER: After the break, Turkish voters preparing for a crucial election. We'll tell you what's at stake as they choose a president. Stay with us.

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VANIER: The U.N. Human Rights office says the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela. A new report has found that government security forces killed more than 500 people since 2015.

The killings were carried out under the guise of a crime-fighting operation. According to that report at least 46 were killed during the 2017 anti-government demonstrations. More than 300 officers were reportedly under investigation but the agency in charge of those investigations is also allegedly responsible for most of the killings.

The U.S. is making good on a promise President Trump made at the summit with North Korea to hold off on military exercises with South Korea. The Pentagon just announced it's indefinitely suspending some of them.

They include computer simulated drills and training exercises with Marines from both countries. The Pentagon says additional suspensions depend on North Korea having productive negotiations.

And also we learned a short time ago that the founder of South Korea's spy agency has died. Former South Korean prime minister Kim Jong-pil died at the age of 92. He served twice as prime minister, most recently from 1998-2000, in addition to starting South Korea's central intelligence agency.

Turkey is preparing for Sunday's landmark elections. Those elections could decide who will usher a new system of government which gives the president sweeping new powers. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hoping to be re-elected but, as Jomana Karadsheh reports, it is not a surefire win.

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JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's election season and the race is heating up. The June 24th election is different to previous ones. For the first time, voters will choose their president and parliament at the same time.

And it's a critical vote. It could either mean an end to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's presidency if he loses. Or if reelected, he'll have new sweeping power, like the ability to issue decrees to hire and fire officials in key positions.

And the office of the prime minister will be eliminated under this new system, this executive presidency. While President Erdogan is leading the polls, a win is not guaranteed. If no one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face off in a second round two weeks later.

So who are President Erdogan's main rivals?

His top challenger is Muharrem Ince, the candidate for the main opposition center left republican people's party, the CHP. While best known for his fiery speeches, his campaign effort has also been colorful, singing traditional songs and dancing at rallies.

Former interior minister and veteran center nationalist right politician Meral Aksener is the only woman running for president.

And the candidate for the pro-Kurdish leftist party, the HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, imprisoned on terror charges for alleged links to the Kurdish militant group, the PKK, is running from his prison cell.

Turkey's Kurdish issue, the war on Syria and terrorism are some of the key issues this election. But one thing seems to be on the mind of most voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think the economy is finished. For example, we are now selling the Turkish bagel for 1.5 lira instead of one because the prices for --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): -- water, flour and electricity have increased significantly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The prices are very different. When you go to the market, you see the difference. I hope the economy will be fixed, especially after the elections. We want the prices to go down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Turkish lira is losing its value compared to the dollar and euro, which is having a huge impact on our economy, either salaries or in lira. But the rent, everything we eat and drink and wear is based on those currencies.

KARADSHEH: People say they are really feeling the impact of Turkey's economic troubles with rising inflation and the Turkish lira hitting record lows in recent months.

The economy, once President Erdogan's main strength, could prove to be his weakness this time around. There are concerns about how fair and free these elections will be. The country is still under a state of emergency since that failed coup attempt back in 2016.

With the media crackdown that followed, much of the airwaves and newspapers are under the control of President Erdogan' ruling party. But one thing is for certain: the candidates are not just names on the ballot paper. They're genuine competitors in what is expected to be a tight race and an election that could seriously change Turkey's direction -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.

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VANIER: Coming up, don't cry for Messi, Argentina. Argentine fans have arguably the best player in the world. Unfortunately, the World Cup just doesn't seem to be his thing.

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VANIER: So we have seen upset after upset at this year's World Cup in Russia. But Friday almost stood out to be normal. In St. Petersburg, powerhouse Brazil got a 2-0 win versus Costa Rica.

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VANIER (voice-over): Granted, it came in the final minutes of the game, (INAUDIBLE) scoring the first goal -- there it is.

Superstar Neymar followed it up with his first goal. Let's take a look and there it is. That was in the 97th minute, would you believe it, of the game. The victory for Brazil means elimination for the Costa Ricans, bye-bye, Costa Rica.

Also in group D (ph), the Swiss took on Serbia in Kaliningrad. Serbia took an early lead with its goal but the Swiss weren't done. They responded with two goals of their own. Here with the game-winning shot in the 90th minute, the Swiss squad and fans are in ecstasy. Both teams, Switzerland and Serbia, are in good standing heading to the final group game.

Finally Nigeria faced World Cup newcomer Iceland in group D. The Super Eagles got the win, 2-0. (INAUDIBLE).

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VANIER: After their win, Nigeria are set to face Argentina on Tuesday. This as Argentine fans struggle to come to terms with their 3-0 loss to Croatia. CNN's Don Riddell has this look at their anguish.

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DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An Argentina fan, crying in shock after her team was crushed by Croatia on Thursday. The 2014 runners-up were expected to do well because of star Lionel Messi. But in this World Cup, he hasn't been able to deliver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Messi, he keeps winning for Barcelona. He continues to deliver triumph after triumph for Barcelona.

[02:25:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He's given us nothing but defeats and sadness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We lost very badly. The truth is that they really humiliated us this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so sad. I really believed in Argentina. All the world know that Messi is the best player in the world. But today is a very sad day for all football world.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Coach Jorge Sampaoli, who also has been heavily criticized by the Argentine press, says it's not fair that so much pressure is being put on his star player.

JORGE SAMPAOLI, ARGENTINA FOOTBALL COACH (through translator): If you score in an Argentina jersey, you'll take credit for it. And when Argentina lose, it's all layers (ph) fault. I think that's quite an unfair treatment. This is a lot of pressure for a single player to bear.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Social media has been having a field day with the loss. Check out this meme.

"Don't cry for Lionel Messi and Argentina," a reference to this.

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RIDDELL (voice-over): And then there are the comparisons between Messi and Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored four goals in the tournament so far. Argentina fans have even been reaching out to a higher power, the pope, asking him to make Messi like Ronaldo.

Argentina now face a must-win game against Nigeria on Tuesday. Their hopes of reaching the last 16 hanging by a thread. And in the end, Messi is hoping he doesn't have to say this to his legion of fans.

(VIDEO CLIP, "EVITA")

RIDDELL (voice-over): Don Riddell, CNN.

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VANIER: The Beatles' classic song, "Let It Be," needs no introduction. It's an all-time classic. That's why we were watching when its author, Paul McCartney, explained the story behind the ballad to the host of "The Late, Late Show," James Cordon. They were on Cordon's video series "Carpool Karaoke."

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PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN AND ACTIVIST: I had a dream in the '60s, where my mom, who had died, came to me in the dream and was reassuring me, saying, it's going to be OK, just let it be. I went, oh, I felt so sort of great and like, boy, it's going to be great, you know?

She gave me the positive word. So I woke up and I went, what was that?

What did she say?

Let it be.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: McCartney and Cordon drove around the musician's hometown of Liverpool together, exploring some of The Beatles' famous haunts, even the house where he grew up and, of course, they sang.

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VANIER: If you like what you see, check out James Cordon's Twitter. It's @LateLateShow.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.