Today's the deadline to reunite separated families

By Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:14 p.m. ET, July 26, 2018
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11:10 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

Kamala Harris: "Their children are our children"

Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, just addressed demonstrators gathered at the US Capitol to protest the Trump administration's immigration policy that led to family separations.

She said many families that cross the border into the US are simply looking for a better life.

"We have always stood for the promise that we will be someone, we will be that country that will embrace you and protect you when you flee harm," she said. "So let's fight for the best of who we are and for the ideals of our county."

"Their children are our children," she added. "And we're going to do everything we can to make sure these families are reunified."

Watch more:

10:56 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

Texas protesters are chanting "the community is furious" in Spanish

A group of protesters has gathered in the border town of McAllen, Texas, where CNN's Rosa Flores is reporting.

"This literally just popped up moments before our live shot," she said.

The protesters are carrying flags and signs, and they're chanting "el pueblo está furioso," which means "the community is furious," Flores said.

Watch more:

10:33 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

Mom separated from 7-year-old son describes what their time apart was like

Seven-year-old Andy (C) is reunited with his mother, Arely (R), at Baltimore-Washington International Airport July 23, 2018 in Linthicum, Maryland.
Seven-year-old Andy (C) is reunited with his mother, Arely (R), at Baltimore-Washington International Airport July 23, 2018 in Linthicum, Maryland.

Arely and her 7-year-old son Andy told CNN in a law office here about the tragic experience of being separated and then reunited earlier this week. CNN has withheld their full names because they feared future legal ramifications that could impact their asylum applications.

Arely said that when she was separated from her son, she was not told by any officials whether she'd ever see him again.

"I was so worried when they took away my son, they told me I'd never see him, they told me I'd get deported," she told CNN in Spanish. "They told me my son would stay in custody of the government."

She described the rooms she spent time in when she was in Port Isabel — a "cuarto frio" and "la jaula," an ice box and cage.

While her son was in care in New York City, Arely said she faced conditions such as not being provided toilet paper when she used the bathroom.

Her son added, "They wouldn't let me go to the bathroom sometimes and when I wanted to eat, they wouldn't give me food until they wanted to."

9:54 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

A "mess" is playing out in immigrant detention centers, court filings say

From CNN's Emanuella Grinberg, Chuck Johnston, Tal Kopan and Catherine E. Shoichet

Documents filed in court on Wednesday provide a detailed account of what American Civil Liberties Union attorneys allege is a "mess" playing out at a number of US immigrant detention centers as officials scramble to meet Thursday's court-ordered deadline to reunite thousands of separated families.

Based on declarations from more than a dozen attorneys who interviewed parents and children from separated families, the court filing alleges that even after they're reunited, traumatized families are having trouble deciding what to do next.

Here are some of the key allegations the lawyers made:

  • Parents felt they signed documents they didn't understand. Many detained migrants come from parts of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras where indigenous languages are spoken. But lawyers who spoke to detainees said many of them reported receiving forms related to their cases in Spanish or English, languages they don't understand.
  • Parents felt coerced into signing documents. "Many of these individuals indicated that they felt coerced into relinquishing their rights," one lawyer said. "Still others appeared totally unaware that they had done so. 
  • Families who have reunited so far are said to be traumatized. Parents are "disoriented and overwhelmed" from the rapid reunification and transfer process. Many barely know the status of their cases, and sometimes, it is difficult to get basic information from them, another lawyer said.

9:25 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

What happens when a parent is given deportation orders

From CNN's Tal Kpoan

About 900 parents separated from their children at the US border are facing final orders of removal (meaning they deported as soon as the federal judge in the reunions lawsuit lifts a temporary hold he put on deporting separated families.)

So what happens to the kids then?

Once the parent is given an order of deportation, they are presented with a form by the government, offering them to either be deported with their child or without.

Even before the Trump administration deployed a policy that separated those thousands of immigrant families at the US border, immigration attorneys have at times had to inform clients that their children may have stronger claims to stay in the US than they do as a family.

For some families, leaving the child behind is the only way they see to save that child's life.


9:07 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

SOON: Protesters head to Capitol Hill

Children and families are expected to gather on Capitol Hill soon for a sit-in as the court-ordered deadline for family reunifications approaches.

This isn't the first protest the Hill has seen on this issue. In June, female activists flooded the Capitol Hill Senate building to protest the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy

In that protest, US Capitol Police arrested approximately 575 individuals with unlawfully demonstrating, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington.

Other Democratic senators — including Tammy Duckworth, Ed Markey, Mazie Hirono, Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal — also visited the protesters to support their efforts.

8:39 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

Why DNA tests were used to identify separated families

From CNN's Sonia Moghe, Nick Valencia and Holly Yan

DNA tests are being performed on children and parents in an attempt to reunite migrant families separated at the US border, said a federal official with knowledge of the reunifications.

"The safety and security is paramount, and it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be parents," the official said.

"To our knowledge, this is a cheek swab and is being done to expedite parental verification and ensuring reunification with verified parents due to child welfare concerns."

The source could not discuss how long the practice has been taking place, if the testing requires consent or if the DNA is stored in a database.

Why some aid groups were concerned about the practice

RAICES, a nonprofit in Texas that offers free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and refugees, called the move deplorable because collecting such sensitive data would allow the government to conduct surveillance on the children "for the rest of their lives."

8:08 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

Judge says he expects his deadline will essentially be met

From CNN's Tal Kopan, Catherine E. Shoichet and Laura Jarrett

A federal judge this week called progress ahead of his deadline for reunifying families separated at the border "remarkable," but said he also still finds "deeply troubling" the effects of the government's original policy that led to most of the separations.

District Judge Dana Sabraw made the comments during a status hearing Tuesday in an ongoing lawsuit over the separations, two days before his deadline for the government to reunite those families.

"This is a remarkable achievement," Sabraw said, adding the government should be "commended."

During the hearing, the government said 1,012 families have already been reunited -- over 100 more than had been reunited by Monday evening's status update.

Sabraw said he expected that his Thursday deadline would essentially be met and he expected to be satisfied by the next hearing Friday.

7:54 a.m. ET, July 26, 2018

The US government must reunite separated migrant families today

From CNN's Holly Yan

The US government must reunite all eligible migrant families that it separated at the border today.

But as many as 914 parents won't be reunited with their children by Thursday's deadline. In some cases, the parents can't be found or have serious criminal records. In other cases, they've already been deported without their children. A small number still haven't been linked to children, let alone tracked down.

These are the numbers behind the family reunifications:

  • 1,012: The number of families the government has already reunited, officials said at a status hearing Tuesday.
  • 463: How many parents the government believes are no longer in the United States. They were likely deported without their children.
  • 191: How many parents won't be reunified with their children because they either have criminal records or declined to be reunified, according to the government.
  • 217: The number of parents have been released from federal custody. Some may be wearing ankle monitors as they await immigration hearing proceedings.
  • 260: That's how many parents' cases require further investigation, the government said Tuesday.