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
128 Posts
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1:55 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Why an executive order could create a legal problem

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue 

An executive order allowing families to stay together could pose a legal problem for the administration if it decides to detain families as units.

Indefinite detention of minors would violated the Flores Settlement because it requires release to the "least restrictive environment" within 20 days.

If the President acts, it will be challenged immediately.

For instance, the parties that secured the Flores Consent decree would go back to the district court and argue that the government is in violation of the court order.


1:28 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Barack Obama: Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms?

Former President Barack Obama marked World Refugee Day with a lengthy Facebook post about the border crisis happening in the US right now.

"To watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?" Obama wrote.

The former President said all Americans, no matter where their families came from, "are only here because this country welcomed them in."

"To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better,"

12:35 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Trump: If you're weak, the country is going to be "overrun with millions of people"

President Trump, speaking with members of Congress at the White House, addressed the border crisis, saying he would sign something soon that keeps families together.

However, he said if a President is "weak," then "millions" of people could pour into the country.

"The dilemma is that if you're weak, if you're weak, which some people would like you to be, if you're really, really pathetically weak, the country's going to be overrun with millions of people. And if you're strong, then you don't have any heart. That's a tough dilemma. Perhaps I would rather be strong, but that's a tough dilemma."

This came in response to Sen. Lindsey Graham calling the immigration policy "a mess."

12:26 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Melania Trump pressed the President to keep families together

From CNN's Kate Bennett

First lady Melania Trump has been working for several days behind the scenes, encouraging the President to keep families together, a White House official tells CNN.

Melania has had several private conversations with her husband, pushing him to do all he can to keep families at the border intact, whether via a legislative route, or acting alone to stop the process. 

Earlier this week, Melania made a rare statement on a a policy issue to address the immigration crisis.

"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," her 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." 
12:32 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Justice Department is drafting an executive order for Trump to sign

From CNN's Laura Jarrett and Tal Kopan

Justice Department officials have been huddled up since this morning, working on executive order for the President to sign that will address the separation of families, according to a source familiar with the plans.

This is the typical process with executive orders, as it requires a number of moving parts legally and the input of the Office of Legal Counsel. 

What exactly the EO will say is still being worked out, with ongoing conversations between the White House, the Justice Department and Homeland Security, the source said.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not at the meeting at the White House, his chief of staff has been there to represent the Justice Department, the source added. 

Additionally, a senior administration official tells CNN that Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen has been at the White House all morning in the room with the President and key staff, calling her a “key player” who was urging for action to be taken.

The administration is still pushing for congressional action, the senior official said, and is looking at the Flores settlement, which prohibits children with their families from being detained longer than 20 days.

“We want the ability to be able to detain and remove families swiftly,” the official said, declining to go into details of the order.

12:24 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Trump: "I'll be signing something" soon that deals with separated families

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

President Trump hinted moments ago that he could soon issue an executive action that deals with the crisis of separated families at the southern border.

“I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that,” Trump said. “I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure.” 

White House aides had refused to comment on rumors of an executive order prior to Trump’s unscheduled remarks to reporters, and Republicans on Capitol Hill seemingly had no knowledge of a coming executive action.

Trump and the White House have instead been pushing GOP lawmakers this week to pass legislation that deals with immigration reform.

12:01 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

President Trump says he will take action soon on immigration issue

President Donald Trump indicated he would take action shortly to both improve security on the border and help keep families together, speaking briefly with reporters Wednesday.

He would be taking "preemptive" action as the White House and lawmakers scramble to deal with fallout over the administration’s "zero-tolerance" policy.

12:20 p.m. ET, June 20, 2018

El Salvador calls on US to stop separating families

From CNNe’s Ana Melgar

Liduvina Magarin, El Salvador’s minister for Salvadorians abroad, said the country's government is asking the US to stop border separations.

“As a government we reiterate our call on the United States to cease the separation of boys and girls from their families at the border. Along with consuls of Honduras and Guatemala we are making a coordinated effort to give attention to the migrant population of these countries, detained on the southern border of the United States.” 
11:51 a.m. ET, June 20, 2018

Where immigration measures stand in Congress right now

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

President Trump, accompanied by House Speaker Paul Ryan, arrives for a meeting with Republican members of Congress on June 19, 2018.
President Trump, accompanied by House Speaker Paul Ryan, arrives for a meeting with Republican members of Congress on June 19, 2018. ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images

The House GOP is planning to vote tomorrow on the two broad immigration bills. They are currently well short of the votes needed to pass the more moderate leadership version, and they are still whipping.

House Republicans, at the moment, are not considering a targeted fix to the issue. Speaker Paul Ryan said they’ll cross that bridge if they come to it. 

Meanwhile, senators are working on a targeted bill. Sen. Thom Tillis is leading the way. That's likely to look a lot like what House Republicans have in their broad bill:

  • It overturns the Flores ruling (more on what that means here) to allow children to stay with their parents.
  • It also allows parents to stay in DHS custody (with their children) as criminal proceedings occur.
  • The bill wouldn’t overturn the “zero tolerance” policy — just allow families to stay together as they go through proceedings.

Senate Democrats haven’t shown any real willingness to get on board with that proposal, so there’s not clear path forward in the Senate still.