CNN – Politics

Government details how separated families will be reunited -- eventually

Government details how separated families will be reunited -- eventually

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Trump administration is releasing its plan for putting back together the thousands of families it separated at the border -- but the reunions won't happen quickly.In a releas ... Continue Reading
DHS employees warned about safety amid backlash over family separations

DHS employees warned about safety amid backlash over family separations

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Amid the furor over the policy that resulted in thousands of families separated at the border, Department of Homeland Security employees have been warned about threats to their pers ... Continue Reading
Trump jabs 'Wacky Jacky and Pocahontas' while campaigning for Dean Heller in Nevada

Trump jabs 'Wacky Jacky and Pocahontas' while campaigning for Dean Heller in Nevada

LAS VEGAS (CNN) - In a visit to boost one of the nation's most vulnerable Republican senators ahead of this fall's November election, President Donald Trump unveiled a new nickname for the Democrat running to unseat Sen. Dean Heller.

"Wacky Jacky," Trump said at the Nevada GOP convention, in reference to Rep. Jacky Rosen. "You don't want her as your senator."

Trump's short Saturday swing through Las Vegas was aimed largely at bolstering Heller, who is running for re-election in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Just before his speech to the state GOP, he held a backstage fundraiser for Heller.

During the speech, Trump listed off several of his administration's accomplishments, notably the passage of tax cuts and repealing the individual mandate under Obamacare.

As controversy still rages over his administration's handling of immigrant families at the Southern border, Trump said he sees the issue as immigration as a winner for Republicans in the midterms.

"I think I got elected largely because we are strong on the border," Trump said.

Of undocumented immigrants, he said, "if they see any weakness, they will come by the millions."

Trump also noted that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a potential 2020 challenger, was in the state Saturday speaking at the state Democratic convention, again using the "Pocahontas" slur to describe the Massachusetts Democrat.

"Wacky Jacky is campaigning with Pocahontas, you believe this? In your state! Can you believe this?" Trump said at the Nevada GOP convention. "When you see that, that's not the senator you want."

The President also mocked calls for an apology for using the term.

"To the memory of Pocahontas, I apologize," he said.

After the speech, Trump was headed to a roundtable with Heller, gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, labor secretary Alex Acosta and local business leaders focused on the GOP's tax bill, for which Heller claimed credit.

The trip shows the extent to which Trump and Heller have repaired their relationship.

Heller was a Trump critic during the 2016 election. Last summer, he famously stood with Brian Sandoval, Nevada's popular outgoing moderate Republican governor, and declared his opposition to Trump's bill repealing parts of Obamacare.

The two broke the ice on an October flight to Las Vegas after the mass shooting there. Heller, meanwhile, has been a staunch advocate for Trump's other policies -- particularly tax reform.

Trump prodded Heller -- who famously helped tank Trump's effort to repeal Obamacare last summer -- saying his re-election bid was "a little bit shaky at the beginning."

That was, in part, because of the presence of conservative challenger Danny Tarkanian in the race.

At the urging of Trump and Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, Tarkanian dropped out of that campaign to run for the 3rd District House seat instead.

"He's a great team player, Danny. He's a really great team player. And Dean and myself, we really appreciate what he did," Trump said of Tarkanian.

During the speech, President also returned to his familiar criticism of Arizona Sen. John McCain, saying "a little early-morning surprise by one of our own" -- referring to McCain's dramatic thumbs-down vote on an Obamacare repeal bill -- tanked the effort to undo former President Barack Obama's signature legislation.

Since then, the tax bill repealed Obamacare's individual mandate, and the Trump administration is rolling back the law's other protections.

"We've essentially gutted it anyway," Trump said.

Trump repeatedly claimed that electing Rosen to the Senate amounts to backing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

He promised to return to the state to campaign for Heller, Laxalt and Tarkanian.

"I will be back a lot because we're going to be fighting real hard for Danny, and for Adam, and for Dean," Trump said.

At one point, after jabbing at "Wacky Jacky and Pocahontas," Trump claimed that Rosen and Warren "don't know how to say Nevada." The two say "Nev-ah-da," a pet peeve for the state's residents, rather than the correct "Nev-AD-a," Trump claimed.

However, as he finished his speech, it was Trump who made the mistake.

"Thank you very much, Nevada," he said -- pronouncing it "Nev-ah-da."

How Stephen Miller, the architect behind Trump's immigration policies, rose to power

How Stephen Miller, the architect behind Trump's immigration policies, rose to power

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Nearly ever present by the President's side, perhaps no one is more responsible for the Trump agenda than Stephen Miller.President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive or ... Continue Reading
Mike Huckabee accused of bigotry and racism after tweet touting Pelosi's 'campaign committee'

Mike Huckabee accused of bigotry and racism after tweet touting Pelosi's 'campaign committee'

(CNN) - Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is facing allegations of racism after he tweeted a photo on Saturday of five men who appear to be using hand signs associated with the MS-13 gang with t ... Continue Reading
Minnesota is 2018 in a nutshell for Republicans

Minnesota is 2018 in a nutshell for Republicans

DULUTH, Minnesota (CNN) - If Republicans are able to stem the Democratic tide rising in 2018, then Minnesota will be key.But the state, long home to liberal icons and seen as reliably Democratic in ... Continue Reading
US preparing in DMZ for return of troop remains from North Korea

US preparing in DMZ for return of troop remains from North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) - About 100 wooden transport cases are being sent to the Demilitarized Zone, starting Saturday, to prepare for receiving US troop remains from North Korea, a representative fo ... Continue Reading
Kamala Harris: 'That is a prison'; Warren and Trump collide in Nevada; Inslee visits Iowa

Kamala Harris: 'That is a prison'; Warren and Trump collide in Nevada; Inslee visits Iowa

(CNN) - Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race: California's Sen. Kamala Harris called an immigration detention facility in ... Continue Reading
Trump says 'we do a much better job' of detaining people who cross illegally

Trump says 'we do a much better job' of detaining people who cross illegally

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump defended the detention conditions for migrant families who cross the border illegally, arguing his administration does a "much better job" than the Obama administration.

"We do a much better job while at the same time maintaining a MUCH stronger Border! Mainstream Fake Media hates this story," Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

Attention was given to the conditions migrants are being held in after reports that 2,000 children had been separated from their families as a result of the Trump administration's policy to refer any adult that crosses the border illegally for criminal prosecution.

Photos released by US Customs and Border Protection of a processing detention center in McAllen, Texas, showed chain link fences and mattresses on the floor with thermal blankets for the families.

In his tweet Saturday morning, Trump also referred to a headline posted on the conservative website Drudge Report, "Obama kept them in cages, wrapped them in foil."

Images during the Obama years have resurfaced, including a photo from 2014 that showed two female detainees sleep in a holding cell at a CBP center in Nogales, Arizona.

Supporters of President Trump have stated that detention facilities for minors are essentially the same today as they were then.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told CNN that there was no formal policy to separate the detained families of illegal immigrants under President Barack Obama.

While children have historically been separated from family members at the border under certain circumstances, it was not the same as the Trump administration's 100% prosecution policy, which had affected children even if they came in with parents or legal guardians.

Sarah Sanders says she was kicked out of restaurant because she works for Trump

Sarah Sanders says she was kicked out of restaurant because she works for Trump

WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant by its owner because she works for President Donald Trump."Last night I was told by the ... Continue Reading
FBI updates House on Russia-related document requests, items still outstanding

FBI updates House on Russia-related document requests, items still outstanding

(CNN) - The FBI informed House Republicans late Friday evening that it has "substantially complied" with two committees' document requests related to the Russia investigation, but correspondence obta ... Continue Reading
Seth Rogen reveals he refused a photo with Paul Ryan: 'No way, man'

Seth Rogen reveals he refused a photo with Paul Ryan: 'No way, man'

(CNN) - Seth Rogen revealed Friday he refused to take a picture with Paul Ryan and instead rebuked the House speaker.The actor and comedian said the incident took place at a Park City, Utah, summi ... Continue Reading
This poll shows why it's difficult for Democrats to take the Senate

This poll shows why it's difficult for Democrats to take the Senate

(CNN) - First things first: The theme song of the week is Theme from Mission: Impossible from the television show Mission: Impossible. The poll of the week: A new Mason-Dixon poll in North Dakota ... Continue Reading
South Carolina candidate hospitalized with serious injuries after car wreck

South Carolina candidate hospitalized with serious injuries after car wreck

(CNN) - South Carolina congressional candidate Katie Arrington is in the hospital with serious injuries after being involved in a fatal car wreck Friday night, according to her campaign.Arrington ... Continue Reading
Trump's go-it-alone immigration strategy ends in chaos, confusion

Trump's go-it-alone immigration strategy ends in chaos, confusion

WASHINGTON (CNN) - On Wednesday morning, White House cooks were flipping steaks and unboxing popcorn machines ahead of the yearly congressional picnic. Within the hour, the picnic was scrubbed, the st ... Continue Reading
Trump supporters are less with him on Russia than they are on other issues

Trump supporters are less with him on Russia than they are on other issues

(CNN) - Those who approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as the President are, naturally, much more likely to say they also approve of how he's doing on certain issues such like the economy, immigr ... Continue Reading
Democrats see Trump's Nevada trip as an opening to focus on immigration

Democrats see Trump's Nevada trip as an opening to focus on immigration

LAS VEGAS (CNN) - President Donald Trump is in Las Vegas on Saturday -- and Democrats are thrilled about it. With the nation focused on Trump's policy that's resulted in children being separating f ... Continue Reading
Trump's personal legal team opposed family separation

Trump's personal legal team opposed family separation

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two of President Donald Trump's personal lawyers on the Russia investigation broke ranks with their client this week on an entirely unrelated topic, rejecting his now-abandoned prac ... Continue Reading
Obama to visit Kenya for the first time since leaving office

Obama to visit Kenya for the first time since leaving office

(CNN) - Former President Barack Obama will travel to his father's homeland of Kenya next month as part of an international trip that will also include stops in South Africa, Spain and Portugal.Oba ... Continue Reading
Chaos as parents, lawyers try to find separated children

Chaos as parents, lawyers try to find separated children

(CNN) - Immigration attorneys say not much has changed for their clients being held in detention centers, despite President Donald Trump signing an executive order to stop separating children from parents illegally crossing the border.

Jodi Goodwin, a lawyer from Garlingen, Texas, told CNN on Friday that all 25 of her adult clients have children, but only two have been able to contact them by phone. However, those parents still don't know their children's location, she said.

"I've had clients that have been detained for two and a half weeks and they still don't know where their children are," she said.

The cautious relief that came after Trump's executive order has turned into widespread confusion among detained immigrant parents and their lawyers.

Distraught parents are searching for their children separated from them weeks ago, some as young as 9 months old. Some parents are trying to track them down from immigration detention, where resources and phone calls are limited.

Many of the at least 2,300 children separated from their migrant parents since May are in far-flung shelters and foster homes nationwide -- hundreds of miles away from the southern border.

The process of reuniting parents and children is so chaotic, even immigrant rights organizations and lawyers are frantically working through a maze of unknowns.

'It takes time. It's slow'

When children are separated at the border, they are designated as "unaccompanied alien children" and sent to facilities in states such as Michigan, New York and South Carolina. In the past, more than 100 shelters in 17 states have housed unaccompanied children.

In some cases, federal officials secretly sent the children to city facilities without notifying the local government, as was the case in New York City, making finding them even more complicated.

US officials are not doing much to help reunite families, according to lawyers and immigrants rights group. Trump's executive order does not address the uniting of families already separated -- and existing policies place the onus on parents to find their own children.

But that's a problem for detained parents.

Goodwin said her clients reported they were not given a phone number that immigrant parents are supposed to call if they want information about their children. Her clients who did contact their children got the phone number from another detainee, not somebody working for the detention center, Goodwin said.

"You would think that that information would be posted," she said. "They have told me it's not posted."

"It seems like just a very painful bureaucratic process taking place," said attorney Efrén Olivares of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is helping reunite the families.

"It takes time. It's slow. It's not transparent. Even for the attorneys representing these parents," Olivares said, adding that of the 400 separated children his organization has tried to track down, only one has been reunited with a relative in the United States.

CNN visits a shelter

On Friday, federal authorities gave CNN reporter Dianne Gallagher a tour of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for "Unaccompanied Alien Children" in South Florida. She was not allowed to talk to the children or take photos inside.

The shelter, a vacant Job Corps site, has been open and holding minors since March. It houses 1,179 youth -- 792 males and 387 females -- aged 13-17 and is the second-largest shelter in the country. Most of these kids are from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras.

Children are separated by gender into groups of 12 per dorm room. They wear badges with bar codes on lanyards around their necks. CNN saw adult workers scanning them into each door they entered.

Most children were wearing clothes given to them by Health & Human Services. They get five days worth of clothing -- boys in various shades of blue, girls in pink and red, T-shirts and shorts for the most part.

They walked CNN through the "school" portion of the campus. Gallagher said it looked like a rundown elementary school with large cutouts of Disney princesses and Doc McStuffins on the walls. The students' artwork was displayed on walls, along with American civic posters describing the three branches of government, the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution.

Art is one of the classes on the schedule, as are math, reading, history, English as second language, physical education and "vocational classes."

There were large, banquet style folding tables and chairs, some mismatched, in most rooms. Gallagher did not see desks or computers -- but that doesn't mean they aren't there. This was a quick tour.

The schedule says the children wake up at 6:30 a.m. and lights go out at 10 p.m. Weekends have religious services and more free time.

Director Leslie Wood said fewer than 70 of the children were separated from their parents at the border due to Trump administration zero tolerance policy. Two days ago, HHS told US Sen. Bill Nelson and local reporters 94 children arrived because of zero tolerance. When asked about the disparity in numbers, Wood said they were reunited.

ICE: Parents decide if children return

Parents decide if they'll get deported with or without their children, Henry Lucero, a field office director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told a roundtable of lawmakers in Weslaco, Texas.

Lucero said a parent in ICE custody is asked if they want to be repatriated with or without their children.

ICE says "a majority" of parents are opting to be deported without their child so the children can go through the immigration system, he said.

If the parent decides to have their child back, the consulate of their origin country will work with ICE to reunite the parents and children while they are still in the United States.

Ryan Patrick, US attorney for Southern District of Texas, said prosecutions for illegal entry are up 266% since zero tolerance went into effect.

Dozens reconnected

Melissa Lopez helps reunite separated immigrant children with their parents, and she's been busy.

Lawyers have sent her organization several requests from distraught parents searching for their children after crossing the border through El Paso.

"They will send us a list and say, 'please check,' " said Lopez, who serves as the executive director of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso, Texas.

"It's been kind of crazy the level that it's been happening. Many of the attorneys, we send them information on one child and they're sending us two or three more requests right after that."

So far, they have reconnected between 20 to 30 families over the phone. As facilities reach capacity, children are increasingly being sent to other parts of the country, away from where their parents are detained, Lopez said. There's no easy system to match family members, she said, and phone calls are a crucial, immediate way to reconnect.

"The government provides absolutely no tools to these families to try and reunite them. They separate them and make no sort of effort or feel any sort of responsibility about making sure either party knows where the other is," Lopez said. "It definitely is challenging."

The Office of Refugee Resettlement provides parents with a hotline to call for details on a separated child, and says it will work across agencies to schedule regular phone communication.

"They (parents) have to hope that somebody reaches out to follow up. It's a really inhumane system," Lopez said.

A mother's anguish

Cindy Madrid had heard her daughter's voice in an anguished voice recording released by investigative news nonprofit ProPublica. In it, Alisson can be heard begging for someone to call her aunt as she recites the phone number she memorized during the 17-day journey from their native El Salvador to the US border.

"Imagine, all these days without knowing anything about my daughter, without talking to her, without seeing her. Without any information about anything," Madrid says.

On Friday, Jeff Eller, spokesperson for Southwest Key Programs, said the child heard in the ProPublica audio has communicated directly with her mother. Eller did not identify Madrid by name.

"We can confirm that the child has been assigned a case manager who, on the day she arrived at our shelter, began the process of safe reunification. On the first day, the child spoke to her aunt and has spoken to her since. The child was able to speak with her mother for 30 minutes yesterday. We are continuing to provide this child with excellent care and are advocating for safe reunification on her behalf, as well as continued communication with her mother and aunt."

Hope amid chaos

In Texas, one small shelter has found success reuniting young children with family members.

Three children placed at Catholic Charities Fort Worth were reunited with their relatives this week after getting separated at the border, said Heather Reynolds, the group's executive director.

The reunions provided a much-needed ray of optimism in an otherwise grim situation.

Catholic Charities is currently housing about a dozen children separated from their family members in the weeks after the administration's zero-tolerance policy took effect, Reynolds said. The policy to refer all adults for charges was publicly announced May 7, leading to thousands of child separations.

"They're hurting, they're worried, they're worried about mom and dad," she said. "We have seen an increase in crying, nightmares, things like that."

The children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and are between ages 5 and 12. They go to a school on-site for half their day and focus on English and geography lessons.

"We spend a lot of time on geography, on the journey that they've been on and where they will be going to," Reynolds said.

So far, the administration has not provided details on how it plans to unite the children separated from their families.

"It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter," said Brian Marriott, a families' division spokesman for the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Frustrated with the family separations, a California couple started a Facebook fundraising campaign to reunite children separated from their parents. They've raised $17 million so far, and plan to continue despite Trump's order, which ends the separation of families by detaining parents and children together.

Action in New York

New York City is devising a plan to team attorneys with each parent and child.

Once the city can determine who is in the foster care system, find out where children are and determine their needs, it will offer services, authorities said.

The city needs key information in order to arrange for lawyers to connect with detained parents.

"The federal government hasn't created a system that allows for there to be a clear path forward," said Bitta Mostofi, NYC's commissioner of Immigrant Affairs.

Children in New York separated from their parents due to the zero-tolerance policy are experiencing nightmares, disorientation and anxiety according to Mario Russell, lead attorney for Catholic Charities, which is legally representing some separated children. Russell said no children have begun the reunification process.