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Kristoffer Tripplaar/For The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his first remarks since the Justice Department's inspector general's report was released, former FBI Director Jim Comey said Tuesday he doesn't regret the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email case - despite the report's harsh criticism.

Comey initially responded in a New York Times op-ed last Thursday.

"I was strongly criticized in a report that came out last week - a report that I urged be done because I wasn't certain that I was right. When you're making hard decisions, anyone who's certain is a lunatic. I thought we had it right but I thought other people might see it differently. And the inspector general, the watchdog for the Department of Justice, sees it differently," Comey said while during an interview in Berlin with the German newspaper Die Zeit.

"He thinks I should've been quiet and I respect his work," Comey said, referring to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. "I praised his work, but I still think he's underweighting the damage to the institution and I say with a smile, I think if I had chosen that, to be quiet, he'd be writing a report about how I damaged the institution by that choice. And so I don't agree with his weighing even though I respect the criticism because I knew reasonable people could see it differently," he continued.

He later said he wanted to model what the rule of law looks like, despite getting what he described as "ripped" by Horowitz.

Comey was also asked if he should apologize to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after it was revealed that he was using a Gmail account to conduct FBI business.

"Again, I don't want to criticize her, but it shows that even at this late stage she doesn't understand what the investigation in her case was about," he said.

"It was not about a use of her personal email system and she didn't get that during the investigation because she used to say, well Colin Powell, when he was secretary of state, used AOL. That was not what it was about. It was about communicating about classified topics on that system when those topics have to be done on a classified system.." Comey continued.

Comey says he used his Gmail account to send speeches back and forth from his personal account to his work account because he had to write his own. He stressed that he never talked about anything "remotely classified."

He also touched on the texts between FBI Special Agent Peter Strozk and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Comey said he had no idea they were having an affair and, that to conceal the relationship from their spouses, they used their FBI phones.

"We archive the texts, so maybe it's a sign we don't have the brightest people working at our organization," he joked.

"I never saw any indication of bias and Peter Strozk did the first draft of my letter to Congress on October 28th that Hillary Clinton blames for her losing the election, so how exactly is he trying to get Donald Trump?" he said.

"I don't see any evidence of a conspiracy, if the president and his allies want to claim a conspiracy they have to encompass all the data, I don't see how you could approach this and conclude we were on Hillary Clinton's side or on Donald Trump's side and I never saw any indication from those two people," he said.

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Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Michael Cohen, the embattled former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, has hired a new lawyer as a federal investigation of him heads into a new phase, ABC News has learned.

According to multiple sources, Cohen has retained Guy Petrillo, an attorney with significant experience at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.

Petrillo's hiring was first reported Tuesday by Vanity Fair.

A partner at Petrillo Klein & Boxer LLP in New York, Petrillo is expected to take a lead role in negotiations with prosecutors if Cohen ultimately opts to negotiate a deal.

As ABC News reported last week, Cohen's current legal team –- Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison of McDermott Will & Emery LLP -- will remain on the case until those attorneys complete a privilege review of materials seized during raids on Cohen's properties in New York on April 9. A federal judge has set a deadline of June 25 for that process to be wrapped up.

Cohen has not been charged with a crime, but he is under investigation for potential criminal violations surrounding his personal business dealings and his $130,000 payment to adult film star Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels. She said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied that.

For the past two months, Cohen's lawyers have been rushing to review more than 3.7 million items seized in searches of Cohen's home, office and hotel room. Under the supervision of a retired federal judge acting as a "special master," the files are being scrutinized by Cohen's attorneys for items potentially covered by attorney-client privilege.

Once that task is complete, Petrillo will assume the role of Cohen's lead counsel in connection with the investigation in New York.

Petrillo led the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York from January 2008 until October 2009, according to a biography on his firm's website. He established the firm in 2010 along with two other former federal prosecutors in New York, Joshua Klein and Nelson Boxer.

Previously, Petrillo was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the criminal division for seven years in the 1990s, including a stint as the chief prosecutor in the division's narcotics unit, according to the firm's website.

"His experience includes hundreds of client representations covering the broad spectrum of criminal prosecutions," his online biography reads, "from alleged financial industry and other fraud, to, among others, alleged money laundering, alleged violations of banking, FCPA and U.S. embargo and sanctions laws, as well as matters involving alleged breaches of public integrity, alleged violations of pharmaceutical marketing enactments, and alleged transgressions of government program and financial industry laws and regulations."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. will withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced Tuesday.

The decision to exit the U.N. body comes after more than a year of threatening to do so, calling for reform, and accusing it of an anti-Israel bias -- but it also follows one day after its High Commissioner criticized the U.S. over President Donald Trump's immigration policies, especially separating families at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Haley blasted the U.N. body as a "hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights" and "is not worthy of its name," while Pompeo slammed it as "an exercise in shameless hypocrisy" and said it had become "an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change" by providing cover for repressive regimes.

After repeated warnings by the Trump administration, Haley said, "Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded."

The administration has argued that the body, which issues a report on Israel at every session, is inherently biased against the U.S. ally. But it's also criticized it for including repressive regimes among its ranks and not speaking out against member states. In her remarks Tuesday, Haley specifically cited countries like Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both of which are members of the body.

"When a so-called Human Rights Council cannot bring itself to address the massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran and it welcomes the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member, the Council ceases to be worthy of its name," she said.

She lamented that no country would publicly join U.S. efforts to reform the body, even while many expressed support, she said. Specifically, she called out Russia, China, Cuba, and Egypt for blocking reform efforts, saying they'd done so to protect their own bad behavior.

The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 after its precursor, the Human Rights Commission, was disbanded by then-Secretary General Kofi Annan because of a "credibility deficit." The body consists of 47 member states, with a specific number of seats given to each region of the world. Members are elected by the U.N. General Assembly for three-year terms and cannot serve more than two terms in a row.

When it began, President George W. Bush's administration boycotted it because its membership included countries with poor human rights records. It was only in 2009 that the U.S. joined the organization under President Barack Obama, whose administration argued that U.S. membership could better steer it.

But since Trump came into office, his administration has threatened to withdraw if it did not reform: "If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council," Haley said at a speech in Geneva last year.

The Human Rights Council opened its latest three-week session Monday, and the High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein blasted the U.S. in his opening remarks for its "unconscionable" immigration policy of separating migrant parents from their children at the border, calling it "government-sanctioned child abuse."

Neither Haley nor Pompeo referenced Al Hussein's remarks or answered a reporter's shouted question about them, but Haley accused the body of "attack[ing] countries that uphold human rights and shield[ing] countries that abuse human rights."

Pompeo also seemed to take a shot at Al Hussein's criticism, saying, "When organizations undermine our national interests and our allies, we will not be complicit. When they seek to infringe on our national sovereignty, we will not be silent."

A State Department official said prior to their address that the withdrawal was something long under consideration: "You don't make those decisions in reaction to one person's comments," they said.

Haley added that the U.S. would rejoin if the reforms it has called for were made, but the withdrawal is effective immediately.

The decision was criticized by human rights groups, who argued it was part of a pattern by the Trump administration of undermining human rights protections.

"Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the U.S. claims to uphold," said Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty in a statement. The U.S. "is willfully choosing to undermine the human rights of all people everywhere and their struggles for justice."

Some even questioned whether the U.S. departure would negatively affect ongoing investigations into human rights abuses.

"A decision to withdraw from this vital body undermines the international community’s ability to take collective action against grave human rights abuses," said Dr. Home Venters, Physicians for Human Rights' director of programs. "With current investigations into alleged atrocities in Myanmar against the Rohingya, a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and assaults on health care and civilians in Syria, including chemical attacks, there is no time more pressing than the present for nations to redouble their efforts to unite in defending human rights around the world."

Foreign leaders, too, expressed disappointment with the move, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying through a spokesperson that he "would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council. The U.N.'s Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide."

But the administration did get one vocal and almost immediate response in support of its decision. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted just minutes after the announcement, "Israel thanks President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo, and Ambassador Haley for their decision against the hypocrisy and lies of the U.N. Human Rights Council. For years, the Council has proved itself to be a biased, hostile and anti-Israeli body that is betraying its mission to protect human rights."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  House Republicans leaving a meeting on with President Donald Trump Tuesday evening said he endorsed the more moderate of two immigration bills being voted on Thursday, although the White House was less definitive in its characterization of Trump’s support.

The president attended the strategy session with House Republicans as lawmakers struggle to respond to the national uproar over the administration's policy causing family separations at the border.

Trump told the group that he had seen images associated with family separations and told Republicans that they needed to "take care" of it in legislation, according to a source in the room.

“He endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration, and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal. He told the members, ‘I’m with you 100%,” White House deputy spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement following the meeting.

But House Republicans leaving the meeting said they came away thinking he was endorsing a compromise bill, crafted by leadership in consultation with both moderate and conservative members of the House Republican conference.

“The compromise bill is what I gathered. He didn't specify which bill but it was the contours that were laid out in the compromise bill,” Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., told reporters after the meeting.

Republican leadership crafted the compromise bill to placate moderates who threatened to force a vote on legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action under President Obama.

The measure would provide $25 billion in border wall funding, eliminate several visa programs while restructuring others, and provide a pathway for six-year "indefinitely renewable" legal status for "Dreamers" who could later apply for citizenship. It is also expected to include a provision to prevent the government from separating young children from parents and guardians while in government custody.

A more conservative alternative to the compromise bill, written by McCaul and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the Securing America’s Future Act, provides a pathway to legal status for Dreamers while limiting legal immigration levels. It isn't expected to pass the House with Republican votes given Democrats' opposition, as well as concerns from some moderates.

Even if Trump didn’t specify which of the two bills he preferred, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., indicated that the president endorsed the policies that comprise the more moderate bill.

“President Trump did a great job of explaining to our conference why he wants to see a bill get through the House that actually addresses the problem of border security, making sure the money's there to build the wall, making sure that parents are reunited with families, making sure that we solve the DACA problem, closing interior loopholes, ending catch and release,” Scalise said.

The president declined to answer shouted questions about the new practice as he entered and exited the Capitol but did make a statement about the immigration system in general.

"The system has been broken for many years, the immigration system. It's been a really bad, bad system, probably the worst anywhere in the world. We're going to try to see if we can fix it," he said as he arrived at House Speaker Paul Ryan's office.

The House is slated to vote on both the compromise bill and the Goodlatte/McCaul bill Thursday.

The more conservative bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to house families together while parents go through criminal proceedings for the misdemeanor of first-time illegal border crossing - a change from current practice requiring the Department of Justice to take criminal custody during criminal proceedings, thus leading to family separation.

The proposal would also eliminate the 20-day cap on DHS administrative custody for accompanied children, so families would be kept together in the custody of DHS throughout criminal proceedings. It also authorizes up to $7 billion for family residential centers, ensuring DHS has access to funds to house more families.

In the cases of repeat offenders or other serious criminals, children would be placed in the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation is not finalized but an updated version was expected to have been circulated among lawmakers in advance of the conference meeting with the president.

Both bills have yet to be introduced, meaning they could still be tweaked after the meeting with Trump.

Republican leaders were gauging support for the compromise bill, in a process known as whipping the vote, following their meeting with the president.

While the political and policy conversation has revolved around the issue of family separation in recent days, lawmakers exiting the meeting said the president did not focus on the new practice of removing children from the custody of their parents while the parents await prosecution.

“It was not a situation where there was a lot of focus on the separate family separation issue,” Costello said.

In fact, some sources indicated it was more of Trump’s typical stream-of-consciousness style addresses, in which he touched on issues as varied as trade, North Korea, and the recent Republican congressional primary in South Carolina in which Republican Mark Sanford was ousted.

One source said he looked around the room to see if Sanford was there, saying he wanted to congratulate him on his race. Then he pointed out that Sanford had said “nasty things about him.”

Trump’s supportive remarks about the GOP compromise bill cap off a half-week of confusing, contradictory statements. Earlier Tuesday, Trump announced that he would make his own changes to the House immigration bill after he reviews the emerging text. His surprise comments come after a whirlwind Friday when Trump told reporters he wouldn't support the GOP compromise bill, only to be contradicted by the White House in a statement nine hours later pledging support for either option.

“We have a House that's getting ready to finalize an immigration package that they're going to brief me on later and then I'm going to make changes to,” Trump told the National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday. “We have one chance to get it right.”

Trump has also maintained he does not have the power to take executive action and has repeatedly put the onus on Congress to fix the problem by creating legal authority he says the administration lacks to detain and properly remove families together as a unit.

As the issue draws continued disgust from Democrats and civil rights activists, the uncertainty underscores the difficulty Republican leaders face, particularly as the debate takes them off-message from their election-year agenda focusing on the economy.

Rev. Al Sharpton joined a group of high-profile civil rights activists Tuesday on Capitol Hill to decry the Trump administration’s practice of separating illegal immigrant children from their parents at the southern border.

“There is nothing moral or even acceptable of hearing children crying and screaming for their daddies and their mommies,” Sharpton cried, denouncing Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a “Sunday school teacher” after he cited scripture last week defending the administration’s actions.

Sharpton also charged that the administration’s policy is racist, because the Trump administration would not implement the policy at the northern border with Canada against “white children.”

“There is the inference here that because these are children of color that there's a different policy for them and that [President Trump] is playing hardball with the futures of these young people but also with the image of the United States worldwide,” Sharpton contended. “This bigoted and insensitive policy should end today.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, appealed to Trump to take executive action, given the president has been eager to address other political controversies through executive order.

“He can do it. Do not be fooled by arguments that the law prevents the administration from taking action. For the last two years we have watched President Trump enjoy with relish affixing his signature to any number of executive orders, beginning with the Muslim ban. He has taken delight in acting unilaterally,” Ifill said. “He has said that he, and he alone, can solve the nation's immigration problems and yet when we ask him to step forward and take executive action as the leader of this country to protect country who are screaming for their parents, to remove America from this cloud of immorality, this embarrassment of the lack of humanity, suddenly he is unable to act?”

Responding to the backlash against the family separation policy, some Republicans have introduced narrow, stand-alone legislation meant to address the family separation policy.

Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, has also floated an additional proposal that would remove the family separation dilemma from broader immigration reform proposals. His pitch would enact tougher scrutiny to asylum seekers while allowing children to be detained with their parents – rather than the administration’s current practice to hold them in separate detention facilities.

House Minority Nancy Pelosi joined several Democratic lawmakers on the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego on Monday, calling the administration’s policy “barbaric” while demanding Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen resign.

“This is not an immigration issue, this is a humanitarian issue. It’s about the children.” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “We can have debates and the policy and the ‘this’ or the ‘that,’ which is wrong. But, the fundamental unifying principle for our country is this is about family and they cannot undermine the family as the American way and expect that it will have any regard for how we regard them. So, this is very, for us, it’s not political. It’s very prayerful as a matter of fact, but we do know that the answer lies with the stroke of a pen from the President of the United States.”

Democrats also assert that the GOP remedies allow indefinite detention of families.

All 49 Senate Democrats have signed onto Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill, the Keep Families Together Act, which prohibits officials from removing a child under the age of 18 from their parent or legal guardian at or near a port of entry within 100 miles of the border. No Republicans have cosponsored the legislation although one moderate House Republican, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, tweeted support for her effort. House Democrats are working on a bill that could become a companion bill to Feinstein’s.
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Leon Neal/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump is digging in on a demonstrably false claim that the crime rate in Germany has risen as a result of refugees in that country, despite the fact that the government of Germany recently released data showing the exact opposite -- that the crime rate has actually decreased in Germany to the lowest levels since 1992.

In a tweet Tuesday morning, the president accused the government of Germany of concealing the truth of the crime rate in the country since accepting a surge of migrants into the country in recent years.

But that's simply not true, according to the most recently released German government data that showed that the crime rate in 2017 dropped by 5.1 percent compared to the previous year, excluding immigration offenses like illegal border crossings. And if immigration-related offenses are included, the crime rate has decreased even more – by 9.6 percent.

The White House has yet to provide ABC News with the source of the information the president cited in claiming that there is a 10 percent-plus crime increase in Germany.

President Trump first made his claim that the crime rate in Germany is "way up" in Germany in a tweet on Monday and also asserted that migrants have "strongly and violently changed their culture" in Europe.

The president has made the claim as he defends his administration's new "zero tolerance" policy that calls for the criminal prosecution of all adults apprehended attempting to cross the U.S. border illegally. The policy has resulted in the separation of some 2,300 children from their parents over a 6-week period and has led to a political backlash across the political spectrum.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- An informational State Department Facebook Live session Tuesday morning quickly prompted a barrage of mocking responses to two agency employees giving parents advice on obtaining passports for their children.

The live event, hosted by the Bureau of Consular Affairs to answer "your questions about traveling with kids," came amid the uproar over a Trump administration policy that has led to children being separated from parents apprehended crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The video, on what normally might have been a non-controversial topic, quickly generated backlash from social media users, who cast the online event as tone deaf and trolled the State Department in a series of posts. ABC News has reached out to the State Department for comment.

"do you guys just have terrible PR timing, or are you actively trolling the thousands of families who traveled to the US and had their children taken away?" one Twitter user wrote in response to a tweet promoting the session.

"This is perfect timing. Are you simulcasting in spanish?" another Twitter user wrote.

Audio of a so-called "orchestra" of young migrant children fighting through tears and crying "Mami" and "Papa," which was first obtained by ProPublica, was released on Monday, prompting emotional responses from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The recording was captured last week and given to Jennifer Harbury, a civil rights attorney who confirmed its authenticity to ABC News.

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Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Members of Jeff Sessions' own church filed a formal complaint against the attorney general, accusing him of "child abuse," "immorality," and "racial discrimination" and the “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of the United Methodist Church.

The letter, which was signed by more than 600 members of the United Methodist Church including clergy and church leaders, comes as the White House weathers a chorus of bipartisan condemnation over the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has led to children getting separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"While other individuals and areas of the federal government are implicated in each of these examples, Mr. Sessions - as a long-term United Methodist in a tremendously powerful, public position - is particularly accountable to us, his church," the letter reads. "He is ours, and we are his. As his denomination, we have an ethical obligation to speak boldly when one of our members is engaged in causing significant harm in matters contrary to the Discipline on the global stage.

Last week, Sessions cited the Bible in his defense of the administration's border policy separating children from their parents after they enter the U.S. illegally, which he issued last month.

"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order," he said on Thursday. "Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."

In the letter, church members took issue with this characterization, criticizing Sessions' "misuse of Romans 13 to indicate the necessity of obedience to secular law, which is in stark contrast to Disciplinary commitments to supporting freedom of conscience and resistance to unjust laws."

A representative in the Justice Department's public affairs office told ABC News on Tuesday that DOJ has no comment and said that Sessions' scripture citation was not used to justify the policy.

As the White House remains defiant in blaming the policy on Democrats, Sessions did not repeat this claim but adamantly defended the administration's position.

"We're doing the right thing. We're taking care of these children," he told Fox News on Monday. "They are not being abused. The [Department of] Health and Human Services holds them in good conditions. They work hard at it."

According to the letter, Sessions is a member of the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala., and a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Va. Those who signed the letter are members of the United Methodist Church across the country-- including some from the churches in Virginia and Alabama.

Members of the United Methodist Church are not the only religious body to speak out against the family separation policy.

Franklin Graham, who is a staunch Trump supporter called the practice “disgraceful," a group of evangelical groups — who have often been supportive of Trump — wrote a letter to the White House calling out the “traumatic effects” of separation.

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John Moore/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump has asserted that Congress laid the groundwork for the spate of family separations occurring on the southern border of the United States, members of Congress have noted that the president could act unilaterally to immediately end the new practice put in place by the Department of Homeland Security.

But absent his action, lawmakers are largely united in finding some quick solution to keep families together.

The question is, what solution will they all agree to?

Members of Congress from all sorts of factions have introduced different bills since the outrage over children being separated from their parents has mounted.

Right now House Speaker Paul Ryan appears focused on two bills, both written by congressional Republicans, that would address other aspects of the immigration system in addition to the family separation policy. In the upper chamber, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Tuesday that staffers are working on a proposal that would "keep it narrow so it doesn't get bogged down in a bunch of other issues."

Here’s a look at some of the legislation on the table.

SENATE

“Keep Families Together Act” – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif

This bill prohibits officials from removing a child under the age of 18 from their parent or legal guardian at or near a port of entry within 100 miles of the border. All Senate Democrats currently support the bill; as of now, no Republicans have signed on although one moderate House Republican, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, tweeted his support of her effort. House Democrats are working on what could become a companion bill to Feinstein’s.

“Protect Kids and Parents Act” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Cruz, a frequent ally of President Trump, introduced what he called “emergency legislation” to stop the practice of children being separated from their parents. His bill would authorize new temporary shelters that would keep families together as adults await prosecution, double the number of federal immigration judges to help expedite cases, and require asylum cases to be adjudicated within 14 days, with those who do not meet the legal standard for asylum being immediately returned to their home country.

HOUSE

Unnamed “moderate” bill – House Republican leadership

House Republicans started working on this compromise bill after moderates threatened to force a vote on legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action under President Obama. This measure, crafted in closed-door discussions between GOP conservatives and moderates organized by leadership and in consultation with the White House, will provide $25 billion in border wall funding, eliminate several visa programs while restructuring others, and provide a pathway for six-year "indefinitely renewable" legal status for Dreamers who could later apply for citizenship. It is also expected to include a provision to prevent the government from separating young children from parents and guardians while in government custody. The House will vote on this bill, and a more conservative one written by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., on Thursday.

“Securing America’s Future Act” – Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.


This more conservative alternative, which will also get a House vote Thursday, would provide a pathway to legal status for Dreamers while limiting legal immigration levels. It is also expected to contain a provision on family separation, although Democrats have argued that both the House “moderate” bill and the Goodlatte version are insufficient and would open the door to families being detained indefinitely.

“Equal Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Act” – Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

This bill, introduced by conservative Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus and an ally of President Trump, would clarify an existing legal statute to make clear that children should not be separated from their parents while in DHS custody. It would also make it more difficult for immigrants to claim asylum, and, if a child does not have a “legitimate asylum claim,” arrange for “the safe and expeditious return” to the child’s home country. Meadows was spotted at the White House Tuesday although he would not say whether he was there to discuss his bill, which he has pitched as an alternative to the two other House Republican immigration bills, with the president.

Unnamed House Democratic bill – Rep. Jerold Nadler, R-N.Y.

House Democratic leadership has indicated that a forthcoming bill from Rep. Nadler will be similar to that of Feinstein’s in the Senate. Nadler was among a group of Democratic lawmakers who visited a detention facility in New Jersey on Sunday, meeting with detained asylum seekers who had been separated from their families. “We spoke to fathers whose children have been ripped from their arms, who have no idea when or if they will see their children again," Nadler said of his visit.

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Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Members of Jeff Sessions' own church filed a formal complaint against the attorney general, accusing him of "child abuse," "immorality," and "racial discrimination" and the “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of the United Methodist Church.

The letter, which was signed by more than 600 members of the United Methodist Church including clergy and church leaders, comes as the White House weathers a chorus of bipartisan condemnation over the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has led to children getting separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"While other individuals and areas of the federal government are implicated in each of these examples, Mr. Sessions - as a long-term United Methodist in a tremendously powerful, public position - is particularly accountable to us, his church," the letter reads. "He is ours, and we are his. As his denomination, we have an ethical obligation to speak boldly when one of our members is engaged in causing significant harm in matters contrary to the Discipline on the global stage.

Last week, Sessions cited the Bible in his defense of the administration's border policy separating children from their parents after they enter the U.S. illegally, which he issued last month.

"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order," he said on Thursday. "Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."

In the letter, church members took issue with this characterization, criticizing Sessions' "misuse of Romans 13 to indicate the necessity of obedience to secular law, which is in stark contrast to Disciplinary commitments to supporting freedom of conscience and resistance to unjust laws."

A representative in the Justice Department's public affairs office told ABC News on Tuesday that DOJ has no comment and said that Sessions' scripture citation was not used to justify the policy.



As the White House remains defiant in blaming the policy on Democrats, Sessions did not repeat this claim but adamantly defended the administration's position.

"We're doing the right thing. We're taking care of these children," he told Fox News on Monday. "They are not being abused. The [Department of] Health and Human Services holds them in good conditions. They work hard at it."

According to the letter, Sessions is a member of the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala., and a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Va. Those who signed the letter are members of the United Methodist Church across the country-- including some from the churches in Virginia and Alabama.

Members of the United Methodist Church are not the only religious body to speak out against the family separation policy.

Franklin Graham, who is a staunch Trump supporter called the practice “disgraceful," a group of evangelical groups — who have often been supportive of Trump — wrote a letter to the White House calling out the “traumatic effects” of separation.

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David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump has asserted that Congress laid the groundwork for the spate of family separations occurring on the southern border of the United States, members of Congress have noted that the president could act unilaterally to immediately end the new practice put in place by the Department of Homeland Security.

But absent his action, lawmakers are largely united in finding some quick solution to keep families together.

The question is, what solution will they all agree to?

Members of Congress from all sorts of factions have introduced different bills since the outrage over children being separated from their parents has mounted.

Right now House Speaker Paul Ryan appears focused on two bills, both written by congressional Republicans, that would address other aspects of the immigration system in addition to the family separation policy. In the upper chamber, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Tuesday that staffers are working on a proposal that would "keep it narrow so it doesn't get bogged down in a bunch of other issues."

Here’s a look at some of the legislation on the table.

SENATE

“Keep Families Together Act” – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif


This bill prohibits officials from removing a child under the age of 18 from their parent or legal guardian at or near a port of entry within 100 miles of the border. All Senate Democrats currently support the bill; as of now, no Republicans have signed on although one moderate House Republican, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, tweeted his support of her effort. House Democrats are working on what could become a companion bill to Feinstein’s.

“Protect Kids and Parents Act” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Cruz, a frequent ally of President Trump, introduced what he called “emergency legislation” to stop the practice of children being separated from their parents. His bill would authorize new temporary shelters that would keep families together as adults await prosecution, double the number of federal immigration judges to help expedite cases, and require asylum cases to be adjudicated within 14 days, with those who do not meet the legal standard for asylum being immediately returned to their home country.

HOUSE

Unnamed “moderate” bill – House Republican leadership


House Republicans started working on this compromise bill after moderates threatened to force a vote on legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action under President Obama. This measure, crafted in closed-door discussions between GOP conservatives and moderates organized by leadership and in consultation with the White House, will provide $25 billion in border wall funding, eliminate several visa programs while restructuring others, and provide a pathway for six-year "indefinitely renewable" legal status for Dreamers who could later apply for citizenship. It is also expected to include a provision to prevent the government from separating young children from parents and guardians while in government custody. The House will vote on this bill, and a more conservative one written by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., on Thursday.

“Securing America’s Future Act” – Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

This more conservative alternative, which will also get a House vote Thursday, would provide a pathway to legal status for Dreamers while limiting legal immigration levels. It is also expected to contain a provision on family separation, although Democrats have argued that both the House “moderate” bill and the Goodlatte version are insufficient and would open the door to families being detained indefinitely.

“Equal Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Act” – Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

This bill, introduced by conservative Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus and an ally of President Trump, would clarify an existing legal statute to make clear that children should not be separated from their parents while in DHS custody. It would also make it more difficult for immigrants to claim asylum, and, if a child does not have a “legitimate asylum claim,” arrange for “the safe and expeditious return” to the child’s home country. Meadows was spotted at the White House Tuesday although he would not say whether he was there to discuss his bill, which he has pitched as an alternative to the two other House Republican immigration bills, with the president.

Unnamed House Democratic bill – Rep. Jerold Nadler, R-N.Y.


House Democratic leadership has indicated that a forthcoming bill from Rep. Nadler will be similar to that of Feinstein’s in the Senate. Nadler was among a group of Democratic lawmakers who visited a detention facility in New Jersey on Sunday, meeting with detained asylum seekers who had been separated from their families. “We spoke to fathers whose children have been ripped from their arms, who have no idea when or if they will see their children again," Nadler said of his visit.

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Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- More than 75 former U.S. attorneys are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop family separations, saying the decision to implement a policy that has led to more than 2,000 children taken from their parents "falls squarely on your shoulders."

In a leter to Sessions, the bipartisan group says that under previous administrations prosecutors used their discretion to decide if people who crossed the border illegally should be charged or go through a civil process to determine if they qualify for asylum, which would allow the family unit to stay together.

Under the Trump administration's policy, they say, prosecutors are told to prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally for "illegal entry," which they say forces them into a criminal process that requires children be separated, even though the crime is only a misdemeanor.

The former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Ken Magidson, who signed the letter, wrote in an editorial Tuesday that the administration's policy is legal, but not moral, and called on Sessions to give prosecutors discretion that would allow families to stay together.

"Splitting up parents and children is too harsh a penalty for what is commonly a misdemeanor offense," Magidson wrote in an editorial in the Houston Chronicle.

The Trump administration insists that separating families is not a policy, but a requirement of enforcing the law to prosecute adults who cross the border illegally. Earlier this year Sessions announced a "zero-tolerance" policy that means all adults who cross the border illegally are being prosecuted, which means children cannot be held with adults. Previous administrations dealt with illegal entry through civil proceedings so families could be kept together, at least for a limited time.

"As former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served," they wrote in the letter posted online Tuesday.



The attorneys say the law does not require the systemic separation of families and that the administration's policy has caused a "traumatic and unsustainable" situation that does not account for each family's specific circumstances.

"Under your policy, families and children are greeted with unexpected cruelty at the doorstep of the United States, instead of with relief or asylum in the greatest country in the world," the attorneys wrote in the letter, signed first by former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.

They call on Sessions to stop requiring U.S. attorneys to prosecute all immigrants and return to a policy that doesn't separate so many families.

"As former U.S. Attorneys, we know that none of these consequences?—?nor the policy itself?—?is required by law. Rather, its implementation and its execution are taking place solely at your direction, and the unfolding tragedy falls squarely on your shoulders," they wrote. "It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice. It is time for you to end it."

Attorneys general from 21 states also sent a letter to the Justice Department on Tuesday calling on it to end the "zero tolerance" policy, writing that they are concerned the policy violated childrens' civil rights.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, also said Tuesday that he will send a letter to the Justice Department asking for a pause of family separation until Congress can pass a legislative solution.

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David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy in April, buckled down on the policy of separating children from their parents when they illegally cross the border in an interview on Fox News Monday night. In a departure from President Donald Trump, he did not place blame on Democrats in Congress.

Sessions spoke to host Laura Ingraham on her show, "The Ingraham Angle," and said the administration is "doing the right thing."

"We're doing the right thing. We're taking care of these children," Sessions told Ingraham. "They are not being abused. The [Department of] Health and Human Services holds them in good conditions. They work hard at it."

In the interview, Sessions did not once specifically assert that the Democrats are the ones to blame for this policy, which was a talking point the White House was pushing Monday to GOP members. Trump has repeated the claim, despite evidence to the contrary, that Democrats in Congress could end the separation policy if they wished.

The president has claimed Democrats are blocking his immigration reform legislation that he says would end family separation. On Monday, he tweeted, "It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime."

Instead, all 49 Democrats in the Congress signed on to a piece of legislation that would oppose the separation on Monday.

Ingraham played a sound bite of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, “Separating families is not mandated by law at all. That is an outright lie.”

"You heard what Mrs. Clinton said," Ingraham said. "The president could pick up the phone tonight and stop this policy of separating children from their parents."

Ingraham posed a question to Sessions, asking what "the real truth" is.

"Well I guess what she's saying is the president could just issue a directive that everybody that enters the country unlawfully be released into the country and never be apprehended or stopped or prosecuted for the illegal entry," Session responded.

Sessions also pushed back against claims that the policy has echoes of Nazi Germany. Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, who served mostly under George W. Bush, tweeted a picture of a Nazi concentration camp on Saturday with the line "Other governments have separated mothers and children."

"Well, it's a real exaggeration,” Sessions said of the comparison. "Of course, in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country."

Sessions announced the "zero-tolerance" policy in an April 6 release:

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions today notified all U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border of a new 'zero-tolerance policy' for offenses under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), which prohibits both attempted illegal entry and illegal entry into the United States by an alien. The implementation of the Attorney General’s zero-tolerance policy comes as the Department of Homeland Security reported a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018."

A bipartisan group of former U.S. attorneys is added its collective voice to the calls to end the family separations caused by the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy.

In a letter addressed to Sessions, and published on Medium, the group says they are "appalled" by the outcome of the policy and say it represents a "radical departure" from standard Department of Justice policy. Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, a frequent opponent of the Trump administration, was first to sign the letter.

"As former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served," they write. "It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice."

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate overwhelmingly cleared a defense budget bill on Monday evening that reinstates tough penalties on ZTE, a Chinese telecom company accused of violating American sanctions.

The vote, 85-10, is a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump and sets Washington up for a rare showdown between Republicans and the White House.

The legislation now heads to the House for reconciliation. The House's version of the bill does not include the ZTE amendment, and now the two chambers must spend weeks hammering out their differences before final passage.

The ZTE amendment, co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., prohibits the entire U.S. government from purchasing or leasing equipment from ZTE and a similar telecom also cited for national security risks, Huawei.

It would also restore penalties on ZTE imposed in March 2017 after the company was caught selling equipment to Iran and North Korea and making false statements assuring it had disciplined executives. Concerns about ZTE's ability to spy on Americans through its devices has also persisted. The punishments included a fine and a seven-year ban on ZTE’s ability to purchase U.S. parts.

“We’re heartened that both parties made it clear that protecting American jobs and national security must come first when making deals with countries like China, which has a history of having little regard for either. It is vital that our colleagues in the House keep this bipartisan provision in the bill as it heads towards a conference," the four senators who sponsored the bill said in a joint statement.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also provides a total of $716 billion for national defense priorities. Specifically, the bill gives troops a 2.6 percent raise, which is the largest pay increase for service members in almost a decade.

This bill also aims to align policies and resources to assist in implementing this administration’s National Defense Strategy.

The Senate’s version of the defense bill is titled the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, after Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McCain weighed in from his home in Arizona, where the senator is battling brain cancer.

"I am proud that the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and I'm deeply humbled that my colleagues saw fit to do me the undeserved honor of designating it in my name,” McCain said in a statement. “This legislation continues our reform agenda and helps better position the Department of Defense and the joint force to implement the National Defense Strategy by continuing to restore readiness, rebuild capacity, and modernize capabilities.

"While I wish the Senate had been able to come to an agreement to debate and vote on more amendments, I am glad the legislation proceeded under regular order and that Senators [Jim] Inhofe and [Jack] Reed were able to work with leadership to incorporate 45 amendments from colleagues on both sides of the aisle," McCain added. "And I'm proud that the Senate Armed Services Committee did its work by considering and adopting over 300 bipartisan amendments during the committee markup."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After the Department of Homeland Security reported 2,000 children had been separated from their families at the U.S. border, advocacy groups responded in force.

From class-action lawsuits to petitions, here are three advocacy groups mobilizing supporters to take action.

American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU has been one of the leading groups in the immigration battle, filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration for separating immigrant parents and children.

The ACLU first filed Ms. L v. ICE to reunite a mother and her 7-year-old daughter after they were detained and separated at the U.S. border. The lawsuit resulted in a partial ruling, and the ACLU awaits the motion of a nationwide preliminary injunction. A class certification was submitted on behalf of immigrant families affected and is pending for approval.

While the ACLU waits on the class certification, the group has gathered donations, signatures, and is encouraging people to call their senators.

The organization’s website reads: "We know the government will bend to public pressure because they have already reunited one asylum seeker with her child after more than 65,000 activists like you signed the petition. Now we need to make sure our members of Congress take action to end this cruel practice once and for all. Let's reunite every family the Trump administration tore apart -– and make sure this never happens again."

Last week, celebrity Chrissy Teigen and singer-songwriter John Legend announced that in honor of President Trump's 72nd birthday, their family of four would donate $72,000 each. Teigen also encouraged her followers to donate, and in two days raised more than $1 million.

Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights

Focused on helping immigrant children who arrive at the U.S. border alone, the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights told ABC News in a statement it will be launching the "Immigrant Child and Family Rights Project" to assist both unaccompanied children and children separated from their families.

As a part of the project, the Young Center will be hiring two new attorneys to spread their efforts to assign child advocates for minors separated from parents. One attorney will be stationed at the border and the other in New York "where many of the young, separated children are placed." In addition, a new social worker will be hired to work in San Antonio to work on family-separation cases referred to the Young Center in Texas.

"For children who've been separated from their parents, our role is to advocate with the Department of Homeland Security to reunify the children with their mothers and fathers and to ensure that the mothers and fathers are able to speak on behalf of their children," the Young Center told ABC News in a statement. "Parental rights are intact."

The Young Center says its policy team is working with the public and policymakers to raise awareness of the concerns surrounding the “zero-tolerance” policy enacted by the Trump administration that is separating these families.

Young Center, which has eight locations in the U.S., is "working closely with child welfare organizations around the country—to communicate to Congress and the Department of Homeland Security that separating children from their mothers and fathers leads to serious harm to children’s health and development."

Children's Rights

In addition to partnering with the ACLU in a lawsuit against the policy, Children's Rights has created a toolkit to guide those who wish to help end the "abhorrent" policy.

The toolkit includes a petition, directions on how to contact members of Congress, and a donation link.

"Needlessly ripping kids, toddlers, babies away from their parents is inhumane, barbaric and unconstitutional. An Administration that purports to uphold family values is callously inflicting devastating trauma on children and families in service of its punitive immigration policies," said Sandy Santana, the organization's executive director.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection(NEW YORK) -- There’s a vivid term mental health experts use to describe the destruction of the love of life in another human being, especially in a child: It's called “soul murder.” It can happen as a result of physical abuse, they say, but just as easily, as a result of psychological violence, including when children are separated from their parents.

“Two of the most damaging childhood adversities are loss of the attachment bond with the parents and childhood physical and sexual abuse,” University of Texas psychiatry professor Luis Zayas told ABC News. “If you want to damage someone permanently, expose him or her to one or both of these traumas.”

Speaking to the National Sheriffs' Association Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that "it is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of — don’t believe the press. They are very well taken care of.”

Maybe so, but for children and adolescents forced separation is still psychological damaging, whatever the physical circumstances of the facility where they are housed.

“No amount of colorful rooms with lots of great toys, regular meals, and health and education services takes away the psychological impact of losing your parents,” said Zayas, the dean of UT Austin’s School of Social Work. “The damage that will be done will last a lifetime.”

After visiting a shelter in Texas, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Colleen Kraft, in a television interview, likened what she saw to abuse.

"It is a form of child abuse," Kraft told CBS News. "This type of trauma can be long-lasting, and it's difficult to recover from this. We know very young children go on to not develop their speech, not develop their language, not develop their gross and fine motor skills and wind up with developmental delays."

The Trump administration claims that the repurposed box stores and makeshift facilities now holding the migrant children separated from their parents are air-conditioned, with lessons and sports to divert the mind and body, safe beds to sleep in, and regular meals. Even if that’s true, experts say, to the children confined inside, it can feel like prison.

“Detention of any kind -- especially when separated from primary caretakers -- will exacerbate symptoms, increasing the severity of trauma-related symptoms, depression, and anxiety,” says Jodi Berger Cardoso of the University of Houston. “Children become hopeless and shut down from the stress. During this time, they need their primary caretaker to help reassure them that they are safe and loved. This cannot be done by strangers, no matter the quality of the facility.”

There’s a reason social workers are loathed to take children away from their parents unless it really is a matter of life and death: Study after study has found that children who are removed do no better than those who are left at home, even in terrible circumstances. One explanation is that any positive benefits of removal are outweighed by the serious trauma caused by separation.

“We do not want to separate children from their parents,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions Monday at the same event where Nielsen spoke. “But we do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally.”

But the fact that there is a legitimate political debate over the rule of law and the morality of breaking up families doesn’t negate the poisonous legacy of policies that pull families apart – policies like slavery, the forced assimilation of Native American and Australian aboriginal children, and the separation of parent and child on the southern border -- different in scale, but not in effect on individual children.

“Even a week in detention, under circumstances like the ones we’re seeing in immigration enforcement, can be devastating,” says Zayas. “Young children’s incapacity to understand time makes 50 days equal to 50 months, they simply cannot grasp it. Just look at how children view a school day of six hours or even a visit to some boring relatives’ home, as an eternity.”

The feeling of loss is so profound that it can trigger serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, or cause what psychologists call dissociation – the sense of being an observer over your own body - a dangerous mental rupture that can lead to serious problems including multiple personality disorders.

“Daily life for children becomes very difficult. Getting up, going to school, taking care of themselves, feels like impossible tasks,” says the University of Houston’s Berger Cardozo, who has done extensive research on detained migrant children. “Like anyone who is in a heightened state of fear and isolation, it triggers fight or flight responses in our body. Children may try to fight through their emotions but eventually, their bodies and minds will be overwhelmed with the stress and they will begin to shut down.”

“Whether its drug abuse or crime or deviations and perversities or mental health problems or inability to function in society or suicide, the damage will take its course,” says Zayas. “Long-term psychological problems emerge and chronic illnesses appear in early adulthood that plague the person for the rest of their lives. Their lives are shortened.”

Even if they do understand that the parent is alive and that they will likely be reunited after the process works itself out, it can still feel to a child like a parent had gone forever, Zayas worries that the worst fears of the children may come true.

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the children’s wellbeing and reunification, told Congress that it had lost track of 1,475 children who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone and were then placed with U.S. sponsors in 2017.

“These children will live in hope of reuniting but mostly they will be forgotten,” says Zayas. “Considering the vast numbers of children in over 14 states, the government and contract agencies will surely lose records, fail to keep track of parents’ whereabouts, and fail to reunite children with their parents.”

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