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Fate of Separated Families Unclear After Trump Policy Reversal. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- literally beyond belief.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The president ordered for the families that come to the country illegally to remain together.

[07:00:10] REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: This could lead to family internment camps. That is what we do not want to see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a 20-day deadline. What happens in 20 days? We don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Republicans have to do is get Democrats on the record. What is your solution to this?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What you see is an administration that has been revealed to be a bunch of cruel, lying, incompetent fools.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. After three weeks, she had enough of me. Erica Hill joins us this morning.

The president did not like the pictures, so he caved. After deciding to separate children from their parents at the border, the president reversed course and signed an executive order. He didn't even need to sign that, by the way. He stepped in to alleviate the situation. He created a situation that he claimed for days he could not fix. That was clearly not true.

The most pressing question, though, this morning is what happens to the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents? One administration official says nothing, that the government would not work to get them back to their parents. But another one overnight says they're going to try. What's the answer here? Twenty-three hundred children waking up this morning in limbo. How could they not be a top priority here?

HILL: All this as the House is expected to vote on two immigration bills today. The White House launching its most aggressive effort since health care to unite Republicans on Capitol Hill in the hopes of securing funding for the president's order wall. So what's in these bills? Is there a solution for those families

separated at the border? We'll break that down.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip, who is live at the White House. Abby, good morning.


President Trump has signed that hastily written executive order, and now the questions turn to what's next. This policy could certainly face some serious practical and legal challenges ahead. And most importantly, this administration is really struggling to answer the question of what happens to the children who have already been separated from their families at the border.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it's been.

PHILLIP: President Trump defending his decision to reverse his policy separating families at the border, insisting that his executive order solved the issue created by his own administration.

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.

PHILLIP: But many crucial questions remain, including what will happen to the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents? A Health and Human Services spokesman initially telling CNN that the executive order changed nothing for the children already in its care. But the agency later walking that statement back, saying the spokesman misspoke, noting, "It is still very early, and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter."

The statement leaving open the possibility that the children could be connected with a relative or appropriate sponsor. But the existing sponsorship program does not include any requirements for officials to proactively reunite children with their parents. Although the head of HHS says they try to keep track of them.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: They're working to be always in touch with the parents to ensure placement with relatives or, if the parents are released, to ensure that they can go to the parents, if the parents are appropriate sponsors.

PHILLIP: Government flyers show that the onus is on the parents to track down their children. And an HHS form obtained by CNN cautions parents, "If you do not provide all the information, it's possible that we will not be able to designate the sponsor of your choice for the care of your child."

This process further complicated by the fact that the children have been sent to facilities across the United States, like this agency in New York City.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: This policy is so fundamentally broken to begin with that kids are being sent thousands of miles away from their parents.

PHILLIP: President Trump's about-face coming after his administration spent days insisting that they could do nothing to stop the family separations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about an executive action?

TRUMP: Now, wait, wait. You can't do it through an executive order.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's Congress's job to change the law.

KIRSTJEN NIELSON, DHS SECRETARY: Congress and the courts created this problem, and Congress alone can fix it.

PHILLIP: Sources tell CNN that the president was frustrated that even his political allies were questioning his heart and that his abrupt about-face caught even some of his closest aides off-guard.

Under the executive order, immigrants who are suspected of crossing the border illegally will continue to be prosecuted, but families will be housed together where appropriate and consistent with the law and available resources.

The order also signals the administration's wish to detain children who come with family indefinitely, rather than being released within three weeks, a change that would require approval from an appellate court. Approval that experts say will be an uphill battle.


[07:05:00] PHILLIP: Well, this abrupt change on the president's mind on this issue of separating families from their children was made a lot easier by the fact that two immigration bills that would have dealt with that practice and some other immigration issues look like they are poised to fail in Congress today. They're -- the House of Representatives is going to vote this afternoon on both of those bills -- John.

BERMAN: And he very well might have made that situation even worse with the choice he made to separate the parents and the children. Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks so much.

There are so many legal questions today about what the president did. Will this executive order hold? Can the government keep these families together in detention indefinitely?

CNN's Laura Jarrett live in Washington trying to get answers to some of these questions -- Laura.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. All week Trump administration officials has said they are simply

following the law. But the law in this area is a morass of complications. And to understand what's about to happen next, you have to go back all the way to the beginning and a settlement agreement from 1997.

This is what's known as the Flores Settlement that tried to protect unaccompanied minors. And a series of other court rulings, even up until last year, made clear that children can only be held in detention for 20 days. This is the reason the Trump administration has said that it had to separate the children from their parents in the first place at the border, because they want to keep the parents for longer.

So now the Justice Department is going to plan to go to a federal judge and ask to modify that rule to allow the children and their parents to be detained together until the end of their immigration proceedings, which could easily extend beyond 20 days, especially in asylum cases.

But what if the court doesn't go for it, and Congress hasn't done anything to provide for a more permanent solution to keep these families together? Well, the Trump administration will then have some choices to make. And we could be right where we are all over again.

In the meantime, the attorney general in Washington state, that same one that successfully sued over the travel ban. Well, he's already said he will announce a major action against the president's executive order later today -- Erica.

HILL: We will be looking for that. Laura, thank you.

President Trump's executive order, as we pointed out here, does little to ease the anxiety of those parents who have already been separated from their children.

All of this as we're learning more details about those so-called tender-age shelters housing babies and toddlers. CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Brownsville, Texas, with more.

Nick, good morning.


There is still no clarification as to how these families will be reunited. And as we understand it, officials at facilities for tender-age children, like the one behind me, they're scrambling to figure out what this all means.

And as you can imagine, there's a large amount of skepticism among those that are currently detained and separated from their parents. It was just yesterday that the Southern Poverty Law Center connected me with a Honduran man who said that, even though he crossed through a legal point of entry, even though he has no criminal history, he was separated from his 3-year-old son. He says he has no idea where his son is. And his big question is a fair one: were these officials ever planning on reuniting their children? Did they keep records to show where the children went and where the parents are? That's a big question that we have this morning.

Meanwhile, we're getting new images of some of the facilities for the younger migrants. A facility in Virginia, a facility Florida, as well. It's part of a P.R. effort from Health and Human Services to show that these young migrant children are being housed in good conditions.

But no matter how these conditions are, no matter how good they are, you have 2,300 kids this morning that would much rather not be in limbo -- John.

BERMAN: Twenty-three hundred kids for whom we have no real answer as to what happens next, which is astounding.

Joining us now to talk about this and much more, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN political analyst Brian Karem.

Jeffrey, you are the Cristiano Ronaldo of legal analysts here. Help us. And it takes that. It's going to take that, I think, to understand where we are in this situation right now. The president has signed an executive order he did not need to sign to reverse his action before.


BERMAN: Yet, he did sign it, creating new legal questions. What happens to these families?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I -- with all due respect to Cristiano Ronaldo, I don't know. Because I don't think anyone knows at this point.

I mean, let's think about these in two groups. The 2,300 kids who are already in custody, the executive order doesn't even pretend to address their situation. They remain in -- not only limbo but essentially unknown to their parents. I mean, this -- many of them are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where they were taken into custody and where their parents are now. Whether the parents even know where the children are is very much an open question.

And given the nature of bureaucracies and fast-moving difficult situations, the odds that this system has worked smoothly are very low. That -- that -- so we have absolutely no idea about the 2,300.

Going forward, it looks like, at least for the time being, there will be no more separating of children and parents. But that 20-day rule that Laura Jarrett was talking about, that's going to kick in soon unless the courts overturn it.

[07:10:05] And then the administration is going to have a big quandary. Do they release both the the children and their parents, or keep them both in custody for longer, in violation of the court order? That's a legal question what is unresolved. BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Great question.

HILL: It doesn't seem to -- Brian, that point hasn't really been addressed at all, because we also don't know at this point, unless something has changed in the last couple of hours, where they're going to be housed, where the facilities are that can take in full families.

KAREM: Well, more to the point, this -- this particular issue is a microencapsulation. It's the epitome of what's wrong with this administration.

Take a difficult issue, attack it, mess it up even more, chaos ensues. And now you've got to clean up a mess that didn't exist before you got here and you haven't figured out how to deal with it anyway. I mean, these are the best and the brightest people?

How can you even address this issue without addressing the fact that you have 2,300 children and families that haven't -- you know, this issue isn't even addressed by this executive order.

TOOBIN: The -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

KAREM: I'm sorry. The problem is a simple ignorance of what goes on here. The people in this administration do not understand the issues that they attack. They're dishonest when they do. We've heard 12 to 14 different reasons as to why this -- you know, this issue that they had to deal with, 12 to 14 different reasons as to what actually happened.

I mean, it was a deterrent. It wasn't a deterrent. It is. It isn't. We were lied to by the White House so many times, I hesitate to believe anything that they say about this issue going forward. I want to see it in writing. And I want to see it done correctly.

TOOBIN: You know, a metaphor we're starting to hear more and more is that this is -- is Donald Trump's Katrina, a turning point in how he's portrayed. But in many respects, this is worse than Katrina.


TOOBIN: Because --

KAREM: He created it.

TOOBIN: -- George W. Bush didn't create the hurricane.

BERMAN: He didn't make it rain, right.

TOOBIN: He didn't make it rain. Whereas these 2,300 -- there was no reason for these kids to be separated from their parents under existing government policies. But they created this problem. Now it seems like they have no real way of trying to solve it.

BERMAN: Well, they've addressed it going forward.

KAREM: They could solve this problem. BERMAN: They've addressed what they want to have -- they've addressed

what they want to do going forward. But again, the fact that they don't have an answer for the 2,300.

KAREM: Right.

BERMAN: I cannot believe that the initial answer we got from this HHS official overnight was, "Yes, we're doing nothing. This is not going to be the government's problem to get them back together."

And then the response later on was "The spokesman misspoke. We're going to try." Just try. I don't even know what that means, Brian.

KAREM: Well, no one does. It's -- like I said, this is the epitome of this administration. They're understaffed. They have not the wherewithal to handle the issues that come before them. They are dishonest when they handle these issues. They don't have the best and the brightest. They created this issue. They lied to us. And now they're trying to find a way out of a morass that they created.

This is worse than Katrina. And as I said, they didn't -- you know, Katrina wasn't created by the Bush administration. They created this issue themselves. And they are trying to deal with it, again, through dishonesty, deception, and an incredible ignorance of what's going on on the ground at the border. And that hasn't -- that won't change until something of substance changes inside this administration.

This is Stephen Miller's handiwork. He was the one that brought it to the president. The reason why he changed his mind is because there were GOP leaders who said, "Look, these pictures are going to kill us in the midterm elections, and it's going to hang around us like an albatross." That was one of the leading factors on why they finally decided to change a policy that they said they couldn't change to begin with.

So look ahead, and you're going to see this same kind of fumbling going forward, I think.

BERMAN: We'll see.

HILL: And as we try to figure out how and where all of this plays out, of course we just played that sound again of Kirstjen Nielsen. Congress and the courts created the problem. Of course, the president created this new problem. But Jeffrey, is it ultimately going to be up to either Congress and/or the courts to actually fix it?

TOOBIN: If it -- if it's going to be fixed.

KAREM: Absolutely.

TOOBIN: There is no guarantee that this issue is going to be fixed, that these 2,300 kids are going to be released from custody.

Congress could impose a broad solution to many immigration issues. Every indication we have is that the House of Representatives won't even pass one of the two plans that's before it today. And even if the House of Representatives does, there's virtually no chance that the Senate will concur. So legislatively, this all appears to be going nowhere.

KAREM: And they've kicked that around for 30 years.

TOOBIN: Right.

KAREM: You're absolutely right, Jeff. They have kicked this -- I have no more faith in Congress than I have in the executive branch to solve the problem. They've kicked this problem around for at least two or three decades. It's a political football.

[07:15:08] And the people that are suffering are those among us who have the least. And that hasn't changed.

BERMAN: There is a decision, a choice here beyond separating the children from their parents here that the Trump administration has made that they want to continue, which is they want to charge everyone who comes over the boarder as a criminal. They want to put them through the legal process as criminals.

And the Trump administration will defend that. They still say they're still going to have the zero-tolerance policy. And I do think, Jeffrey, ultimately, Democrats are going to have to stand up and say they oppose that discreet measure. And that's a different, a little bit of a different political calculation.

TOOBIN: Yes, it is. And, you know, one of the interesting questions about politics is whether the opposition has to propose solutions.

You know, the Republican Party has spent a decade attacking Obamacare without putting up much of an alternative. And that's worked out pretty well.

It seems to me the Democrats --

KAREM: Politically.

TOOBIN: It worked out pretty well politically for the Republicans. The Democrats now are in a parallel position of attacking the Trump administration for their immigration practices without necessarily coming up with an alternative. I happen to believe cynically, politically works well to attack and you don't necessarily need an alternative solution to win -- to win on the politics.

KAREM: You're absolutely right, it works out politically. Now, in the real world, in a humanitarian setting, I don't know that it works out so well, especially for those people who are suffering. But that hasn't changed.

When Congress does what Congress does, which is not much, then I have -- I'm like you, I'm a little cynical. Or at least I hope I'm not cynical but skeptical that they're actually going to come up with a solution to this problem when they haven't dealt with it for decades.

BERMAN: I think you are a little bit cynical and skeptical, Brian. That goes without saying.

Brian Karem, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for being here with us. Appreciate it.

KAREM: Thanks, guys.

HILL: Breaking news. CNN has learned President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are planning to meet this summer. That meeting expected to happen in mid-July around Mr. Trump's trip to the U.K. and the NATO summit.

One diplomatic official telling CNN the Trump administration wanted the meeting in Washington. Moscow, however, is insisting that it happen on neutral grouped. That official adding Vienna is a likely location.

The Kremlin reports President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, will be in Moscow tomorrow.

BERMAN: All right, 2,300 children still separated from their parents. What will the White House do to get them back together? What will Congress push the president to do? We're going to speak to a member of Congress who is normally no-nonsense, doesn't take no for an answer. Jim Jordan joins us next.


BERMAN: The House is planning to vote on a pair of immigration reform bills today, but it appears that House Republican leaders are divided on the issue. Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows and House Speaker Paul Ryan could be seen on the floor of the House arguing over the two bills up for a vote. Meadows downplayed the confrontation but did tell reporters the so-called compromise bill, the one leadership is backing, is not ready for prime time.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. He's co-founder of the Freedom Caucus. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), CO-FOUNDER, FREEDOM CAUCUS: You bet. Good to be with you.

BERMAN: You are a no-nonsense guy. And I know you normally don't stand for what you consider to be anything that's B.S. There are 2,300 kids who have been separated from their families still in detention this morning.


BERMAN: Separated from their parents. And the administration says they don't have a solution to get them back together. In fact, last night they told him they were going to do -- they told us they were going to do nothing to get them back together. How can that be?

JORDAN: Well, I mean, look, John, everyone wants -- wants families to stay together. That's just good common sense. We want that to happen. There is legislation pending. Mr. Meadows, the guy you just referenced, has a bill that he's introduced in the House that would bring families back together but, more importantly or just as importantly, deal with our asylum law and fix that law.

BERMAN: We'll talk about the bills --

JORDAN: Senator Cruz has the same kind of legislation.

BERMAN: -- in a second. We'll talk about the measures you're going to vote on today in a second. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about what has already happened.

JORDAN: You were talking about action we can take to fix the problem.

BERMAN: No, I'm talking about --

JORDAN: -- end the separation of families. Let's fix the problem.

BERMAN: Absolutely. And you're going to vote on those measures today. That's talking about what to do about going forward, what to do about people who still have yet to arrive at the border.

I'm talking about these 2,300 people who were separated because of a decision -- no, no, because of a decision by this administration. Don't they need to be reunited with their parents?

JORDAN: Well, let's fix that, too. And I think that was everyone's assumption when the president signed the executive order yesterday. This is news to me. So let's figure this out. Let's reunite those families.

But we do have to fix the Flores decision. We do have to fix the asylum law. And frankly, John, we've got a lot of other things we told the American people we were going to do in the election that we need to get done. We need to keep our word. And that's what we want to try to do today on one of those bills that's going to be on the floor. It is consistent with the mandate of the election, so let's pass that, as well.

BERMAN: We'll come to that again in just a second. You said, "It's news to me" that the administration doesn't have a plan to reunite these 2,300 kids with their parents.

JORDAN: The president signed an executive order yesterday.

BERMAN: That is not about -- that is not about the reunification. That is about what to do going forward.

JORDAN: And let's work that. Let's fix that. But we also have to deal with the Flores decision --


JORDAN: -- which is the impetus, which is the catalyst for why they're separated in the first place.

BERMAN: Yes. I just want -- I just want to be clear. I just want to be clear. You want the administration to reunite these 2,300 children with their parents immediately?

JORDAN: John, everyone wants the kids to be reunited with their parents. But you have to sort it out, and you have to do it in a way that's consistent with the law. You have to fix the asylum law, which is broken. Everyone under -- we had ICE in our office last week. Eighty percent of the people coming to this country seeking asylum don't get asylum, because it's not -- it's not -- they're not legally entitled to it.

[07:25:00] So when that is that much, 80 percent, when you have that kind of number, you have to fix all this. So let's do it, but let's do it in a way that's consistent with keeping families together. That makes all the sense in the world.

BERMAN: Great. You keep saying everyone wants these 2,300 children reunited with their parents. I just don't know if that's the case, based on the answer we got from the administration overnight. I hope you're right. I really hope you're right, and I --

JORDAN: He signed an executive order yesterday. What else do you want?

BERMAN: There's nothing in the executive order. You show me in the executive order where he says any one thing about reuniting the people already separated. It doesn't. It just doesn't say anything about reuniting those kids with their parents.

Also, there was an official spokesperson from HHS who at first told us --

JORDAN: So you really think -- you really think he signs an executive order saying we're not going to separate kids, we're going to keep them together throughout the adjudication process, throughout the whole process where we determine whether they legitimately need -- receive asylum or not. That we're going to keep them together the whole time, but the ones that were separated, we're not going to bring back together? You really think that's the case?

BERMAN: It's not what I think. It's what we were told. It's what we read. It's what we read, first of all, and then what we were told by an HHS official. I'll have someone hand that to me in just a second.

JORDAN: There was legislation pending, introduced by Representative Meadows on the House, Senator Cruz on the Senate side. Let's pass that legislation --


JORDAN: -- and deal with it.

BERMAN: And just -- just one last thing on the past, and then I want to go to the future here. Do you think it was a mistake, in retrospect, for the president to take this action to decide to separate the children from their parents?

JORDAN: I think what the president is trying to do is what the American people elected us all to do, keep families together certainly, but do it in a way that's consistent with the rule of law. That's what they were trying to do. That's what the election was about.

That's why -- we need to pass a piece of legislation today. The Goodlatte legislation, which says let's build the border security wall, let's stop chain migration, let's get rid of sanctuary cities, let's get rid of the visa lottery, let's reform our asylum law. Let's do all that. Because that's what the election was about.

I think that's what they were trying to get out -- or get at. And I think we need to do it now, certainly in a way that's consistent with keeping families unified throughout the process, which is what the executive order does.

BERMAN: Going forward, it does -- it doesn't reunite the 2,300 kids. But we covered that ground.

I do want to talk about the measures coming up for a vote today. You support the Goodlatte bill --


BERMAN: -- which is seen as the more conservative measure. There's the second one that leadership supports, the so-called compromise measure. Will you vote yes on that?

JORDAN: I will not. I'll vote for the first one. Again, this is -- this is the one that's -- for me this is real basic. What did we tell the American people we were going to do? The Goodlatte -- Chairman Goodlatte's legislation is entirely consistent with that message, with that mandate from the 2016 election. So let's do that.

And it does it in the right order, in my judgment. Build the border security wall. Stop the visa lottery. Stop chain migration. Get rid of sanctuary cities. Reform our asylum law.

And then, oh, by the way, let's also deal with this DACA population who came here as children, who are now adults. Let's deal with them, and let's do it in a way that's consistent with not putting them at the front of the line, not giving them a special path but doing it in a way that's consistent with folks who come here legally. That's what the American people elected. That's fair. That's consistent with the rule of law. Let's pass that legislation.

BERMAN: I don't -- I'm not, I think, reporting something you don't know. But I do not think that the Goodlatte measure has the votes to pass as we sit here. I'm not sure whether the compromise bill does either, based on the whip counts we have heard.

JORDAN: Right.

BERMAN: Where do you think the compromise measure stands right now? We saw Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows fighting with Paul Ryan. Where do you think it is? JORDAN: I mean -- I mean, look, we would have appreciated the same

kind of intensity from our leadership in whipping the Goodlatte legislation that they seem to now have for the compromise bill.

The compromise bill has got some good elements in it. I worked on some of those. It just doesn't go far enough. And I don't think it's entirely consistent with the message we gave the American people when they elected us.

So we'll see what happened today. I'm hopeful that the first one passes. Because that's the one that has been consistent with the promise we made to the American people.

BERMAN: Has Paul Ryan let you down? Has leadership let you down on this?

JORDAN: No. I just wish they would have whipped this, the first Goodlatte legislation, months ago when it was first introduced. I wish we'd have had the same intensity for, say, the tax reform bill that we all got done or, frankly, the intensity we're now having for the second compromise bill. Where was that intensity six, seven months ago when the bill was introduced, when we all said this is the kind of legislation that we need to pass, because this is what we told the American people we were going to do?

BERMAN: Can I ask you something about quirky -- something quirky that happened when the president came and spoke to your caucus the other night? He made a joke about Mark Sanford, who you've worked with for a number of years.

He essentially went into the room and said, "Hey, where is Mark Sanford? He ran a great election campaign, didn't he?" Sanford, of course, just lost in his primary.

The president yesterday put out a tweet that said, "Had a great meeting last night with the House GOP last night at the Capitol. They applauded and laughed loudly when I mentioned my experience with Mark Sanford. I have never been a fan of his."

Did you laugh when he made that joke?

JORDAN: I don't comment on things said behind closed doors, particularly in a Republican conference, particularly with our commander in chief.

What I do know is Mark Sanford is a friend. I supported Mark Sanford. I did a telephone call for Mark Sanford. I helped support him in the campaign. I wanted Mark Sanford to win. He's a good man. He's a colleague. He's a member of the Freedom Caucus, and I wish he would have won the election.

BERMAN: Congressman, I want to go back before I let you go. We are going to keep you for another segment. But you do contact this administration a lot. You press them on a lot of different issues. Will you call them and say, "How are you going to get these 2,300 kids back with their parents?" JORDAN: We'll find out about it, yes. Yes, like I said, I had ICE

and Borders and Custom in my office last week.

What I do know, though, John, is the last year and a half has been a good year for the country --