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More than 2,300 children still separated from parents as GOP wrestles with immigration fix

President Trump's decision to sign an executive order stopping the separation of migrant families at the border met with mixed reactions. Advocates are deeply concerned that the order ignores the families who have already been split up, and fear children and parents will never see each other again. The legality of the order is also in question. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Immigration and the plight of separated families remain topic A tonight in Washington and at the U.S. southern border.

    But Republicans are still divided over how to change immigration law, and more than 2,300 children are still being held separately from their parents.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Mixed reactions came from across the country today, after President Trump’s reversal on family separations.

    From protesters in Milwaukee, angry that entire families will be detained.

  • Woman:

    This has long term, devastated effects.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    To a sense of relief from undocumented immigrants staying in a private shelter in McAllen Texas.

  • Woman (through translator):

    This is good news for the Hispanic community, because no one has the right to separate children from their parents. Seeing so many kids crying and asking for their moms was simply unfair.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    From the White House came a new outreach on the issue. First lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to McAllen today, touring facilities holding unaccompanied minors, including a few who were separated from parents a result of her husband’s immigration crackdown at the border.

  • Melania Trump:

    Very happy and they love to study. And I love to go to school. And I would also like to ask you how I can help to these children to reunite with their families.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The first lady decision’s to wear a jacket while leaving Washington today, with writing on the back that said “I don’t really care, do you?” prompted questions.

    But her spokesperson maintained that there was no hidden message.

    On her trip, Mrs. Trump was joined by Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, the department tasked with overseeing the children after they’re apprehended by Border Patrol.

    An HHS official confirmed that, for now, children separated from parents are still going to foster care homes and facilities all across the country.

    As for President Trump-

  • President Donald Trump:

    We don’t want to have children separated from their parents.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    He defended his actions in a Cabinet meeting today, but seemed to give conflicting statements on whether families would stay together, saying both this-

  • President Donald Trump:

    I signed a very good executive order yesterday, but that’s only limited. No matter how you cut it, it leads to separation, ultimately.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And this-

  • President Donald Trump:

    I’m directing HHS, DHS, and DOJ to work together to keep illegal immigrant families together during the immigration process and to reunite these previously separated groups.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated today that it would now attempt to keep families together, but detained, as it continues to refer for prosecution adults who cross the border illegally.

    But people those who deal with the families involved are deeply concerned. They say the new order ignores those already separated.

    Sergio Garcia is a public defender in Texas.

  • Sergio Garcia:

    To me, it doesn’t mean anything. And for my clients, it doesn’t mean anything.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    “NewsHour” talked with Garcia about the more than 2,300 children separated from their families, asking, what is the chance that their parents will ever see them again?

  • Sergio Garcia:

    I think it’s almost none. And the reason why I feel like that is because there is — as you probably know, parents who come and ask questions about asylum, who ask questions about immigration, they’re being detained right now.

    They’re being turned away people who are actually seeking information, like asylum information, which is a right that they have. They have a right to make that claim. So, I would say zero.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Still in question, the legality of the president’s executive order. The Department of Justice today asked a federal judge to change the rules governing the process and all what families who enter the country illegally to be held indefinitely, for longer than the current 20 days, in an effort to keep them together.

    Meanwhile, in the legislative branch, the House of Representatives voted down one conservative immigration proposal and delayed a vote until tomorrow on a Republican compromise that would make the president’s new policy of detaining families together permanent.

    And, Judy, that compromise bill doesn’t just deal with the topic of child separation, but also a possible path to citizenship for dreamers, those kids brought here legally as children, and also money for the border wall for the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, tell us more about what’s going on behind the scenes at the Capitol.

    You have been there. I know you spent today all day today, yesterday there. Why are they having such a hard time coming together on this immigration issue?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, I think we see the classic divide the Republican Party has had for a long time now.

    This movement of this big vote until tomorrow tells us two main things, Judy. It tells us that, one, they do not have the votes for this compromise tonight, but, two, that they think they might get them by tomorrow.

    Key in this will be the conservative Freedom Caucus. However, they feel like there is some conservative momentum, a move toward limiting immigration more than this compromise bill does.

    Now, if this compromise bill fails tomorrow, that means that attention turns to the Senate and a possible narrower solution for this child separation issue.

    I think, overall, Judy, in the past two days, it’s been so wild. Today, the joke at the Capitol was it felt like and really was the longest day of the year.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it sounds like they’re not close to pulling this off, to coming to an agreement.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Unclear. This compromise bill has a chance tomorrow, but it’s still uphill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very quickly, the jacket the first lady wore today got some attention. You talked about it had a message. Or it sad on the back, the style, “I don’t care, do you?”

    The White House said no hidden message, but the president’s been tweeting about it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, apparently, it was an open message. The tweeted just a minute ago, that the jacket that that phrase, “I really don’t dare, do you?” refers to the fake news media.

    He tweeted that Melania Trump is showing that she no longer cares about the media and what the media says. So, maybe not a hidden message. The president says it was a message about the media.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting. From different than what her office had said.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right. Yes, they did — they said there was no message, essentially, there was no implication.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You’re welcome.

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