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Trump Changes Focus on Immigration to Crime Victims; Separated Families Desperate to Reconnect; Trump Wants to Delay Immigration Bill until after Midterms; Migrant Kids Allege Abuse; 2018 World Cup. Aired 12m-12:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2018 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump hits back on immigration after ending family separations earlier this week. The U.S. president now says Democrat stories of sadness and grief are "phony."

Allegations of abuse at immigration detention centers in the U.S. Children allegedly forced to take mood-changing drugs, held down while they are given injections they do not want. We speak with a group that monitors these centers.

And the World Cup of Brazil waits until the very last moment in its game against Costa Rica to make a statement. There it is. Why Neymar was in tears.

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


VANIER: So after a week of nonstop criticism, Donald Trump moves to retake control of the immigration debate. He is putting the focus on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

The U.S. president signaling he may have backtracked on the separation of immigrant families but he isn't about to give up on his zero tolerance policy. He met with families who had relatives killed by undocumented immigrants. He suggested the immigrant population is more dangerous than U.S. citizens.

The president also trying to compare what those families are doing (INAUDIBLE) what's happening at the border.


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. They not separated for a day or two days. They are permanently separated because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Mr. Trump also returned to his familiar themes, attacking the media, attacking Democrats.

He wrote on Twitter, "We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief."

Just two days ago, those stories were real enough for the president to take executive action. Today he finds them phony. Well, here are some of these stories. Our reporters along the border and across the country have been documenting them. Ed Lavandera met a woman desperately trying to find her 9-year-old son.




LAVANDERA (voice-over): The phone call came from inside the Port Isabel detention center in South Texas. On the line is an undocumented immigrant, who asked that we not identify her by name. She is from Honduras and was separated from her 9-year-old son 11 days ago after crossing the Rio Grande illegally.

LAVANDERA: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA (voice-over): I ask her how she is feeling.

"Not good at all," she says, "it is a trauma we will never forget, all of the mothers who are here as well as the kids. The truth is, we never imagined this would happen."

LAVANDERA: (Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA (voice-over): I asked her how she was separated.

"They betrayed us," she said. "They told us they weren't going to separate us from them and we never imagined it was going to be for so long."

Department of Homeland Security officials have vehemently denied that immigrants have been misled in any way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are things that you can do specifically to help out with the children.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): From inside her South Texas law office, Jodi Goodwin (ph) is trying to find 22 children. She represents 25 undocumented immigrants, who have all been separated from their children for about two weeks.

LAVANDERA: Most of them don't know where their kids are at this point.

JODI GOODWIN, ATTORNEY: None of them know where their kids are. I don't know where their kids are.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Goodwin says her clients have tried calling the numbers provided by the federal government to track where their children were sent but that hasn't worked. Only three of her clients have even spoken to their children.

GOODWIN: It is just not a system where you punch in a parent's name and it pops out the child's name. It just doesn't exist.

LAVANDERA: Could be highly frustrating for them.

GOODWIN: It is very frustrating. It's very frustrating. And each time I see them, they ask, any news? Do you have any news?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): While there have been a number of emotional reunions between separated families, there are still many families struggling to just connect over the phone.

The Department of Homeland Security says there is not a publicly accessible database to track the shelters where undocumented children are being kept. DHS says the adult detention centers have phones where the parents can call their children.

The Honduran immigrant on the phone tells me she in a wing of the detention center with 70 other mothers, who are also try to go communicate with their children. I ask her what message she would like the world to hear.

LAVANDERA: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA (voice-over): She says, "President Trump, for one second, put yourself in our place. The only thing we want is for them to give us our children back."

LAVANDERA: Government officials say --


LAVANDERA: -- the reason the children's database isn't widely accessible is because of security concerns. But the fact of the matter is, there are hundreds of undocumented immigrants, who have been detained for weeks who still haven't been able to find out where their children are, much less talk to them.

I spoke with one Central American man who has been detained nearly three weeks. He told me his greatest concern is worrying about the anxiety, uncertainty and confusion that his daughter must be experiencing because of this separation -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: The president is also undercutting his party's effort to pass immigration legislation, tweeting, "Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after we elect more senators and Congress men and women in November."

This is a U-turn from a few days ago. He told Republican lawmakers in a closed door meeting that he was 100 percent behind their push to pass an immigration bill. Some House Republicans voiced frustration over his change of heart and promised to continue their work.

Meantime, protesters gathered outside Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's home on Friday, playing the sounds of children crying after being separated from their parents at the U.S. border.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Nielsen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're actually...


Nielsen had been under fire for defending Mr. Trump's forced separation policy.

Let's bring in political analyst Michael Genovese. He's president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University.

Michael, good to have you back.


VANIER: Three days ago Mr. Trump thought there was enough sadness, enough grief at the border for him to actually end his practice of separating immigrant families. Now he says those Democrat stories of sadness are grief -- his words -- are "phony."

What's going on?

GENOVESE: I think that's one of the low points for President Trump. How phony are the tears of children, the screams of parents who are separated from their children?

This is a human tragedy and President Bush -- excuse me -- Trump did, in fact, bring in the families whose children were killed by illegal immigrants. We need compassion for those people. That's a serious issue but it's no less serious when you see the children being torn apart from their families, put in what some are calling cages, no due process.

This is one of our worst moments and we need to turn it around and right this wrong.

VANIER: It seems like Donald Trump was trying to do a turnaround but maybe a turnaround of a different kind. All week long he's been on the back foot with this issue. He was the bad guy in this story and there were very few people, for once, in his camp.

And now on Friday, it seems he is sort of trying to switch the narrative 100 percent.

GENOVESE: Well, he is sending both mixed and mixed-up messages, especially to his own party, as you referenced in the intro to this segment. On the one hand, he is saying it's an urgent problem. We must deal with it immediately.

And then he says in a tweet, well, let's just forget about it, drop it. We'll put it off until after the midterm elections, which means you're putting it off until 2019. So he is basically torpedoing his own party, saying I need you to get legislation. I need something from you.

And now he says forget it.

So where does that put the Republicans in Congress?

It makes it very unlikely that they will, in this session, pass any meaningful, coherent immigration legislation.


VANIER: So why is he -- why this 180 on the legislation?

GENOVESE: Well, I think it is a function of making policy on impulse, that the president takes -- overpersonalizes everything. And anytime something strikes him, hits him, he wants to hit back in some way. And so today, if hitting back means being Mr. -- kind, compassionate Mr. Rogers, and tomorrow means being The Terminator, he will do those things. He is capable of making those transitions.

And it is all about the news and the treatment of him that particular day.

VANIER: But does he actually have a better chance of passing legislation after the midterms"

He says we need to do when we have more Republicans in Congress, after the red wave.

GENOVESE: The red wave or the blue tsunami, we don't know which it is. Right now, the Democrats, according to recent CNN polling, are favored by about an 8 percent margin over Republicans.

And if past is prelude in midterm elections, presidents lose roughly 25 seats in the House and maybe five in the Senate. That would be average. Who knows if this is going to be an average election.

Certainly it will be a referendum on Donald Trump. He won't be on the ballot but in a very real way, he will be on the ballot in the sense that people will be voting up or down for his party because of him.

VANIER: Listen to another part, which I believe is central to the president's narrative on immigration. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I always hear that, oh, no, the population is safer than the people that live in the country.


TRUMP: You've heard that, fellows, right? You've heard that. I hear it so much and I say, is that possible?

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.


VANIER: What exactly is he talking about?

Do you hear people saying that, immigrants are better than Americans?

Is that part of the narrative in the United States?

GENOVESE: You know, I've never heard anything like that. The president says that all of the Democrats want crime to be rampant. I have never heard a Democrat -- I'm not a Democrat but I know many. I've never heard one Democrat say I want more crime.

And so the president is setting up a straw man, a phony man, to try to tear it down. But I think that's a measure of the weakness of his argument and that he thinks on the fly. He just runs with things. What he said that --


VANIER: Well, hold on. You say it's a weak argument.

Could it work, though?

GENOVESE: Well, Ronald Reagan used to say facts are stubborn things. The question is, can we deny facts long enough so that Donald Trump can get what he wants?

The fact of the matter is -- and everyone reports it, you've reported on it -- immigrants, legal and illegal, commit fewer crimes and fewer serious crimes and fewer murders than people who are native Americans. That's the fact.

But we're not governed by fact. We're governed by a sense of perception. And if you can create the percept that we're under attack, that we're being invaded, that you've got people who are a different color, he'll sort of stir up and stoke the anger and fears of nationalism and sometimes of racism. It's about emotion. It's about perception. It's not about fact. VANIER: Yes. And I was just reading, studies show that there is actually that widely held perception in the U.S., that people believe there is just more crime within the immigrant population than there is within the native America, U.S. citizen population.

All right, Michael Genovese, thank you very much for joining us on the show. Always a pleasure.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

VANIER: And 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 took effect in April and May.

And another 2,300 migrant children were taken from their parents and whisked away. 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 in 17 different states.

These facilities are contracted with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, 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, 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 "vitamins."

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


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.


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 --


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 --


HAHNEL: -- 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 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.

VANIER: Coming up, monsoon season sets in in South Asia and floods are already wreaking havoc in the region. We'll have the latest forecast just ahead. Stay with us.





VANIER: Floodwaters have begun to recede in some parts of northeastern India. This after torrential rains devastated the area in the last few days. Nearly 2 dozen deaths are being blamed on the floods and more than 1,500 villages were swamped. Flooding is an annual problem during monsoon season in South Asia.

Meanwhile, landslides and flooding are also hitting Southwest China.


VANIER: Coming up, after Croatia's upset against Argentina in the World Cup, Costa Rica looks to do the same versus Brazil and until the very, very last moments of the game, it looked like they were going to pull it off. We'll have our roundup of Friday's World Cup action when we come back.




VANIER: The World Cup has been a wild, unpredictable tournament so far in Russia. But Friday was almost exceptional for a lack of upsets. These Brazilian fans took to the streets of Moscow to celebrate their team's --


VANIER: -- dominant win over Costa Rica. That means Costa Rica is out of the tournament. This as Brazil's arch rival, Argentina, is barely hanging on. For more on Friday's games and a look ahead, here is CNN's Don Riddell.


DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The World Cup is beautiful but it can also be miserable. And in between, it is stressful and it is emotional.


RIDDELL (voice-over): If you are a Brazilian fan on Friday, it was all of the above. But in the end, it was worth it. It looked as though Brazil and Costa Rica were going to end as a goal of draw (ph) but Philippe Coutinho saved the day with a goal and injury time for one of the tournament favorites. And it seemed to liberate Neymar. He's the world's most expensive players and he made sure of the win with his first goal of the tournament in the 97th minute. And he could hardly contain his emotions after the victory.

Elsewhere in group E, Switzerland became the first team in this tournament to come from behind to win a game, beating Serbia 2-1 in Kaliningrad. The Swiss fell behind early in the game but in the second half they leveled the score with that sensational strike from Granit Xhaka. It was absolutely brilliant, wasn't it, and it set the stage for a grandstand finish, Xherdan Shaqiri breaking free here to score in the 90th minute to complete the comeback. Both teams are still in a good place going into the final group games. Group E is intriguing. Just look at the state of it after these two matches, Switzerland and Brazil lead the way with 4 points each. Serbia have 3, Costa Rica are out. But for everyone else, there is still everything to play for.

In group D, Nigeria took on Iceland in Volgograd. Early in the second half, Nigeria's Ahmed Musa took this goal brilliantly. And he then doubled their advantage with a very calmly taken strike 15 minutes from time. And Nigeria won it by 2-0.

So Croatia are definitely through and Nigeria have their fate in their own hands. Their last game is against Argentina. A win or a draw will suffice for the Super Eagles but if Argentina win, they have a shot. They would have 4 points, which might be enough.

Let's look at what we can look forward to on Saturday. Can the defending champions Germany recover from their defeat last Saturday? They go against Sweden and having already stunned the Germans, Mexico can consolidate their position with a win against South Korea.

And in group G, it's Belgium against Tunisia. A lot of people fancy the Belgians in this tournament. We'll see how they go -- Don Riddell, CNN.


VANIER: That's it from us for now. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in just a moment. Stick around for that.