What's happening at the US border

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 9:52 p.m. ET, June 22, 2018
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4:46 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Sarah Sanders didn't want to do the briefing today, source says

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

A White House official tells CNN that Sarah Sanders did not want to do the press briefing today amid a swirl of questions about the separation policy, so Homeland Security chief Nielsen is being flown back from New Orleans to take questions.

This explains the repeated delay for today's White House press briefing. It’s an open question whether Nielsen will make it back by 5 p.m. ET.


5:34 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Is the practice of separating families new?


Yes and no. More children are being separated from their parents at the border as a result of the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy -- around 2,000 since May, according to the latest statistics officials have released. And that's no accident; officials have indicated they implemented the new policy to deter more immigrants from coming to the United States.

But family separations were happening before officials announced the policy.

In April, the Department of Health and Human Services told The New York Times that approximately 700 children had been taken from families at the border in the six preceding months.

This had also occurred in some individual cases under past administrations as well -- but not at the scale we're seeing currently.

It has long been a misdemeanor federal offense to be caught illegally entering the country, punishable by up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. But previous US administrations generally didn't refer everyone caught for prosecution. Those who were apprehended were put into immigration proceedings and faced deportation from the country, unless they qualified to pursue an asylum claim.

— From CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet

4:24 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Every living first lady has spoken out against family separation

Michelle Obama and Laura Bush are two of the four first ladies who have spoken out about family separation.
Michelle Obama and Laura Bush are two of the four first ladies who have spoken out about family separation. ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images

All five living first ladies — three Democrats and two Republicans — have criticized the White House's "zero-tolerance" policy, which has forced the separation of undocumented parents and children crossing the US border.

Here's what they said said:

Melania Trump

"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform," Trump's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."

Michelle Obama

Obama retweeted fellow former first lady Laura Bush's scathing column on the issue and added a message of support.

Laura Bush

Bush wrote a harsh criticism of the policy in the Washington Post: "I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart."

Hillary Clinton

Clinton told an audience of women in New York that separating families at the border is a “moral and humanitarian crisis." She said: “What is happening to families at the border is horrific, nursing infants being ripped away from their mothers, parents being told their toddlers are being taken to bathe or play only to realizes hours later they aren’t coming back, children incarcerated in warehouses and according to one account, kept in cages."

This statement was obtained by Kate Andersen Brower, who says Carter’s office is set to tweet it momentarily.

 Rosalynn Carter

Carter released a statement through her office Monday: “When I was first lady, I worked to call attention to the plight of refugees fleeing Cambodia for Thailand. I visited Thailand and witnessed firsthand the trauma of parents and children separated by circumstances beyond their control. The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country."

4:07 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

A wide majority of Americans oppose Trump's policy causing family separation

From CNN's Grace Sparks

Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the Trump administration's practice of taking undocumented immigrant children from their families and putting them in government facilities on US borders, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Only 28% approve.

But not among Republicans: There is majority support for the policy that has resulted in an uptick of children being separated from their families.

The separations are the end result of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy of criminally charging people who cross the border illegally.

The new poll numbers follow harsh criticism that President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are receiving after implementing the new policy.

4:04 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Why are families being separated?


The Trump administration announced a new policy in May, saying authorities would criminally prosecute anyone who crosses the border illegally. The result: While they face prosecution, parents are now held in federal prisons -- where their children can't be held with them.

Previous administrations largely opted not to pursue criminal charges against people who crossed illegally with children, referring them instead mostly to immigration courts.

From CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet

4:02 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Nancy Pelosi: Family separation is "barbaric" and "challenges the conscience of our country"

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Separating children from their parents is a “heartbreaking, barbaric issue that could be changed in a moment by the President of the United States rescinding his action, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in San Diego.

She said it “challenges the conscience of our country” and “must be changed immediately."

“This is not an immigration issue," Pelosi said, "this is a humanitarian issue."

“We will be persisting in getting the information that we need to make sure the American people understand that their values are on the line,” the Congresswoman said.  

3:19 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

New York won't send its National Guard to the border

New York state will not deploy the National Guard to the border, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday, citing the treatment of families at the border as a “moral outrage and an affront to the values that built this state and this nation.”

"In the face of this ongoing human tragedy, let me be very clear: New York will not be party to this inhumane treatment of immigrant families,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not deploy National Guard to the border, and we will not be complicit in a political agenda that governs by fear and division.”

The New York news came just after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced that governor had directed his state's National Guard not to send any assets or personnel to the border, also citing the family separation issue.

2:57 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Democratic senator demands Homeland Security chief resigns

Sen. Kamala Harris said that Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen should resign as outrage over the White House's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which has separated undocumented parents and children, grows.

Harris, a Democrat, sits on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which has oversight of DHS.

Here's her tweet:

Earlier today, Nielsen defended the immigration policy, saying, "We will not apologize for the job we do."

You can watch more of her comments in the video below:

2:26 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Clinton: I warned you Trump's immigration policies would lead to this

From CNN’s Dan Merica

Hillary Clinton told an audience of women in New York on Monday that separating families are the border is a “moral and humanitarian crisis” and that “every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged.” 

Clinton also took on Trump directly, saying his argument that the separations are a result of the “Democrats law” is an “outright lie.��

“What is happening to families at the border is horrific, nursing infants being ripped away from their mothers, parents being told their toddlers are being taken to bathe or play only to realizes hours later they aren’t coming back, children incarcerated in warehouses and, according to one account, kept in cages,” Clinton said. 

She added:

“You know, I warned about this during the debates and on the campaign trail, that Trump’s immigration policies would result in families being separated, and parents being sent away from the children, people being rounded up and loaded into trains and busses and now as we watch with broken hearts, that is exactly what is happening. And let’s be very clear, this is not happening because of the quote “Democrats law” as the White House has claimed. Separating families is not mandated by law at all. That is an outright lie.”

Clinton also slammed Trump to his tweets on Germany this morning, labeling them as the “President’s attempt today to stoke fear."