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Dad Allowed U.S. Entry to Take Daughter Off Life Support; Owner of British Ship Confirms Iran Seizure, Can't Contact Crew; New Details on House Democratic Strategy to Press Mueller; Nadler Points Out Inconsistent Testimony of Hope Hicks. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:00] MANUEL GAMEZ, TEEN'S FATHER (through translator): This is the hardest thing for a man. To know that the most important thing in his life is gone.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Manuel Gamez is living a nightmare, watching his life unravel. He's on his last walk to say goodbye to his 13-year-old daughter, who's been on life support since she attempted to take her own life in early July.

And the pain of knowing his attempts to cross the border failed to make it in time, is too much to bear.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Manuel says he was in a detention facility in Texas when he got the news that his daughter had tried to commit suicide by hanging herself.

GAMEZ (through translator): I promised her that we would be together. I think she lost faith.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Gamez was given an ankle monitor and a two- week humanitarian parole so he could see his daughter one last time.

(on camera): Why do you think your daughter did this?


LAVANDERA: He says she lost hope that they were going to be reunited.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): This family story captures the often- excruciating reality of desperate families separated by a border.

In 2014, Manuel Gamez was an undocumented immigrant who had spent seven years living on Long Island, New York, working as a mechanic. His father was taking care of his daughter in Honduras.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Manuel says that his father was killed by M.S.- 13 gang members, in 2014, for not paying extortion bribes. And that after that, he decided to send his daughter here, to the United States, to live with family members in New York. And that she was granted asylum.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Gamez thought if his daughter had been granted asylum, he would as well. But he was denied.

After that, he crossed the border illegally twice, hoping to reunite with his daughter who was now thriving, learning English and dreaming of a career in medicine while living with his sisters.

But Heydi would often break down in tears because she missed her father.

Jessica and Zoila Gamez Garcia are Heydi's aunts. Zoila was the one who discovered her after she attempted to take her own life.

Earlier that night, Heydi was distraught over learning her father was once again caught by Border Patrol and was being held in an immigration detention center.

ZOILA GAMEZ GARCIA (through translator): She often cried when we would tell her that her father couldn't come. She would cry and lock herself in her room. And when she didn't feel like talking, she would tell me, "I don't want to talk." I would say, "That's OK," and I would give her space.

JESSICA GAMEZ GARCIA (through translator): I feel I didn't know how to take good care of her. I feel like I failed her. I don't know what it was. I don't know why. I don't know why I didn't know how to protect her.

LAVANDERA (on camera): (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) What are you going to tell your daughter, there at the end?


LAVANDERA: He says he's going to ask her to forgive him and that -- for failing her.


LAVANDERA: He says that it was never his intention to leave her alone.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Manuel Gamez was by his daughter's side when she was taken off life support. As he stood by her the day before, he caressed his daughter's hands and face and whispered, "We love you. Don't leave us."

And now, Manuel Gamez prepares to be deported.

(on camera): Manuel Gamez must turn himself in to immigration authorities again by July 27th, a little more than a week away. His lawyer tells us they will try to file some sort of legal motions that would grant him a reprieve. But because he's entered the country twice illegally, that becomes a much more difficult fight.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, New York.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Gamez plans to bury his daughter next Tuesday, before he returns to ICE attention. Because of his asylum status, there's a chance he may never be able to visit her grave.

I want to bring in Maria. She's an anchor and correspondent for CNN Espanol.

Maria, this family's struggle really hits home the dysfunction of the current system.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN ESPANOL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And there's so many stories like this one. I cover immigration on a daily basis. I hear stories like this of people suffering because of the separation, of being away from their kids, being away from their families.

But I think one of the things many of us can agree on with President Trump is the system is severely broken and Congress needs to get its act together and fix these laws.

Because the effects for children especially, when they flee these conditions, they're separated from their parents, they can be catastrophic. This is according to the American Pediatric Association. They say the long-lasting effects of this for kids can lead to things like depression, anxiety, addiction.

And I'm sure for this little girl being away from her dad, not feeling the protection of her parents, must have really, really been weighing on her. And now we also have to deal with the effects it's going to have on this dad for the rest of his life, knowing that he wasn't there for his children, as a parent. I mean, as a decent human being, you have to feel for that.

[14:35:15] CABRERA: Oh, my gosh. It's heartbreaking, Maria.

Critics of undocumented immigrants often say, well, they should do it the legal way. And it's easier said than done as we know.


CABRERA: Having covered these stories, I mean, in this father's case, he tried. He was denied asylum, even though his daughter had been granted asylum.

What is the process for someone like him to try to stay in the U.S. legally? And how long did it take?

SANTANA: Here's one of the popular myths about how immigration works. A lot of people say there's some line somewhere that all you have to do is get in that line and wait and you can do it the right way, the legal way.

According to the State Department, that imaginary line right now is about five million people long, just of people are waiting to get into the country. You have to add to that the cost of trying to obtain a permanent visa. According to the State Department, that could be anywhere from $200 to $700, minus legal fees.

For someone who's been denied asylum, you can try to appeal. You have several options to appeal that. But again, legal fees, and being in this -- you're allowed to stay here or in another country. Also be the cost of being in a foreign country.

If you can imagine for people who are the most vulnerable to poverty, to violence in their own countries, it becomes unbearable to sit there and wait. Someone in Mexico, for example, who tries to obtain a permanent visa, that could be a decade's-long wait. Over 20 years right now.

If this isn't about going to another country to get a better job, but about survival, your survival, the survival of your children, are you going to wait 24 years for that to happen? For many people, it becomes there's just no choice. This is the way you can at least try to have a chance.

CABRERA: Thanks for shedding light.

SANTANA: Thank you.

CABRERA: Maria Santana, we appreciate it.

Breaking news. We're hearing from the owner of that British ship seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. The company confirms the seizure and says they can't get in touch with the ship's crew. We're told there are 23 people onboard.

Our reporters in Tehran are putting a microphone on right now. They're in this new and dramatic escalation. We're going to take you there, live, when we come back. Stand by.


[14:42:00] CABRERA: Back to the breaking news. Iran says it captured a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The White House says its aware.

Ramin Mostaghim is an "L.A. Times" reporter in Tehran.

What can you tell us? What have you learned?

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, REPORTER, L.A. TIMES: OK. I think that another reason it's taken by Iran in a pattern that results in a tit-for-tat policy. As you know, in Gibraltar, an Iranian super tanker was seized by the authority over there. Now Iran is retaliating.

It's very risky because it's a minor incident, seems a minor incident but it may lead to the major confrontation and major incidents, which is very risky at this moment.

We don't want to step toward the military confrontation between Iran and England and anyone who takes care of the Strait of Hormuz nowadays. CABRERA: With that being said, when you say they are doing this in

retaliation, what is their end-game strategy here as obviously this is another escalation?

MOSTAGHIM: You know, it seems that Iran is taking reward for just seizing a tanker. Because otherwise, Iran would not do that. Iran is trying to show the piece. And it seems that they can get something in return.

So far, they have just shot down a drone from America. And they have seized a tanker. They may go ahead and do some more shooting against the drones or just seizing more oil tankers. It seems that the game is going to be a military confrontation.

And Iran wants to change the game in its own favor in the Persian Gulf. And seems determined to do so. And that is the risk of the major confrontation in the Persian Gulf that we are getting nearer and nearer to them.

CABRERA: OK, and our Justice Department says there are 23 people onboard, according to the owner of the ship, U.K. oil tanker.

Ramin Mostaghim, thank you for your reporting. We appreciate you joining us.

Just days before their blockbuster hearing, Democrats are plotting an aggressive strategy to question Robert Mueller, the former special counsel. We'll have the details.

[14:44:36] Plus, the Justice Department says it will release more than 3,000 prisoners starting today under the president's Criminal Reform Act. Hear where they're going.


CABRERA: Now to all the choreography on Capitol Hill underway for Robert Mueller and his testimony next week. Democratic lawmakers are hoping his hearing will sway much of the nation's apathy over the president's alleged crimes.

They're actually rehearsing for when the former special council appears before two House committees, the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

[14:50:05] Aids say committee Democrats are working to divvy up the questions in a way that will be logical to millions of TV viewers who have not read the 448-page report.

Members of the Judiciary Committee have plotted out which acts of the president's alleged obstruction to highlight, including his directing his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fire Mueller, and tell McGahn to deny Trump directed him to fire Mueller.

Kan Nawaday has served as a federal corruption and fraud prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. He's with us now.

If Mueller sticks to what he says he's going to do, which is just basically reiterate what's in his report, will this be a game changer?

KAN NAWADAY, FORMER CORRUPTION & FRAUD PROSECUTOR, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I don't think it will be a game changer, but I think it's so important for the American public.

This is the reason. You're right, that's a great point. He's going to stick to the script, 448 pages of his report. But what I think the public needs and everyone needs is a nice little Cliff notes summary in plain English of what that report means. I think it's an opportunity for Congress to get that.

CABRERA: You're not going to have five hours to read all 448 pages. They're going to have to ask some very pointed questions. What would be your key question if you were questioning him?

NAWADAY: I think a key question, going to my point about getting something in plain English, because the report is written in legalese.

For instance, one question I would have is, Mueller concluded that, if they could conclusively say there was no obstruction, they would so state. What does that mean? Why not the follow-up? Does that mean you did find evidence of obstruction? And what was that evidence of obstruction? Please unpack that for us, in plain English.

CABRERA: Do you think he will answer the question? Would you have indicted this person if it weren't the president of the United States?

NAWADAY: That question's going to get asked. I'm sure it's going to get asked a bunch of different ways. I'm sure Robert Mueller is going to find a way not to answer it.

CABRERA: Yes, that's what my guess was, too. I could see him saying we didn't investigate the way we would have any other person who weren't the president of the United States.

Let me switch gears to the president's former communications director, Hope Hicks. We learned a lot through some recently unsealed documents. And now the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler wants to bring her in for questioning, after he found multiple inconsistencies between what she told Congress and what was just disclosed about the hush money payment involving Stormy Daniels.

Here are the disparities that Nadler points out. Hicks told the committee she had no, quote, "direct knowledge" that the president knew if Michael Cohen had paid Daniels during the campaign. But the prosecutor's evidence shows that, at one point, Cohen, using two different cell phones, was on a call at the same time with Hicks and Keith Davidson, Daniels' attorney.

Hicks also testified she was never present when Cohen talked about Daniels. And evidence showed in October that Cohen was on a three-way call with Hicks and the president, and 10 minutes later, called Cohen -- or Cohen called officials from the "National Enquirer." So we should point out, Hicks says this evidence does not contradict

what she says. And her attorney says she stands by not knowing about the hush money payments in October before the 2016 election.

We showed just a couple examples, Kan. Did Hope Hicks lie?

NAWADAY: That's a tough one. The reason it's tough, she was very, very careful in the words she chose when she testified before the House committee.

Those words matter. To use words like, I don't recall. She used that qualifier, you pointed out, which is very important, no direct knowledge. Even the word, I wasn't present for any conversations. That kind of excludes phone calls.

CABRERA: Phone calls.

NAWADAY: Exactly. She was very careful.

And also the evidence that the Southern District of New York had, at the time, those were toll records. It's great circumstantial evidence because it shows contacts between the relevant parties. It doesn't show the substance of those calls.

CABRERA: So it's not proof?

Thank you. Kan Nawaday, good to have your insight.

NAWADAY: Thank you.

CABRERA: We're following two breaking stories now. The president changing his tune on those "send her back" chants at his rally. Now he's defiant and praising that crowd after, yesterday, he said he wasn't happy about it.

[14:54:39] Now this, a new escalation from Iran, an incident involving the British tanker captured in the Persian Gulf. We're expected to hear from Trump on this in a few minutes. He's expected to depart the White House for the weekend.


CABRERA: A programming note. Our new CNN original series "THE MOVIES" continues Sunday night from the 2000's "The Dark Knight," "The Gladiator." Hear from the actors, the directors, and the people who brought you your favorite scenes to life. Get your stories behind "THE MOVIES" you love. "THE MOVIES" Sunday night at 9:00 here on CNN.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CABRERA: Top of the hour on this Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera.

We're following breaking news in escalating tensions with Iran. We've just learned that a British tanker has been seized. This is an image of this vessel. It's called the "Stena Impero." [14:59:55] Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, has done extensive reporting in Tehran. He's with us. I also have CNN military analyst, Gen. Mark Hertling.

Let's get right to CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, to get more details on what we know at this time.