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Families Separated Following ICE Raids; Remembering Robin Williams; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:47] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Parents and children separated after immigration raids in Mississippi where authorities arrested nearly 700 undocumented workers in one day. Many of the children whose parents were arrested were in class for the first day of school.

Joining us is Chad Harrison. He is the assistant superintendent for the Scott County, Mississippi, school district. In his district, as many as 15 families were affected by these raids.

Sir, we appreciate you being with us this morning.

So as many as 15 families impacted. As of this morning, do you know how many of those families have been reunited?

CHAD HARRISON, SCOTT COUNTY DISTRICT SCHOOLS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT: Well, actually, as of Wednesday, when the situation took place, the information that we got was that every child had an adult that they -- well, it was a family member that was home with them. I can't say that two parents were home, might have just been one parent, but every child that we had, had someone at home that was a parent or guardian.

HILL: And I know that was a priority for the school district, that you were even telling bus drivers, do not let that kid go into a house unless you know that there is an adult there because we will make other arrangements and we will make sure that child is safe until they can be reunited.

HARRISON: Yes, that's correct. That's what we did.

HILL: But as I understand it, it's my understanding that part of the protocol for agencies, that schools are supposed to be given a heads up if there is a chance that one of the people who may be arrested may have a child in the school, and they may need to account for that, and that children should be a top priority.

You didn't receive any notification -- any advanced notification, correct?

HARRISON: Alisyn -- Alisyn, we didn't receive that. The first real notification we had, I believe, was the fact that we just had a large number of Hispanic students being checked out of school and then we began to realize what was happening there in the different communities.

So we have, in the Morton area, about 500 Hispanic students and, you know, they were being checked out left and right. I'd say 70 percent of the students were checked out of school.

The first knowledge that we had officially from any federal agent was a phone call or a visit that Dr. McGee got. And at that time they started trying to -- they tried -- started trying to let him know which parents had been apprehended and so forth.

So we went through a process there where we -- we verified whether or not someone who said they had a kid in school truly did have a kid in school and so forth.


[08:35:06] HARRISON: And I guess that's how they determined who they were going to let leave and be released at that time.

HILL: You mentioned Dr. McGee. He's the superintendent there in the county. So -- so in those meetings with ICE that he had, I know that -- that you have all that same information as well.


HILL: Was he given any explanation as to why you were not given more of a heads up, again, as the way we all understand it, agency protocol dictates?

HARRISON: Alisyn, I'm not aware and I don't think he's aware of any reason why we did not receive that information.

HILL: How is the community doing this morning? As you mentioned, you have a number of families. I mean we're just -- we're just back here from El Paso. When we -- and we've talked to folks, you know, in Hispanic communities around the country who have said, following that shooting, they are feeling targeted in a way that they haven't before. Even prior to these raids.

How is the community doing and how has this now impacted the community there?

HARRISON: Erica, I think people are doing OK. What we're trying to do as a school district right now is to get out and try to visit all the homes where these kids live. And, as of yesterday, of the 154 kids that were out, we've made contact with about a hundred of those kids. So we're just trying to let them understand, hey, school is a safe place, come back to school, get in here and we're going to take care of you.

As you know, in the school business, we've got three main priorities. One of those is to love and take care of the kids. The other one is to protect the kids. And the third is to teach the kids. But right now teaching the kids is the -- the furthest away. We're trying to make sure these kids know they've got a safe place. So we've got a number of churches and community organizations that are coming together and trying to help these families. Right now these families have a great need for food, clothing and shelter because they don't know when they're going to be able to go back to work.

So now simple necessities of life like toilet paper and things like that are an issue, paying the rent, paying the utilities. So we're trying to do as much as we can as a community to help these families. And it's been really great to see everyone come together as a community, as a state. And across the country we've had calls from California, all the way to the East Coast, all in between. We've had so many organizations wanting to help. And that's really meant a lot to all of us.

HILL: It is important to point that out, but, boy, it is a lot, as you point out.

When we're looking at something like this, it's important to let the kids know their safe, that the families have a safe place to be because nobody can concentrate on learning when they're worried about where their mom or dad is.


HILL: Chad Harrison, really appreciate you taking the time to join us and -- and we'd like to stay in touch. You can continue to update us too on the situation there. Thank you.

HARRISON: All right, thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so what an emotional scene at the airport in Dallas. A pilot, lost in Vietnam, finally returning home.


[08:41:452] BERMAN: This morning there is significant upheaval in the nation's intelligence sector. The deputy director of national intelligence, Sue Gordon, abruptly resigned, joining her outgoing boss, Dan Coats. Both will be gone next week.

President Trump quickly picked a new acting director. Retired Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire will step in as the acting director of national intelligence. He is currently head of the National Counterterrorism Center. The president still has not said who he wants to nominate as a permanent director of national intelligence.

HILL: This morning, a manhunt is underway for a gunman who shot and killed two people in the middle of a busy Houston interstate during the evening rush hour. So apparently this started as a crash, two cars involved. The situation escalated from there. Horrified drivers actually trying to swerve around the gunfire. Police say they found drugs in the victim's car but at this point they are still not sure about the gunman's motive.

BERMAN: The FDA is cracking down on companies illegally marketing products used for vaping. The agency sent warning letters to four companies concerning dozens of e-liquid and hookah tobacco products that lacked proper authorizations and cannot be legally sold in the United States. The companies were given 15 days to correct the violations or face further action. This comes as the FDA is facing greater scrutiny over its response to the epidemic of youth vaping.

HILL: A fallen Vietnam fighter pilot is finally home. And the son who waved good-bye to him for the last time 52 years ago as a little boy actually had the honor of flying him home. Air Force Colonel Roy Knight's jet was shot down over norther Laos in 1967. He was declared dead four months later. His body, though, had never been found. Knight's son, Bryan, a Southwest Airlines pilot, was just five years old when he lost saw his dad at Dallas Love Field Airport. In June he got a call that changed his life.


BRYAN KNIGHT, SON OF VIETNAM WAR HERO: They had been searching in my dad's crash site area and they said, we did find human remains.

You know, you can't imagine what an honor that is for a son to be able to do that for his father.


HILL: So Bryan Knight personally flew his father's remains back to Dallas Love Field on Thursday. The entire airport just came to a standstill during the ceremony. Colonel Knight will be buried on Saturday in Weatherford, Texas.

BERMAN: People, we understand, were just looking out the windows. Everyone could not take their eyes off, but standing in respect. I flew through DFW a few hours later and people in the airport were still buzzing about what a meaningful, poignant moment that was.

HILL: Yes. It really is.

BERMAN: All right, as we enter the hottest month of what forecasters expect to be a perilous fire season, thousands of people in Paradise, California, still reeling from last year's historic and deadly camp fire.

Like many of us, this week's CNN Hero watched news of the fire on TV, but Woody Faircloth was inspired to do something to help.


WOODY FAIRCLOTH, CNN HERO: As news of the fires broke and we saw more of what happened to people and the fire and how many people were impacted, that's when it really kind of hit home that, wow, this is a really big deal.

Tens of thousands lost their homes. Entire families were sleeping in their cars in parking lots. It was total chaos.

Today, the majority are still displaced.

When we actually hand over the title and the keys of an RV to someone who doesn't have a home any longer, it's such a powerful thing to provide such a basic human need. How can we not help if we're in a position to help?


[08:45:11] HILL: That's such a great question. How can you not help if you're in a position to help?

BERMAN: To see Woody change the life of a Paradise grandmother, go to Do it now.

HILL: Five years have passed since the death of Robin Williams. And now the son of the beloved actor is with us this morning to talk about what he hopes we can all learn from his experience. He's with us, next.


HILL: This Sunday marks five years since Robin Williams' death by suicide. The beloved comedian and actor touched millions, especially his children.

And joining us now is Zak Williams, Robin's eldest son.

It's nice to have you with us today.

ZAK WILLIAMS, SON OF ROBIN WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me.

HILL: Your dad did touch so many lives, as you know, people he never met, but for you, I mean, this is your dad. And five years on now, there's a lot that happens in the grief and in the mourning period. How are you guys doing today?

[08:50:06] WILLIAMS: Well, my family and I are doing all right. I have a two-month old son, which is exciting and new and a lot of work, but I'm happy I can wake up every morning and show up for him. We're -- we're adjusting to the new normal, but day over day things are -- are getting better.

HILL: A lot of people who were longtime fans of your father's work and, you know, he brought so many people so much joy, were surprised when they heard about his passing, surprised when they heard about his struggles. For you, though, to watch the public go through that while you're trying to deal with all this privately, I imagine that was a real struggle in and of itself, how did you handle the two?

WILLIAMS: Well, I wasn't really prepared for grieve publically. And I had trouble differentiating the difference between privately grieving with my family and sharing that process with the world. So it was really hard. But over time I learned how to share what was needed and to be able to spend time with, you know, more kind of a public environment and then separate time to spend with my family, you know. So -- so it was a learning process.

HILL: Losing a parent will change you, as many of us know. It's also changed, though, what your focus is and in terms of what you're talking about and what you're talking about publically, and your focus on really making mental health an important part of the conversation on talking about suicide, on talking about helping people you love and helping them find the help that they need.

What has that been like for you as you're navigating that path now?

WILLIAMS: To focus on mental health advocacy means to really identify the underlying issues associated with what's going both culturally and with our communities. And my specific focus is stigma and ending the discrimination associated with it. And so the effort and energy provided by thousands of organizations across the U.S. requires people wanting to end that stigma so that money and donations and funds can be unlocked for research and for organizations seeking to make a difference and impact in those communities.

HILL: And how are you seeing -- I mean the conversations that you're having, and even the conversations that are being had to reduce that stigma in the last five years, it does feel like, especially within the last year or two, there has been a little bit more of a groundswell of not only support but of willingness to talk about it. Do you find that?

WILLIAMS: I find that young people that, you know, people under 25 are much more willing to talk about what they're dealing with, their personal challenges and struggles and are finding ways to connect both with others in their community and also, you know, older generations. And I'm really hoping that we can continue to be brave and courageous when it comes to being venerable and open about the issues and struggles that we deal with personally. And I'm finding that things are opening up. But it's -- there's momentum, but we have to keep on continuing to apply effort and energy to ending the stigma.

HILL: You mention you have a two-month old son who's named after your dad. There's so much joy in becoming a parent and there's so much joy in seeing this new life. I would imagine, too, you're thinking a lot about what you're going to tell him about his grandfather so that you carry on that legacy, so that he knows who he was, not just the public Robin Williams, but that he knows who he was for you as a father and all of those memories. What are some of the things that you're looking forward to sharing with your son about your dad?

WILLIAMS: Well, one of the things that I would want to share with my son when he -- when the time is right is that my dad loved to do what he did. He was so passionate about entertaining and comedy, and he just gave his -- he gave his all in entertaining. And I would want my son to follow in that path of passion, whatever it may be, and I want him to do so courageously and with love and joy. And so that's what I really hope I can instill in him.

HILL: Well, it sounds like a -- sounds like a good plan for moving forward and he's a lucky little boy.

Really a pleasure to have you here today, Zak, today. Thank you.

[08:55:00] WILLIAMS: A pleasure to be here. Thank you.

HILL: Thanks for taking the time.

And we do want to put up too, we have been putting up on the screen, but the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. The number is there. The website is there. If you or someone you know is hurting, please do not hesitate to make that call.

BERMAN: I've got to say, what a wonderful message from Zak Williams this morning. Thanks so much for that.

We have new information this morning about why the El Paso shooter targeted that city. Those new developments coming up next.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Poppy Harlow is off today.

[08:59:46] In just a few minutes, President Trump will leave the White House on his way to a weeks' vacation and to the Hamptons for a pair of fundraisers. But before he goes, he will face questions, first on the possibility of new gun control legislation, emphasis on possibility. The president says discussions are underway, weighing in just minutes ago with two tweets. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.