What's happening at the US border

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Amanda Wills, CNN
9:52 p.m. ET, June 22, 2018
11:09 a.m. ET, June 19, 2018

Republican senator: It's time for Trump to end the "cruel, tragic separations of families"

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, just issued a statement calling on the White House to "end the cruel, tragic separations of families" at the southern border.

Here's her statement, which she tweeted:

CORRECTION: We originally said Lisa Murkowski is a senator from Maine. She is from Alaska.

7:19 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Trump met with GOP senators on border wall funding but not on the separation policy

From CNN's Kristin Wilson and Ted Barrett

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said that his meeting today with President Trump and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito focused on border security and wall funding but not on the family separation policy.

“We talked about funding, how we can hopefully make a down payment on the funding of the wall,” he said. “The President is determined, and I agree with him, that we should protect the border.”

Shelby said the meeting did not include a broader immigration reform discussion.

“It was focused solely on building the wall and securing the border. We didn’t get into the merits or substance of the immigration challenge.”

Asked about the President’s assertions both on the campaign trail and since becoming president that Mexico would pay for the wall, Shelby said, “Well, who knows? They might before it’s all over with. He says they are. We’ll see.”

Shelby said the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which will be marked up Tuesday, will include $1.6 billion for border security construction. This is the amount the administration requested. 

Shelby described the family separation issue playing out of the border as "heart wrenching."

“When you separate children from their families," he said. "That’s a tough situation anywhere in the world. We know that. Its complex. Its heart wrenching. Let’s see where we go.”

6:51 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Homeland Security head on criticism from former first ladies: "I share their concerns"

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen responded to criticism from multiple former first ladies to the administration's zero tolerance immigration stance, remarking that it is a serious issue but one that should be handled by Congress. 

“What my response would be is calling attention to this matter is important,” Nielsen said from the White House briefing room Monday. “This is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action, so I would thank them both for their comments."

"I would thank them both for their concerns. I share their concerns. Congress is the one that needs to fix this.”

Nielsen added: "It’s not a policy. Our policy at DHS is to do what we’re sworn to do, which is to enforce the law." 

Asked specifically about the Japanese internment remark from former first lady Laura Bush, Nielsen said, “What I believe is that we should exercise our Democratic rights as Americans and fix the problem. It’s a problem. Let’s fix it.” 

6:39 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Mormon Church calls border separations of families "harmful"

The Mormon Church just issued a statement on border family separations, stating that "immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together," and that the separations at the southern border were "harmful to families, especially to young children."

Here's the full statement:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long expressed its position that immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together. The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families. While we recognize the right of all nations to enforce their laws and secure their borders, we encourage our national leaders to take swift action to correct this situation and seek for rational, compassionate solutions."

7:38 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Children cry out for "Mama" and "Papi" in heartbreaking audio recorded at a detention center

ProPublica published audio of children at a US Customs and Border Protection facility who have been separated from their parents.

The audio was provided by Human Rights attorney Jennifer Harbury, who told CNN that a client was at the facility last week where children had been recently separated from their parents.

In the audio you can hear children crying and asking for “Papi” and “Mama." One child can be heard begging for someone to call her aunt, saying she even has the phone number memorized.

Listen to the tape:

When asked specifically about the recording during the press briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said, “I have not seen something that came out today but I have been to detention centers and again I would reference you to our standards, I would reference you to the care provided not just by the Department of Homeland Security but by the department by Health and Human Services when they get to HHS.”

ProPublica was able to reach the aunt of the young girl in the recording. The aunt told them she was sad there was nothing she could do to help her niece, because she and her own 9-year-old daughter were seeking asylum after immigrating two years ago.

The aunt told ProPublica she has talked to her niece, and the young girl has been moved to shelter. She says the child has been told that her mother might be deported without her. She also said the girl has not yet had an opportunity speak to her mother, who has been move to a detention facility in Port Isabel, Texas.

Note: CNN has not been able to verify the source of the tape nor the events that reportedly occur on the audio. CNN did speak with civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury who provided the clip to ProPublica, she will provide no further detail. CNN has also reached out to CBP and are awaiting a response. 

6:19 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Last year, John Kelly said DHS may separate children from their parents to deter illegal immigration

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who is now White House chief of staff, told CNN's Wolf Blizter in March 2017 that the department was considering separating undocumented children from their parents at the border.

Kelly said he was considering any policy that would help deter "people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States."

"We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors," he told Blitzer. "We turn them over to (Health and Human Services) and they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States."

He continued: "Yes I'm considering (that), in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents. ... It's more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network."

Why we're talking about this now

Current Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is facing scrutiny for the policy resulted in an uptick of children being separated from their families. Today, she said the "vast majority" of children being held in the detention facilities were sent to the US alone by their parents.

5:42 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Nielsen says migrant children "are not being used" as pawns

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was asked if the children who have been separated from the parents were also being used as pawns to against a border wall.

Nielsen denied the children were being used in any way.

"The children are not being used as a pawn and we're trying to protect the children which is why I'm asking Congress to act," she said. 

5:41 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Homeland Security chief denies separation amounts to "child abuse"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Asked Monday why the administration's policy of separating children from their parents on the border isn't "child abuse," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted conditions at the detention facilities are up to par.

Here's what she told CNN's Jeff Zeleny:

"We have high standards. We give them meals and we give them education and we give them medical care. There are videos. There are TVs. I visited the detention centers myself."

She said the "vast majority" of children being held in the detention facilities were sent to the US alone by their parents.

What the American Academy of Pediatrics says:

Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said removing children from the care of their parents at the border amounts to a form of child abuse.

"This is not normal activity or brain development with these children. The takeaway is that these children need their parents," she said. "This does amount to child abuse."

5:32 p.m. ET, June 18, 2018

Homeland Security head says Congress created the border crisis and "alone can fix it"

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen continued to defend the Trump administration's highly scrutinized immigration policy at a White House press briefing Monday while at the same time calling on Congress to change the law.

"Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it," she said at today's press briefing. "Until then, we will enforce every law we have on the books to defend the sovereignty and security of the United States."

She later added, "Surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of the democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law. I ask Congress to act this week so that we could secure our borders and uphold our humanitarian ideals."

President Trump has squarely -- and misleadingly -- blamed Democrats for the unfolding crisis.