Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration says it has a "well-established" plan in place to reunite families separated as a result of the president's controversial zero-tolerance immigration policy, but there's still no word on when the reunifications would be complete.
In a statement late Saturday night, the Department of Homeland Security said it was working "towards reuniting every minor and every parent" that had been separated due to the policy, which calls for criminal charges to be filed against anyone entering the country illegally. Children were taken from parents because children can't be sent to jail.
There were 2,053 separated minors in the government's care as of June 20, according to the statement, which made no mention of a possible timeline for putting the families back together.
DHS and Health and Human Services "have a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation to ensure that those adults who are subject to removal are reunited with their children for the purposes of removal," DHS said in the statement. "The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families."
"As part of the apprehension, detention and prosecution process, illegal aliens, adults and children, are initially detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection" before children are sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and parents or older family members are sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, the statement added.
"Each entity plays a role in reunification," the statement said. "This process is well coordinated."
So far, 522 children have been reunited, and the reunions of 16 more scheduled for June 22 were delayed at the time because of weather.
Donald Trump last week signed an executive order to end the practice of separating families at border crossings amid criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, although he previously claimed that only Congress could fix the problem.
Trump said his zero-tolerance policy will remain in place despite the executive order.
"We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came," Trump said in a tweet on Sunday. "Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents."
"Our Immigration policy, laughed at all over the world, is very unfair to all of those people who have gone through the system legally and are waiting on line for years! Immigration must be based on merit," he added.
Critics, including top lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, have called for an immediate end to the practice, with some calling it inhumane and cruel.
Senate Democrats sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley last week calling on him to hold a hearing on the policy.
"We cannot remain silent in the face of these horrifying stories," the letter read. "We respectfully request an immediate oversight hearing to better understand the scope, nature, and impact of the Trump administration’s new 'zero-tolerance' policy on children and families."
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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's former homeland security adviser said that even with the sharply divided views on immigration in the U.S., few officials in either party want to answer "hard questions" of how many and what kinds of migrants should be allowed in to the country.
The former Trump adviser, Tom Bossert, now an ABC News contributor, told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday, “The big picture here is very few politicians on both sides of the aisle have ever been willing to answer the hard questions of the quantity, quality and type of person that we're willing to allow into this country above the million legal immigrants that we allow in every year."
"Should we let in 100,000? 500,000? No one wants to answer that hard question,” Bossert said.
Bossert was referring to congressional Democrats' contention that they support comprehensive immigration reform although Congress cannot agree on such a bill.
"They're up there [on Capitol Hill] fighting over e-verify [a program for businesses to confirm employees' eligibility to work] and fighting over how many agricultural workers we need to allow in," but not addressing the broader questions, Bossert said.
The former White House adviser suggested that liberals "want to have compassion, but the compassion and the shortsighted decisions have long-term negative consequences” on immigration.
Bossert also said the U.S. needs to invest in countries such as Guatemala that are racked by violence to help stem the flow of refugees and migrants.
That means putting "real, sustainable, buildable money into the institutional reforms in those three northern-triangle countries -- Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras -- that they need to prevent this plague from coming into America.”
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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly two months after it was first revealed that Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt rented a $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo from the wife of a top lobbyist, newly released emails show that relationship was not just limited to an unorthodox rental agreement.
Emails obtained by the Sierra Club, as part of a lawsuit filed against the EPA, show numerous communications between Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, and lobbyist J. Steven Hart, in which it appears Hart tried to guide and influence EPA decisions -- efforts Hart and Pruitt had earlier denied.
Hart sent some emails while the administrator was renting the condo from his wife.
“These emails make clear that Scott Pruitt got a sweetheart deal from a lobbyist with business before the EPA and then blatantly lied to the American people about it,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.
The emails between Jackson, Pruitt’s senior-most advisor, and Hart -- who at the time was a senior attorney at Williams Jensen, a powerhouse Washington lobbying firm -- come frequently and show a close relationship. Hart invites Jackson out for dinner and often asks him for favors -- including trying to get friends employed at the EPA.
Hart sent an email to Jackson in April 2017 about a family friend who had applied for a job at the EPA. Jimmy Guiliano was seeking a policy position at the EPA when Hart wrote to Jackson that his wife, Pruitt's landlord, spoke to Pruitt directly and he was following up on the matter.
"[Pruitt] told Vicki to talk to you about how to handle this," Hart writes Jackson.
Jackson responds "on it" after Hart wrote that Guliano was "important to us." In a statement to ABC News, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the agency "accepts career recommendations from a number of acquaintances. Ultimately, Mr. Guiliano was not hired."
In another email exchange from June 2017, Hart emails Jackson the biography of Dennis Treacy, the president of the Smithfield Foundation -- the charitable arm of Smithfield Foods, which is a company Hart was representing.
Hart writes in the body of the email: "He is a Virginia rep on the Chesapeake Bay and a conservative R. He is controllable."
In a follow-up, Hart writes to Jackson later that same day: "Pruitt is already scheduled to meet with Dennis on July 11 with me along. Dennis is controllable so do not default on this one."
The lobbyist goes on to talk about other plans they have and then asks Jackson to call him.
"No urgency but we need to talk about issues unrelated to the EPA."
It's unclear what that may be referring to.
A spokesman for Smithfield said "these activities were not undertaken" at the company's direction, but rather in requests by Treacy, who they said was associated with "a number of other environmental organizations."
"Smithfield expects its advisors to comply with all applicable laws, including those requiring timely public disclosure of lobbying activities," the spokesman said in a statement to ABC News.
Meanwhile, Hart said the condo arrangement had no bearing on his contacts with the EPA.
"As I have said repeatedly, I never received any special treatment from Administrator Pruitt or had any undue influence over the Environmental Protection Agency," he said in a statement to ABC News. "Ryan Jackson is an old friend whom I have known for many years prior to his service with the EPA. We have discussed numerous issues and topics during his tenure as chief of staff, but he has never performed a special favor on my behalf."
Hart's emails continued on a wide array of topics. In one email late last year, Hart wrote to Jackson about the fledgling nomination of Michael Dourson to oversee the EPA's chemical safety division.
"Having dinner with Burr tonight," Hart tells Jackson in the November 2017 email, referring to Sen. Richard Burr. "Should I try to move him or want to just give up?"
Dourson's nomination was eventually pulled the next month by the Trump administration.
“A president with any shame whatsoever would have fired him months ago,” he said, referring to President Trump.
"Ryan Jackson and Mr. Hart are both from Oklahoma and have known each other for years," Wilcox told ABC News on behalf of the EPA. "Many of these emails were unsolicited and did not impact any agency policy outcomes."
Pruitt has been under investigation by the inspector general, multiple congressional committees and the White House for several months after questions about his spending habits. It was revealed that he spent much of his first year as the EPA administrator flying first-class, which is not typical of cabinet members.
Separately, an investigation from the EPA’s inspector general revealed that Pruitt’s chief of staff, Jackson, directly oversaw and approved the pay raises for two of Pruitt's longest-serving aides: Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp.
Greenwalt received a raise of more than $50,000, which brought her salary to more than $164,000. And a nearly $30,000 raise was approved for Hupp, which brought her salary to more than $114,000.
Shortly after the raises became public, Pruitt told Fox News in an interview that he didn't know anything about the raises and that he had taken action to reverse them. But Pruitt later told a congressional committee that he gave a top aide permission to give at least two EPA employees big raises, deviating from how he characterized authorization for these raises in the past.
Both aides have since resigned.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have grown frustrated with Pruitt. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said earlier this month that Pruitt "is about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C. And if the president wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own cabinet."
Pruitt's former communications aide, Liz Bowman, resigned her position at the EPA and now works for Ernst, who is leading a charge to remove Pruitt, complete with flashy television ads.
For his part, President Trump is standing with Pruitt.
“I’m looking at Scott, and Scott’s done a fantastic job at EPA,” Trump told reporters earlier this month when asked about the growing questions. “I’m not happy about certain things. I’ll be honest.”
Senior White House sources do not believe the president has any current intentions of dismissing Pruitt.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said undocumented immigrants should be immediately deported and denied due process once they enter the country.
The president, who tweeted Sunday morning during his drive to Trump National Golf Club, went one step further than his administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which demands that every immigrant who comes to the United States illegally should be criminally prosecuted.
Trump’s hasty decision last week to use an executive order to try to end family separation, which happened as a result of his administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, sparked confusion and chaos ahead of upcoming congressional votes on immigration.
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” he tweeted. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”
“Our Immigration policy, laughed at all over the world, is very unfair to all of those people who have gone through the system legally and are waiting on line for years!" the president added. "Immigration must be based on merit - we need people who will help to Make America Great Again!”
Last week, the Trump administration’s family separation policy sparked a national outcry. The White House struggled to defend the policy in the wake of backlash like the kind seen in the aftermath of the travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries.
Trump has said he does not want to see families separated, but noted that he was encouraged to fix the situation on the border at the urging of first lady Melania Trump and his daughter, Ivanka.
But despite issuing his executive order, Trump has maintained that his “zero-tolerance” policy, introduced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, will remain. At the Nevada Republican Conference in Las Vegas on Saturday, Trump continued to advocate for the “zero-tolerance” policy and said that he wants immigration based on merit.
“By the way, we want people to come into the county, but on merit. We want a merit-based system,” Trump said. “We need people to come in, but they need to love this country to help make America great again."
But denying immigrants -- regardless of their legal status -- the right to due process could violate the law.
The American Civil Liberties Union quickly released a statement condemning the proposal soon after Trump tweeted.
“What President Trump has suggested here is both illegal and unconstitutional. Any official who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws should disavow it unequivocally,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have both said more judges are needed along the border to handle the influx of immigrants and cases as a result of the “zero-tolerance” policy. Last week, Cruz introduced legislation that would help handle asylum claims at the border by doubling the number of federal immigration judges to 750.
The legislation also calls for the creation of more shelters to house families together.
Still, Trump has rejected calls for additional immigration judges at the border, instead calling for strong security and a border wall.
"We are the only people -- people walk in and put a foot in -- 'Please, would you like to register?' Other countries say, 'Get the hell out of here.' They do that. They have to do that. We say, you know, they want to hire 5,000 more judges so that a person puts the toe in the land, we have to go to trial,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “This is crazy what we are doing. I don't want judges. I want border patrol. I want ICE.”
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Two prominent international refugee advocates said that the U.S. may be overlooking key facts about the flow of immigrants across the southern border that has caused a sharp political debate.
For one, people trying to cross into the U.S. to claim refugee status due to violence in their own country have a "legal right" to seek asylum, Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.
Families fleeing violence in Central America or elsewhere "have the legal right and the international legal right to seek asylum here, and -- and we have to do that, we have to have that due process,” Miles said.
Appearing with Miles was David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, who said that it is also important to keep in mind that the flow of refugees is "a global crisis" and that most of those fleeing their homes are ending up in poor countries, not rich nations like the U.S.
“[It’s] not just that this is a global crisis -- one in every 110 people on the planet are driven from their homes by violence, by persecution -- but it's also a time to remember that the vast bulk of those people are in poor countries, not in rich countries,” Miliband said. "They're in countries like Ethiopia, like Bangladesh, which has received 700,000 refugees this year; Colombia has received 600,000 Venezuelans this year."
"Countries like the U.S. have only 1 percent of the world's refugees," Miliband said. "And there are some lessons about the way families are helped in poor countries that actually should be learned in the rich countries, too."
The IRC chief also noted that despite the red-hot debate in the U.S. over people trying to immigrate from Central America, the numbers are down from the recent past. "There are about half as many people coming from Central America to the U.S. as were coming 20 or 30 years ago," Miliband said.
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U.S. Senate(WASHINGTON) -- A senator who is a leading GOP critic of President Donald Trump said the president has “unfortunately” redefined the Republican Party.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, in an appearance on "This Week" Sunday, was responding to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, who noted that Trump has "consolidated his hold over the Republican Party, the Republican electorate."
"Has he redefined it?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"Unfortunately, yes," Flake replied. "When [former House Speaker] John Boehner said the other day, 'This is the president’s party,' he was speaking the truth."
Flake continued that the recent loss of Republican Rep. Mark Sanford in the GOP primary in South Carolina "clarified something if it wasn’t clarified before. You can’t, as a Republican these days, stand in ... opposition to some of the president’s policies or, or not condone his behavior and expect to win a Republican primary. That’s the reality and then we’re seeing that played out."
Sanford, who had been critical of Trump, lost in an upset in the GOP primary for his seat on June 12. The day of the election, Trump tweeted that voters should reject Sanford in favor of his challenger.
Flake also said on "This Week" that he hopes Trump is challenged in the 2020 primary for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I’ve said many times I hope that somebody does [run] in the Republican primary just to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative or Republican, that we believe in limited government, economic freedom, free trade, immigration," Flake said. "I hope that somebody does that."
The Arizona senator was also critical of Congress for failing to push for policies not supported by the president, such as on trade.
"We [in Congress] ought to more jealously guard our institutional prerogative," Flake said. "I think in this crisis we're in, I think the judiciary has stood up well. The press has stood up well in terms of institutions."
But the response of Congress "has been lacking," the senator said.
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U.S. House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- A top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said President Donald Trump is using "inhumane" immigration policies to "gin up" his base.
"It's wrong to separate babies, to use cruel, inhumane policies in order to gin up your political base,” Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago told “This Week” Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. “[But] it seems like it’s working because 90 percent of Republicans now have a favorable opinion of this president and support him.”
"He doesn’t use it as immigration policy; he doesn’t use it as border control policy. He uses it as an issue in order to energize his political base for the midterm elections," Gutierrez said.
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Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's former Homeland Security adviser said he wishes Attorney General Jeff Sessions "hadn’t invoked the Bible" in discussing the administration's separation of migrant families as part of its "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
The former White House adviser, Tom Bossert, an ABC News contributor, told Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday, "I wish the Attorney General hadn't invoked the Bible."
Bossert was referring to Sessions' quoting a Bible verse on June 14 to defend the Trump administration's policy of separating parents and children who enter the U.S. illegally.
The verse cited by Sessions suggests a religious rationale for obeying a government's laws. "Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes," the attorney general said in comments that sparked a backlash on social media.
Bossert suggested on "This Week" that instead of citing the Bible, the administration should take a compassionate and broader approach that addresses the reasons why families are fleeing violence in some Central American countries.
Bossert said it's time to pray for everyone affected including migrant children, their families and U.S. border agents.
In addition, he said the U.S. needs to invest in countries such as Guatemala that are racked by violence to help stem the flow of refugees and migrants.
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A sweaty volunteer took off the fake fur head of her full-body, polar bear outfit as a friend and fellow protester handed her a drink of water.
It was 80 degrees and terribly humid in the nation’s capital last week as a few hundred activists stood and chanted outside a public comment hearing to oppose a new law directing oil exploration in the northern tip of Alaskan wilderness.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hearing in Washington, D.C., was the last of a series of meetings the bureau held throughout the spring giving people an opportunity to express thoughts and concerns about the government’s plans to lease part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas developers.
With the 60-day public comment period now closed, the bureau will move forward with the rest of its required environmental impact study, which it hopes to have done by the end of the year.
Typically these studies take two to three years at minimum. The fast-pace is a clear sign the government is quickly ticking through its processes in order to fast-track lease sales down the road.
The BLM got serious blowback from environmental activists, Native American leaders and concerned citizens for only holding limited public comments hearing, exclusively in Alaska and Washington, D.C., though proponents of the drilling and the bureau say the process has been robust and there will be more time for public feedback later.
Representatives from groups like Defenders of the Wilderness and the Center for Biological Diversity held signs at the protest last week in the shape of all 50 states. Each sign had a number, most totaling in the thousands, representing the written comments sent into the bureau opposing the drilling plans from each state.
“This is actually not so much of a democratic process as it is, in their mind, an eventuality of development circumventing our human rights,” Dana Tizya-Tramm of the Vuntut- Gwich’in first nation told ABC News in Washington.
The notice from the BLM for the public comment period, also known as the public “scoping” period, said explicitly that when the period wrapped the bureau could move forward with plans to lease at least two 400,000-acre plots in the ANWR’s coveted Coastal Plain, as dictated by the tax law passed by Republicans last year.
Still, members of the Gwich’in tribe in northern Alaska and their partners vow to keep fighting.
“We are the first nations of this area. We have been living and subsisting off of this land and the animals for thousands and thousands of years. This area is sacred to us. It's not right to sell it out to oil and gas companies for greed,” Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, told ABC News outside the BLM hearing in Washington.
The Gwich’in refer to themselves as the caribou people. For thousands of years their survival in the outer stretches of Alaska and the Arctic has been linked to the porcupine caribou herds that traverse, and specifically nurse their young, in the exact location on the water now slated for oil development.
The 1.5 million-acre segment of the larger refuge, which has been designated for oil leasing, lies along the coast. The caribou come there to escape inland mosquitoes and enjoy nutritious ground. Many experts say the caribous will avoid man-made construction, leaving the herds’ and Gwich’in fate unknown should the leasing and development go into effect.
The push-back from scientists, environmentalists and some of these native tribes in the region comes at no surprise. As President Donald Trump acknowledged in the days after the Republican tax bill passed, Republican leaders have been trying for decades to move forward with plans to look for fossil fuels in this protected area, but have consistently faced heavy opposition. Polling has shown that while many Alaskans favor drilling, most are against it nationwide.
The push and pull of policy plans has made parts of the ANWR some of the most contested public land in the country.
The federal government estimated the designated area in the ANWR contains between 4.3 billion and 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The Congressional Budget Office projected with lease sales and revenue sharing the federal government could bring in approximately $1.1 billion over the next 10 years, if the area were to be developed and mined.
It was that monetary potential that convinced Republican leadership to include the development legislation in their tax bill. It helped offset a portion of the lost of revenue from tax cuts in the bill.
According to her staff, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has felt good so far about the progress being made by the Department of the Interior to implement the legislation. Murkowski long pushed for opening up this region to development.
Her spokesperson, Nicole Daigle, wrote in a statement to ABC News, “She appreciates Interior’s decision to host multiple scoping meetings throughout Alaska to ensure that local voices are heard -- especially those who actually live in the 1002 Area. She supports the Department’s commitment to conduct a robust, science-based environmental impact statement for the leasing program.”
The BLM defended its public comment period and the work so far. In a statement to ABC News the bureau said there will be more opportunities for public input as draft versions of the environmental impact studies move forward.
“As part of our scoping process, we held meetings in four Arctic communities as well as Fairbanks, Anchorage and Washington, D.C., where we heard many diverse and consistent messages regarding the thoughts, interests and concerns of a broad range of stakeholders. ... Once we have reviewed all of the approximately one million scoping comments, we will make those available on the project website,” BLM spokesperson Amber Cargile wrote in a statement to ABC News.
While many native people in the area and around the country oppose the drilling, those who have expressed support feel encouraged by the prospect of jobs and dollars coming to the area.
“The oil and gas industry support our communities by providing jobs, business opportunities and infrastructure investments; and has built our schools and hospitals and provided other basic services most Americans take for granted,” Matthew Rexford, a tribal administrator with the Kaktovik tribe, wrote in an op-ed for the Anchorage Daily News last fall. He came to Washington to testify on Capitol Hill last year.
Earlier this month, more than two dozen Democrats wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and argued that because of the area’s federally protected refuge status the department is obligated, even under the new law, to maintain the integrity and diversity of the land and wildlife.
In May, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and other Democrats introduced a bill that would repeal only the part of the tax bill allowing drilling in the ANWR.
Adrienne Titus, from the Inupiaq tribe, grew up on Alaska’s northwest coast and also flew to Washington to speak at a meeting House Democrats held at the Capitol this spring. Through tears she told ABC News about her worry and what the land meant to her.
“The survival of that place is really a part of the survival of who we are as a people,” she said. “Without this connection to the land and what it provides, my grandchildren won't know me for who I truly am.”
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- S.A. had been waiting decades to bring her daughter and now her grandson to the U.S., where she is a legal resident, from her native El Salvador, where she escaped violence and poverty.
Through a special immigration program, she was finally close to her dream.
In February 2017, she made a final payment of $2,500 to the U.S. for her family's flights. They were told by authorities they would be given final documentation and a plane ticket to travel in two weeks time -- but months went by, and nothing ever came.
Without notifying them, President Trump's administration had already frozen the program just days into his term, even as it solicited and collected thousands of dollars from S.A. and others like her who had been granted conditional approval, according to a new lawsuit that argues the administration broke the law and was driven by "racial animus against Latinos."
For S.A., the news was as shocking as it was devastating: "It hurts me every day that we are apart."
The Central American Minors program, which reunited children and other eligible family members with parents legally residing in the U.S., was one of Trump's early targets as he sought to crack down on legal immigration. Designed during the Obama administration to avoid the scenes at the U.S.-Mexican border that have gripped the nation this week, its termination is now being blamed by some for worsening the migrant crisis and possibly sending more children north.
"Ending this did exacerbate the situation on the border ... When the program shut down, now these individuals have no choice but to remain in daily danger or to try come to the United States by land," said Linda Evarts, an attorney with the International Refugee Assistance Project, which helped to bring the case.
The administration's "unprecedented, unexplained, and unsupported secret shutdown" of the program is also under fire for how it was carried out, with little to nothing communicated to recipients months after the decision was seemingly made and no real explanation ever given.
On the cusp of being reunited, it's now left families -- like S.A., who asked to go by her initials out of fear for her safety and that of her family in El Salvador -- out of options and money.
Crying, she told ABC News in an interview, "I plead to the president to find it in his heart to consider us ... I'm asking for compassion from the president."
Central American Minors Program
In 2014, more than 50,000 minors reached the southern U.S. border seeking asylum from the violence wracking three Central American countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The largest wave yet of child migrants, it forced the Obama administration to take a multi-pronged approach: sending millions more in aid to the three countries; detaining families who had crossed the border illegally, until a court ordered them to stop two years later; and creating a path for children to come here legally.
That path became the Central American Minors, or CAM, program, which allowed parents lawfully present in the U.S. to apply for refugee resettlement or a temporary status called parole for their children and other eligible family members -- the child's other parent or caregiver or the child's own child, the parent's grandchild.
"When I heard about the CAM program on the news, I was filled with joy at the possibility of being reunited with my family," S.A. said in her sworn statement as part of the lawsuit, adding in her interview with ABC News that she and her daughter finally had hope that her daughter could "come here for a better future for herself and her son."
In total, the U.S. received more than 14,000 applications from children and other family members.
Families had to prove their relations through a DNA test, applicants had to be interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, and applicants had to meet the definition of a refugee -- someone outside the U.S. who is fleeing persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
If a CAM applicant did not qualify for refugee resettlement, they were automatically considered for parole status and informed of whether or not they were granted it when they got their refugee decision.
Parole allows non-U.S. citizens to enter the country for a period of time on humanitarian grounds, although it does not automatically provide a path to legal status. Similar programs were created in the past for Vietnamese fleeing in the 1980's, Filipino World War II veterans, and certain eastern Europeans after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
CAM parole applicants had to prove they were not a risk of harm, had cleared background vetting, and had someone to financially support them. Once they were granted approval, there were a series of final checks to clear: a medical exam and paying the U.S. or its contractor to arrange flights. They'd then be given a travel date and instructions to meet an official at the airport and receive their paperwork and plane ticket.
That was where S.A. and her daughter J.A. were in the process -- having paid $2,500 for flights and having been told they would travel in two weeks, but still awaiting instructions.
As of November 2017, 1,774 children and eligible family members had arrived as refugees in the U.S. and 1,464 had been paroled, a State Department official told ABC News at the time.
But for about 2,714 children and family members, they were somewhere in that final phase when the Trump administration decided to end the program and rescind their approval, even though it would not officially inform them of that decision until nearly eight months later.
What the administration did
Five days into the Trump administration, interviews for the program were "cancelled until further notice," according to emails obtained by the plaintiffs through a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed by ABC News. On February 3, two weeks into Trump's term, staff at USCIS's Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate were told via email that all departures were also "temporarily suspend[ed]."
At the same time, the administration stopped scheduling interviews for new applicants, stopped issuing decisions to those who had interviewed, and stopped scheduling the requisite medical exams for those already conditionally approved, according to the lawsuit. In effect, the lawsuit argues, the administration, "without notifying the public," had "blocked their travel."
Citing the ongoing litigation, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which jointly ran the program, declined to answer ABC News's questions, including to confirm whether those specific claims were true.
But a USCIS spokesperson said as much on August 15, 2017, after DHS publicly announced for the first time that the parole portion of the program was terminated. R. Carter Langston, the spokesman, told the New York Times that no one had entered the U.S. since February when the department suspended the CAM program, pending a review, according to the paper.
But an archived copy of USCIS's own website from just nine days prior says otherwise, describing how people can apply.
Either way, it's clear that no one informed most of the recipients who had been granted conditional approval, as they followed through on their final steps and planned their new lives with reunited family members.
"Notwithstanding its secret shutdown of the CAM Program, the Trump administration continued to solicit and accept funds from applicants, leading them to believe the program was still operational," the lawsuit alleges.
For three of the plaintiffs, that included paying the International Organization for Migration, which is contracted by the U.S. government to process applicants, a couple thousand dollars each for plane tickets. One plaintiff who uses the initials R.C. and is a legal resident of Oxnard, California, where he packages produce for a living, had to take out loans to pay $3,875 for tickets for his three children.
Eventually -- in most cases, after a year of waiting -- applicants were reimbursed the cost of plane tickets or medical exams, but not for auxiliary costs like the interest on R.C.'s loans or the dangerous travel to and from interviews in each country's capital. S.A. calculates that she lost approximately $1,383 on her daughter and grandson's interviews and application expenses, as well as suitcases for them to travel with and new clothes she planned to gift her grandson.
When the administration finally announced in August that the program was ended, it was through a notice in the public register -- one that revoked conditional approval for those 2,714 people in a single sentence: "USCIS will notify individuals who have been conditionally approved for parole under this program and who have not yet traveled that the program has been terminated and their conditional approval for parole has been rescinded."
There was no reason given, and the notice left many shocked.
"I was confused and thought the cancellation would not apply to my family because they had already been approved and passed their medical tests, and I had paid for their flights," said S.A.
But she was wrong.
Instead, their families were left trapped in the turmoil of their home countries -- where the threats that they faced became horribly real. In fall 2017, R.C.'s oldest son J.C. was playing soccer when he "was beaten by MS-13 members to the point where he lost consciousness and required emergency surgery," according to the lawsuit.
At 16 years old, he now walks with a cane, struggles to bathe himself, and is terrified to leave his house, forcing him to drop out of school.
S.A.'s fear for her daughter and grandson is overwhelming, she said, telling ABC News they "can't go out without fear that they won't come back alive." At one point last year, she sent her daughter money to go into hiding in another part of El Salvador to get away from an MS-13 gang member pursuing her.
Three months later in November, the State Department announced it was ending the refugee resettlements, officially terminating the entire program.
What the lawsuit alleges
The lawsuit against the Trump administration argues that it broke the law by not adhering to its own regulations for the program when it continued to publicly welcome applications, accept payments and not inform each recipient of the program's demise -- only to rescind their conditional approval en masse with no explanation.
The plaintiffs are arguing that doing so was a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the way the executive branch's agencies behave, because the decision and manner it was carried out were "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."
"It strikes me as not a particularly well-thought-out process for dismantling the program and I think that in the end could lead a court to find that it's arbitrary and capricious," said Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law. "You got a secret decision made, money being taken -– it looks like the keystone cops are running this part of the government."
The suit also carries a heavy charge that Trump's administration also violated the Constitution by acting out of "racial animus against Latinos," saying the move "can only be understood as another one of this Administration’s cruel and xenophobic policies against people it has publicly labeled 'animals.'"
The plaintiffs cite "President Trump’s long history of racial slurs and epithets toward Latinos" and "the Trump Administration’s targeting of Latinos for disfavored treatment." In particular, their lawsuit references nine statements from President Trump and half a dozen more from then-candidate Trump, including his comments that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel couldn't be fair in a Trump University lawsuit because of his Mexican heritage and his infamous campaign announcement speech in which he said Latin Americans were "bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
While the executive branch has broad sway over immigration policy, Johnson said that as with the litigation against Trump's travel ban, his rhetoric turns an easily dismissed case for a normal administration into a much harder battle.
"Ordinarily, I would think this would be an extremely difficult case to win, but under the circumstances, I think it’s going to be a harder case for the administration to prevail on," he told ABC News.
What happens next?
The lawsuit was filed June 13 in the Northern District of California, where two of the plaintiffs, including S.A., live. It asks that the nearly 3,000 children and family members who were granted conditional approval be allowed to proceed and have their cases move forward.
But given the power of the presidency, it's unclear whether that will happen. Trump's first and second version of the travel ban ultimately died in the courts, but the third version will face a decision at the Supreme Court this month -- and its fate could forecast the future of this lawsuit.
In the meantime, Trump continues to remodel immigration in America, through his rhetoric, but more powerfully by deploying executive authority like in this case. Similarly, he implemented a "zero-tolerance" policy for anyone who crosses the border illegally -- which has led to the family separation because children cannot be held in jails -- before reversing it with an executive order under intense pressure.
The president has terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for children who crossed into the U.S. illegally but have grown up here. And he has ended Temporary Protected Status programs that allowed nearly 265,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans to live in the U.S. for decades. And with their statuses now set to expire, the cancellation of the program has forced them to find a new way to remain here legally, depart, or be deported.
Experts also argue that ending the CAM program may force other families to send their children or loved ones on the dangerous trek over land to the border. Michelle Brané, director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women's Refugee Commission, likened it to a burning house: "Preferably you've got fire escapes and the front door to go out of, but if somebody shuts those mechanisms, people aren't going to just sit there and burn. They’ll find another way out."
Brané added that the termination is a boost to the smugglers, or "coyotes," that lead migrants on the treacherous journey, often with little regard for their safety -- or even abusing them along the way.
"Canceling that program handed smugglers a whole population of vulnerable kids that are desperate to get to safety," she said. "It empowered smugglers, frankly."
That's an option that S.A. at least has chosen not to make. She cried at even the thought of having her daughter, grandson or other children who did not qualify for the CAM program make the journey.
"I would never think to bring them here that way. It's too dangerous. They can die on the way or be raped or killed, and I could never think of trying to bring my kids like that," she said.
Instead, she's unsure of what happens next, as the reality that her family is not coming starts to sink in. And it's not just the fear for their safety that she has to live with: In fall 2017, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, forced to undergo surgery and two weeks of radiation without her daughter by her side.
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Voters in Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah head to the polls Tuesday in a slate of primaries that highlight the many fissures in both political parties that continue to define a contentious 2018 primary season.
South Carolina and Mississippi are holding runoff elections, and New York state is holding its primary election for federal offices on Tuesday, meaning the high-profile battle between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon will have to wait until September.
Key gubernatorial races Tuesday include Colorado, where an openly gay Democratic multi-millionaire and a cousin of the Bush family are hoping to out-duel a crowded field of challengers, and Maryland, where two well-connected African-American Democrats are vying for the chance to defeat one of the nation's most popular governors in GOP incumbent Larry Hogan.
Over 50 U.S. House seats are at stake in November in the states voting Tuesday, and Democrats are eyeing a number of swing seats in both central and upstate New York, as well as Salt Lake City-based seat held by GOP Rep. Mia Love, one of the few sitting African-American Republicans in Congress.
The marquee race in South Carolina is the Republican runoff election between sitting Gov. Henry McMaster and businessman John Warren. While McMaster has the backing of President Trump, Warren is making the case that he can best implement the president's agenda in the state.
Here's a look at some of the key storylines and races to watch on Tuesday.
Republicans try to reverse Colorado's blue trend in governors race
The Republican slot in November's Colorado gubernatorial election appears to be state Treasurer Walker Stapleton's (a cousin of the Bush family) to lose as conservatives eye the Centennial State as a chance to break a potential "blue wave," and wrestle back control of the governor's mansion after eight years Democrat John Hickenlooper's administration.
Stapleton and his primary opponents Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson and Greg Lopez have approached their orientation to President Donald Trump with a cautious embrace.
At last week's debate, each expressed their overall support for the president but denounced a recent policy of separating migrant families at the border. Only Robinson offered a full refute of the White House's immigration policy.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy have emerged as clear front-runners in the Democratic primary, with former state Sen. Mike Johnston attracting enough out-of-state money (including considerable financial support from Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) to maintain his dark horse status.
With few substantial policy differences between them, Polis and Kennedy have spent time picking apart each other's campaign tactics, despite signing a clean campaign promise.
Colorado Republicans hope enough self-inflicted wounds within the Democratic primary opens up a path to the state's first Republican governor in a decade.
Utah part of Dem push to steal red seats
Incumbent Republican Rep. Mia Love is unopposed in her primary bid that is only a formality as she prepares to face Democratic candidate Ben McAdams, the Salt Lake County mayor, this fall.
McAdams has also already cleared the field through the Democratic state party’s convention – setting up a battleground race in one of the country’s most purple districts.
So far, Love, a Haitian-American, has not suffered any public rebuke from President Trump, whom she has at times disassociated herself from, particularly when she condemned the president’s comment that Haiti was a "shithole country."
But Love has also put politics aside to work with the president to help her district when she personally appealed to the president to secure the release of Joshua Holt, who was held in Venezuela.
"She didn’t forget," Trump said, crediting Love for advocating for Holt’s release. "She was out there pitching."
Love also teamed with other moderates to launch the immigration discharge petition and has criticized the administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents while they face prosecution.
McAdams made local headlines earlier this month when he vetoed a controversial development project that would have generated 33,000 new city residents in 9,000 housing units. Love had criticized McAdams for accepting campaign contributions from principals behind the development.
Recent polling shows a tight race within the margin of error, with Love attracting 47 percent of likely voters and McAdams garnering 43 percent in a poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from May 15 to June 5.
Utah is also voting to legalize medical marijuana and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is on the ballot running for U.S. Senate. Both factors could impact voter turnout.
Democrats in Maryland try and crack the code to beating Hogan
Republican Larry Hogan is running for a second term and has earned the reputation as one of the most popular governors in the country despite running arguably one of the nation's bluest states.
The crowded field vying to unseat Hogan has consolidated around two well-connected members of the Democratic Party in Maryland: former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. However Baker and Jealous represent a geographic split in the state party; Baker's base of support lies in the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. where he holds elected office, while Jealous has stronger support in Baltimore, where the NAACP is based, and the surrounding area.
Jealous says his campaign is "a movement on Donald Trump's doorstep," has touted and utilized support from a number of prominent national figures in the Democratic Party, including Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who still maintains his status as an Independent who caucus with Senate Democrats), and has brought in national celebrities like Dave Chappelle to campaign for him in recent weeks.
Baker has the support of Sen. Chris Van Hollen and former Governor and presidential candidate Martin O'Malley.
The race will provide a key data point in the debate within the Democratic party over whether or not a campaign that draws more on national themes like Jealous' is a more effective strategy in defeating Republicans who are not as closely tied to the Trump-brand like Hogan.
A bare-knuckle, Trump-centric brawl on Staten Island
Staten Island is playing host to the most raucous GOP primary that will be settled Tuesday, where GOP Rep. Dan Donovan and former congressman and convicted felon Michael Grimm have repeatedly clashed over who President Trump prefers in the race.
Staten Island is playing host to the most raucous GOP primary that will be settled Tuesday, where GOP Rep. Dan Donovan and former congressman and convicted felon Michael Grimm have repeatedly clashed over who President Trump prefers in the race. Grimm went as far as accusing Donovan of offering to get him a presidential pardon for political reasons.
Donovan acknowledges that he discussed a potential pardon for Grimm with President Trump aboard Air Force One last month, but says the President dismissed the idea after Donovan told him one of Grimm's political mentors was a "Never Trumper" who did not support him in the 2016 election.
Whoever emerges from a bruising GOP primary will likely go on to face Democrat and U.S. Army veteran Max Rose, who is part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's (DCCC) "Red to Blue" program for top-tier candidates.
A South Carolina runoff over who has run afoul of Trump
The first round of voting in the GOP gubernatorial primary in South Carolina revolved around President Trump, and the second round is no different.
Incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster is accusing his opponent, businessman John Warren, of being a "Never Trumper" and lying on the campaign trail, while Warren fired directly back at McMaster saying his "endless connections to corruption are why 58% of people voted against" him in the first round of primary voting.
President Trump campaigned for McMaster in the state on Monday, and Vice President Pence paid a visit over the weekend to boost the incumbent.
McMaster, the former lieutenant governor, stepped in to replace former Governor Nikki Haley, who assumed the post of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under President Trump. McMaster was the first statewide official in South Carolina to endorse Trump in 2016 and Trump returned the favor by offering McMaster his first gubernatorial endorsement of the 2018 cycle.
McMaster won the first round over Warren by nearly 15 points and the winner of Tuesday’s runoff will face Democratic nominee State Rep. James Smith, who has the backing of former Vice President Joe Biden and longtime South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn.
Other key races to watch
Colorado 6th Congressional District: Incumbent Republican Mike Coffman won re-election in 2016 with just 51 percent of the vote in a district that Hillary Clinton won by nine points. Coffman had declined to endorse Trump and actively campaigned on a promise to stand up to a potential Trump presidency in an effort to appeal to moderate voters in his suburban Denver district. Despite Coffman’s willingness to criticize the President, it may not be enough to save him this year.
Coffman was able to stifle a potential primary challenge at his nominating convention, but Democrats see Coffman’s seat as an important potential pickup as they plan a potential path to a majority. Two Democrats, attorney and Army veteran Jason Crow and businessman Levi Tillemann, are running, but Crow has a large fundraising advantage, with over $1.2 million compared to Tillemann’s total of just over $277,000.
Maryland U.S. Senate: Incumbent Ben Cardin is running for reelection and has a wide lead in the polls, but is facing a challenge from controversial whistleblower Chelsea Manning. A court-martial sentenced Manning to a prison term for violating the Espionage Act by handing over classified documents to Wikileaks. After having her sentence commuted by President Obama last year, Manning announced a run for Senate this past January. Manning came under fire for having several contacts with alt-right figures, something Manning claimed was part of an effort to infiltrate their circles.
Cardin, meanwhile, has still raised ample funds despite being relatively safe in both his primary and general election challenges. Cardin has raised over $2.7 million this cycle, while Manning has raised just under $72,000.
New York 12th Congressional District: Carolyn Maloney has served in Congress for over a quarter-century but faces a well-funded challenge in the Democratic primary from 34-year-old progressive challenger Suraj Patel. Maloney has the backing of New York City’s Democratic establishment, including Mayor Bill De Blasio, but Patel has criticized Maloney as out-of-touch with the district’s sizable millennial population.
In a debate between the two candidates, Maloney went on the offensive and raised concerns about Patel’s business record and voter registration. Reports have emerged of labor violations committed by the hotel company Patel’s family runs and of Patel registering to vote at two different out-of-district addresses. Patel countered by criticizing Maloney for her votes on criminal justice issues, including her support of the 1994 crime bill pushed by President Bill Clinton.
Patel has raised over $1 million in his campaign, keeping him within a few hundred thousand dollars of Maloney’s fundraising totals. But Maloney has triumphed over well-funded primary opponents before. In 2010, lawyer Reshma Saujani raised $1.3 million in her bid but Maloney still won the primary with 81 percent of the vote.
New York 14th Congressional District: In another instance of a New York City race with a longtime Democratic incumbent facing a young progressive challenger, House Democratic Caucus Chair and Queens Democratic boss Joe Crowley faces 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, wields sizable influence over Democratic politics both in New York City and on Capitol Hill and has been tipped as a potential candidate for Speaker of the House should Democrats retake the House of Representatives. Ocasio-Cortez meanwhile has the backing of several notable progressive organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Moms Demand Action and NYC Democratic Socialists of America. She has focused her campaign engagement on millennials and people of color, a strategy that could help in a district that is nearly half-Hispanic and majority-non-white.
The primary winner will be heavily favored for re-election against Republican Anthony Pappas.
New York 19th Congressional District: President Barack Obama won the district both times he ran and although President Trump won by six points in 2016, Democrats believe that they can potentially unseat Republican Rep. John Faso.
Top candidates in the seven-person Democratic field include entrepreneur Brian Flynn, businessman Pat Ryan, and attorney Antonio Delgado, all of whom have raised over $1 million so far. Delgado has raised more funds than any candidate in the field, including Faso. In addition, Gareth Rhodes, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has announced his candidacy and is being supported by other former Cuomo staff. Candidate Erin Collier, the sole woman in the race, has the backing of EMILY’s List.
National Democrats have not backed a single candidate in the race but consider Faso a vulnerable incumbent as a congressional freshman in a swing district. In an added wrinkle that could affect the November result, actress Diane Neal, formerly of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, has announced an independent bid.
New York 21st Congressional District: An eccentric, outspoken and opinionated former television personality decides to run for office as a first-time candidate on a decidedly populist platform. Sound familiar? Former cable news host Dylan Ratigan is one of five candidates running in the Democratic primary against Republican Elise Stefanik and will test whether or not Democrats are ready for a left-wing campaign emulating Donald Trump’s style.
Ratigan, who left his TV show at MSNBC to start a hydroponic farming business and contribute to the left-wing blog The Young Turks, has elicited controversy for saying that he would have voted for Donald Trump had he cast a ballot in 2016. Ratigan, a vocal Bernie Sanders supporter, backtracked and said he had made the remarks in jest.
Former county official Tedra Cobb leads all Democrats in fundraising and has the endorsement of the local chapter of Bernie Sanders’ legacy political organization Our Revolution, while former Democratic delegate Patrick Nelson has the endorsement of Our Revolution’s state chapter.
Stefanik, a two-term incumbent who endorsed Trump in 2016 but has recently criticized the President on issues including tariffs and presidential pardons, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
New York 24th Congressional District: John Katko has defied the odds in two consecutive elections, winning two terms Congress as a Republican in a district that has voted for the Democratic nominee in the last three presidential elections. But Democrats are making an aggressive push to flip the district, with national Democrats pushing Navy veteran former State Assistant Attorney General Juanita Perez Williams as their candidate of choice.
Perez Williams has prior name recognition as she had previously run an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Syracuse last year. After her defeat, she jumped into the Democratic primary against Dana Balter, who has the advantage of having the backing of the Working Families Party, a smaller left-leaning party that occasionally co-runs Democratic candidates through a loophole in New York’s electoral system.
Katko has earned a reputation as a relatively moderate Republican in Congress, voting against the Republicans’ 2017 effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He will be running unopposed in Tuesday’s primary.
Oklahoma Governor: Republican Mary Fallin leaves office as one of the nation’s most unpopular governors, but the GOP will still have the upper hand in the Sooner State, where Republicans have held a legislative trifecta since 2010 and every congressional seat since 2012.
Ten candidates have declared for the Republican primary and four candidates have polled relatively strongly due to having either lots of money or name recognition: Oklahoma City mayor and former TV anchor Mick Cornett, Lieutenant Governor and former Secret Service agent Todd Lamb, businessman Kevin Stitt, and Gary Richardson, a former independent candidate for Governor.
Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson will face former State Senator Constance Johnson for the Democratic nomination.
South Carolina 4th Congressional District: The departure of House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy has helped force two runoff elections as both Democrats and Republicans have had to narrow down crowded primary fields in this upstate South Carolina seat. On the Republican side, former State Senator Lee Bright took first place and will face State Senator William Timmons, who survived a recount after narrowly earning the second spot in the runoff.
As a State Senator, Bright made headlines in 2015 when he was one of three Senators to vote against removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds after the Charleston Church shooting.
Democrats will be choosing between accountant Doris “Lee” Turner and education consultant Brandon Brow, who both advanced out of a close first round where three candidates earned between 25 and 30 percent of the vote.
Utah Senate: Last but certainly not least on the docket of races Tuesday night, the political return of one Willard "Mitt" Romney.
In 2016, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney may have called Donald Trump a “con man” and “a fake” and said he would never accept a Trump endorsement again, but Romney changed his tune this past February as he happily accepted President Trump’s endorsement.
The praise from Trump is far cry from the harsh critique Trump offered of Romney in February 2016, calling him "one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of the Republican politics."
Romney has stumbled a few times during his candidacy for U.S. Senate, including a loss to conservative challenger and State Representative Mike Kennedy at the GOP convention that forced Romney into this primary. Romney has continued to tamp down his criticism of President Trump on the campaign trail in an effort to appeal to conservative voters, although polling indicates that Romney is still the heavy favorite among the Utah Republican electorate.
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Republican lawmakers are preparing to vote on a more narrow immigration bill that would allow immigrant children to stay in detention facilities with their parents for more than 20 days, senior White House and Hill officials tell ABC News.
The bill would correct an issue with President Trump's executive order to stop the separation of children from parents who entered the country illegally. The existing law requires that children be released from detention after 20 days.
The House is scheduled to vote on a larger "compromise" immigration bill early next week that would include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, border security and visas. But the bill is not expected to get enough votes to pass in Congress. Sources tell ABC News that Hill leaders are expected to then vote on the narrower bill.
The Trump administration filed a motion in a California federal court on Thursday to change the so-called Flores settlement so that children can remain in detention with their parents as they await immigration proceedings. The status of that case is in limbo.
Two White House officials told ABC News that the president would be inclined to sign an immigration bill even if it only fixes the issue of the detention period for children.
"We've always said there needs to be a legislative fix," White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told ABC News.
"I don't think we're going to talk about hypotheticals until we see that the Democrats won't partner with us to solve a bigger problem."
If there isn't legislative or judicial action to change the period of detention for children, the families could be separated again if the children are released from the detention centers and the parents remain until they are processed.
Amid confusion over how to implement the executive order that was crafted within a matter of hours on Wednesday, the administration designated Homeland Security Advisor Doug Fears on Thursday to coordinate the interagency response to the executive order, ABC News has learned.
Senior White House aide Stephen Miller has been blamed by his colleagues for pushing the zero-tolerance policy that created the crisis at the border, according to White House officials.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Arkansas Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee posted a photo of apparent gang members on Twitter, saying they are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's "campaign committee."
The image, tweeted Saturday morning, shows five tattooed men using what appears to be hand signs for MS-13, an international criminal gang that was formed by El Salvadoran refugees in Los Angeles during the 1980s and has since spread throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America.
"Nancy Pelosi introduces her campaign committee for the take back of the House," Huckabee tweeted alongside the photo.
Huckabee, who ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 and 2016, received widespread criticism for the tweet, which was also liked by more than 15,000 Twitter users and retweeted over 6,400 times as of Saturday afternoon.
President Trump has repeatedly referred to MS-13 as a reason for tightening border security. And Huckabee tweeted the image amid a raging debate between Democrats and Republicans over immigration.
Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff for Pelosi, shifted some of the blame to the president as well.
"Trump and his surrogates will continue to repeat blatantly false attacks as long as the media continues to take the bait and print them," he said in a statement.
Outrage erupted across the nation after the controversial "zero tolerance" immigration policy was put into effect last month by Trump's administration. The policy, enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early May, stated that everyone who tries to cross the southern border illegally would be criminally prosecuted, and that parents will be separated from their children as they await trial.
Trump, appearing to cave to immense political pressure, signed an executive order on Wednesday ending the practice of forcibly separating immigrant families at the border with Mexico. But thousands of children have already been taken away from their detained parents.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images(LEXINGTON, Va.) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she was told to leave a Virginia restaurant because she works for President Donald Trump.
Sanders wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the owner of Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, asked her to leave because of who she works for.
"Her actions say far more about her than about me," Sanders tweeted. "I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so."
Sanders' father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, weighed in, calling the incident an example of "bigotry."
"Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the 'Hate Plate,'" Huckabee tweeted.
A man who says he was Sanders' waiter at the farm-to-table restaurant wrote on Facebook that he only served her for a couple minutes before the owner "asked her to leave and she complied."
"Her family left on their own accord, we didn't actually refuse service or 'kick her out,'" he wrote in the Facebook post.Responding to comments on his post, which has been shared hundreds of times, the man wrote that "the owner felt that Sarah's moral decisions conflicted with her own."
ABC News reached out to the owner and the waiter for comment but did immediately heard back Saturday afternoon.
The incident occurred after a week of widespread outrage over the Trump administration's policy of forcibly separating migrant families who illegally cross the southern border from Mexico.
Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to end the practice of separating migrant families. But well over a thousand children remain apart from their parents, and many continue to criticize the president's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal immigration.
Sanders wasn't the first official to be personally confronted with public anger over the administration's immigration policy. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the nation's borders, was bombarded by protesters on Tuesday night while she dined at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Video of the confrontation was posted to Facebook.
The protesters, members of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America, loudly booed at Nielsen and repeatedly shouted "shame."
"Secretary Nielsen, how dare you spend your evening here eating dinner as you're complicit in the separation and deportation of over 10,000 children separated from their parents," one protester yelled. "How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?"
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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is apparently trying to deflect criticism of his administration's separating more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents by suggesting that former President Obama did worse.
Trump tweeted Saturday morning that President Obama kept immigrants "in cages, wrapped in foil," pushing a Drudge Report headline that linked to an article that ran in The Daily Caller, a conservative media outlet.
The Daily Caller article was posted on Tuesday, when public outrage over the family separations was at a height. On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order to end the policy and keep migrant parents and children together.
The Obama administration also used detention facilities for migrants who crossed the border illegally, but it did not engage in widespread family separations.
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