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Here's What Happened This Week In Immigration

The crisis around children who were separated from their families after crossing the border seized the nation's interest. Here's how it unfolded, day by day.

Posted on June 22, 2018, at 4:08 p.m. ET

Let's start with some background information first:

What's going on? Since April 19, at least 2,342 children have been taken from adults at the US–Mexico border, according to the Department of Homeland Security. We say "at least" because that figure represents how many children were separated from their families between May 5 and June 9, DHS said June 19.

Why is this happening now? In April, the Trump administration — specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — introduced a new “zero tolerance” policy that would charge all people caught crossing the border illegally.

So everyone caught would be prosecuted? Correct. Because parents traveling with children are now facing federal charges, the new policy ends up systematically separating them from their children. The administration has given conflicting information this week on whether that's still true.

So people weren’t charged under the old system? It's a federal misdemeanor to cross the border illegally, but in the past, most first-time offenders were not charged.

Were children separated from their families before the "zero tolerance" policy was introduced in April? There's evidence that this was already happening before Trump, but not on this scale. A March 2017 report found federal agents were separating families at the border, often regardless of humanitarian concerns. However, they used it as a form of punishment, not as a formal policy.

What’s the effect on these children? BuzzFeed News spoke to experts who told us children forcibly removed from their parents will likely face long-term trauma.

Got that? Let's get into the past week.

On Monday, President Donald Trump doubled down on his false statement that Democrats were responsible for children being separated from their families at the border.

Evan Vucci / AP

He continued to spread false information throughout the day to justify separating families. Among other things, he incorrectly repeated that separation is "the law" — it isn't; there's no law that says children must be taken away from their parents when they cross the border.

It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!

Meanwhile, public outrage at the separation policy continued to grow after Customs and Border Protection released images and video showing children and adults held in cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas.

Handout / Getty Images

And then ProPublica obtained and published audio recordings of 10 Central American children held in a CBP detention facility after being separated from their parents.

We've just published secretly recorded audio from inside a govt facility where children are being separated from their parents. You can hear them screaming. https://t.co/cEUspwzJR2 by @gingerthomp1

At Monday's White House press briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeated the lie that only Congress could fix the mass family separation issue, to the consternation of congressional Republicans, some of whom had begun to speak out against the policy.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Meanwhile, a group of Senate and House members spent two days at the border on a "fact-finding mission" to see the impact of the Trump administration's new policy on immigrants.

Mr. President, I was for cracking down on MS-13 before you learned it wasn't a movie sequel—but at the border I saw 5-year-olds you have taken from their parents. Sure didn't look like MS-13 gang members. We can have secure borders without your cruel family separation policy. https://t.co/NT841QINzw

By the end of the day Monday, every living former first lady had spoken out against family separation.

Every living first lady has spoken out against separating families at the border. https://t.co/qUoZHvNY9O

And state governors began to cancel National Guard deployments to the border to protest the Trump administration's "inhumane" separation of families.

John Moore / Getty Images

Let's move on to Tuesday.

President Trump referred to immigrants as vermin in a tweet (one of the many words he frequently uses to dehumanize or vilify them). He also continued to incorrectly blame "Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws" for family separations.

Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!

He also said a bunch of things about Germany's refugee crisis — most of which were very wrong.

Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted. Others countries are even worse. Be smart America!

Meanwhile, a growing number of Republicans began to urge the president to stop separating families at the border.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

And the first legal challenges to the Trump administration's family separation policy were filed.

Here come the family separation lawsuits: A Guatemalan woman who says she's been separated from her seven-year-old son while seeking asylum filed suit today, and NY Gov @andrewcuomo said they're planning to sue https://t.co/LdltAuxe1W

Also, the Mexican government issued a strong rebuke to the United States and asked for the zero tolerance policy to be rescinded, citing an example of a "particularly painful" case of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother.

John Moore / Getty Images

When asked about this particular case during an appearance on Fox News, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said "womp womp," one of a number of seemingly tone-deaf moves made by Trump associates and family members amid the national outrage.

Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said “womp womp,” in response to the news of the child’s separation https://t.co/jSKIB9iPc2

Finally, Trump spoke with House Republicans on Capitol Hill in the evening, but apparently didn't say much about immigration or changing the zero tolerance policy.

Just a reminder that families are being torn apart at the border because of a Trump administration policy. Nearly 2,000 kids in the span of six weeks, and that figure is not including this month. https://t.co/UhKc4qtyOL

And now, Wednesday.

Protests against the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy of separating families reached new levels. Execs at major tech companies released statements opposing family separation, and major airline carriers told the government that they did not want to be used to transport immigrant children to detention facilities.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images
John Moore / Getty Images

Another voice that chimed in? Former president Barack Obama, who released a statement about World Refugee Day that referenced the border policy.

Barack Obama on family separations: “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?” https://t.co/B4fZc7LKVr https://t.co/24Dfo7SLrq

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order that, he said, would stop separating families at the border.

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

However, it was unclear how this will be implemented and whether the order would solve the problem. And the government said that there are no plans to reunite the children with their parents, which they later tried to walk back.

For the children already separated from their parents after crossing the border, the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday it has no plans to reunite them with their families despite Trump's executive order. https://t.co/8u3F3LismX https://t.co/VuuK65xE5V

This includes children as young as 8 months old, who are being housed in "tender age" facilities, lawmakers and medical professionals told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.

John Moore / Getty Images

Soon after the executive order was signed, the Trump administration told Congress that it was not a permanent fix and it was up to them to fix the issue. Democrats and Republicans still can't agree on how to do that.

Less than an hour after Trump signed an executive order that he says would stop child separations at the border, Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen told Republicans it's still up to Congress to fix the issue https://t.co/ajISFizqYU

The president then jetted off to a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, where his supporters told BuzzFeed News the outrage over his border policy was a "manufactured crisis."

Scott Olson / Getty Images

And on to Thursday.

President Trump tweeted that Democrats were trying to obstruct Republican attempts at "good immigration bills" because they thought it would help them in the midterm elections.

What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms). Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule-it is killing you!

Later Thursday, the conservative immigration bill supported by Trump failed to pass in the House.

CSPAN

He would later specifically blame Democrats for the bill's failure.

You cannot pass legislation on immigration whether it be for safety and security or any other reason including “heart,” without getting Dem votes. Problem is, they don’t care about security and R’s do. Zero Dems voted to support the Goodlatte Bill. They won’t vote for anything!

During a Cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon, the president once again blamed Democrats for the country's immigration issues.

My Administration is acting swiftly to address the illegal immigration crisis on the Southern Border. Loopholes in our immigration laws all supported by extremist open border Democrats...and that's what they are - they're extremist open border Democrats.... https://t.co/F73I5gu0Q5

Meanwhile, first lady Melania Trump made an unannounced visit to a Texas border facility holding children who had been separated from their families to ask some questions about border separations.

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

However, the visit was a bit overshadowed by the jacket she wore on the trip, which had "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" written on the back.

Andrew Harnik / Andrew Harnik / AP/REX/Shutterstock, Zara

President Trump tweeted that the statement on the first lady's jacket was a jab at the "Fake News Media," although a spokesperson for Melania Trump said earlier that there was "no hidden message" in the jacket.

“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!

In an interview Thursday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who implemented the zero tolerance policy, falsely claimed that the government never intended to separate families.

Jeff Sessions on separating families at the border: May 7: “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.” June 21: “We never really intended to do that" https://t.co/la6wacD01Y

Finally, one day after the president signed the executive order to stop separating families, the Trump administration still seemed to be in the process of figuring out what exactly that meant.

John Moore / Getty Images

Here's how things stand on Friday.

President Trump tweeted Friday morning that Republicans should stop trying to pass an immigration bill until after the midterm elections.

Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!

Members of Congress told BuzzFeed News on Friday that they're worried the administration doesn't have a plan to reunite separated families.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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