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Should Thousands of Illegal Children be Deported?

Aired July 7, 2014 - 18:28   ET


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Wolf, it is absurd that the U.S. can't write a law to control its own border.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: Well, that would mean that Republicans, this Republican Congress would actually have to do something. The debate starts right now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, what should happen to the flood of children crossing our border?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The immediate problem is to send the message if you come here you can't stay here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have spoken in very clear and candid terms: they'll be sent home.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Stephanie Cutter. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Ted Strickland, a Democratic former governor of Ohio, and Bob Early, a Republican former governor of Maryland.

Should thousands of kids be deported? Plus the "Outrage of the Day." Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


CUTTER: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left.

GINGRICH: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two former governors.

Every month about 10,000 children come across the American border seeking asylum. The prospect of actually stopping them seems to be beyond Washington's grasp.

If we were a competent serious country, we could fix the problem this week. Congress would pass a law, the president would sign it, and the government would enforce it. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy seems to be stupid, the Congress seems to match it, and add to that the president's massive incompetence and you get a total fiasco.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strong statement to follow.

GINGRICH: That's right. CUTTER: It's awfully easy to throw out throwaway lines and place

blame, but there's not one piece of evidence that this is lax enforcement or insecurity at the border. What this is, is a law that's being enforced, a lack of resources to move these people through the system, and a group of children that need to be treated humanely. This is a national crisis, and we need to make sure that everybody understands that there are children involved here.


CUTTER: I'm going to introduce you.


CUTTER: In the CROSSFIRE tonight, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who's now the president of the Center for American Progress action fund. And former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich. He's the author of "America: Hope for Change."

Shock me.

EHRLICH: I'm going to shock you. I halfway agree with you.

CUTTER: How about totally agree with me?

EHRLICH: And so does the speaker. So does Ted.

CUTTER: So tell me exactly what you would do right now to deal with these children.

EHRLICH: First of all, there's been a bipartisan failure here. Both parties when Republicans told the White House and the Congress, Democrats control the White House and the Congress, no one is taking it seriously. The Republicans were negligent. My problem with the Democrats is...

CUTTER: Tell me how Republicans were negligent.

EHRLICH: Enforce the law. We didn't build the fence. We didn't get a build by. But my problem with the Democrats is they don't appear to even be interested in a law.

CUTTER: But that's not what the problem is. You understand what this problem is. It's not about a fence that you're building. It's a current law...

EHRLICH: This gives signals out to the world...

CUTTER: ... that says if you're coming from these three countries, then you're not turned away at the border.

EHRLICH: And we're note seriously enforcing our law.

CUTTER: We're enforcing it. That's why these children are coming in.

EHRLICH: Well, listen -- by the way, I know we're supposed to fight and all that, but the headline this afternoon is probably what needs to be done with regards to this narrow issue. Don't forget, this is part of a much larger issue.

GINGRICH: No one's going to read the headline.

EHRLICH: White House says not all children will be sent home. Because they will be processed. Some are legitimate refugees.

CUTTER: Exactly. That's the law.

EHRLICH: And that's...

TED STRICKLAND, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: And the fact is we're dealing with two separate issues here.

EHRLICH: Correct.

STRICKLAND: One issue is an immigration system that is broken.

EHRLICH: Correct.

STRICKLAND: We had a bipartisan group of senators, Republicans and Democrats, pass a comprehensive bill.

CUTTER: A year ago.

STRICKLAND: The House has refused -- I wish Newt was the speaker, because if he was the speaker, he would do something.

EHRLICH: You're on record now. You're on record.

STRICKLAND: He would do something. The second problem that we're dealing with are these kids.

CUTTER: That's right.

STRICKLAND: And we've got to remember that they are by and large children. We are a country that values children. And we've got to deal with them...

GINGRICH: But, Ted...

STRICKLAND: ... in a humane way.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a question. Because I'm -- there's all this talk about being humane, being compassion, being caring. I do some work with Gallup. Last year in their world poll, they asked the question, "Would you like to leave your country, and if you would, where would you like to go?" Their estimate was that 165 million people want to come to the United States.

STRICKLAND: Why to us (ph)?

GINGRICH: But here's my question. We're going -- we've gone from 8,000 children under George W. Bush to, I think, an estimated 80,000 this year to potentially 160,000 to 200,000 next year. Now, at what point does it become simply totally manageable?

STRICKLAND: But Newt, we're not talking about children coming from all over the world. We're talking about a specific crisis that's occurring in three specific countries that have absolutely lost control of their -- of their society: murder, rapes.

GINGRICH: Wait a second. You just...

STRICKLAND: We just have a particular crisis we've got to deal with now; and that involves children, and we need to do it humanely.

GINGRICH: In terms of violence, you just saw Wolf Blitzer's report on Chicago this weekend.

STRICKLAND: That's right.

GINGRICH: So my question is this. Because political asylum used to mean you were a specific person under pressure from a specific regime. Now we have this new standard. We only have three countries this year. Maybe in a few years we'll have ten countries. But those three countries, by the way, have a combined population of 39 million people.

CUTTER: What is exactly your solution here? Because this is the United States of America.

GINGRICH: Yes. Still.

CUTTER: If you are being persecuted in your own country of...

GINGRICH: They're not -- the 8-year-olds aren't being persecuted.

CUTTER: It's the murder capital of the world. What are you talking about?

GINGRICH: You want to move them to Chicago?

CUTTER: No, look, I think we need to treat this like any other...

EHRLICH: ... iterations of Republican bills out there: Marco Rubio, a bunch of Republican senators and House members. But it demands presidential leadership and demands a series...


EHRLICH: Presidents lead. Presidents have to lead.

CUTTER: Come on. Let me tell you how the president has led. Record amount of border security.

EHRLICH: Remember the moat? Remember the moat? Remember that line? That was not serious.

CUTTER: Record amount of border security; called for more immigration judges to move these people through the process faster. EHRLICH: How about the moat speech? How about that?

CUTTER: How about a comprehensive -- how about a comprehensive immigration reform, a reform bill that's been sitting in Congress for a year.

EHRLICH: How about a unilateral ad hoc approach?? We'll let this group in

CUTTER: We do have a comprehensive immigration system where people aren't going to be able to game it.

EHRLICH: You have to have a foundation. You have to have a denominator, and the denominator...

CUTTER: How about Congress? We have a bipartisan...


EHRLICH: Mexico takes their law seriously. We have one Marine locked up down there.

CUTTER: Do you disagree with Senator McCain and Senator Graham, who believe that this is a big part of the answer to solving not just this crisis, but our immigration crisis generally?

EHRLICH: And we all know -- we all know...

STRICKLAND: ... credibility to begin.

EHRLICH: We all know.

CUTTER: Credibility?

STRICKLAND: This administration lacks it.

CUTTER: I don't understand what you're saying, though. And you saying that McCain and Graham don't have credibility on this comprehensive immigration bill?

EHRLICH: They alone -- they have said as well -- I agree with them. You have to have border enforcement first before you get to the...

CUTTER: That's the law. It passed the Senate.

GINGRICH: Let me just point out for a second, Stephanie, because you said earlier, the current problem with children has nothing to do with the law. They're entering this country legally under the current law. There's nothing that -- and it would be very easy to reverse the Feinstein amendment and, in one narrow way, simply go back to the status quo of 2008 and say, you know, we're not going to automatically have a presumption that you get to come into the U.S. because you happen to be from these three countries.

That's all it would take. It would be a very small bill; it would be one paragraph long. And this particular problem, that doesn't solve general immigration. But this particular problem would end the following day.

STRICKLAND: You know, I remember Elian Gonzalez, one kid, and the right wing, the conservatives were clamoring to let this kid stay here simply because he came from a communist country, although his father apparently was a very good man and wanted him back.

And now these kids are coming to us from these terrible situations.

Newt, you're a good man. Bob, you're a good man. Stephanie, you're a good woman. We're all good people. But good people care about kids. And we've got a crisis and we need to deal with the current crisis. We may need to change the law at some point, but right now the United States of America has an obligation to take care of these kids.

EHRLICH: Well, so you disagree with the administration?

STRICKLAND: Well, I think the administration should be going after the smugglers.

EHRLICH: We all agree with that.

STRICKLAND: And I think we should be going after the leadership in these countries.

EHRLICH: What the administration is saying now is, though, we're going to process these kids. We're going to decide which ones stay, which ones we're going to take back, and they're following the law. And I agree. And I applaud the administration in this narrow instance for following the law and doing the right thing.

CUTTER: I don't think anybody disagrees with that.

STRICKLAND: That law was passed in 2008 signed by President George Bush. And it had a good motive. It had a good motive: to keep children from being returned to traffickers or pimps.

CUTTER: In a moment we're going to return to this. I promise you. There's a lot more to discuss.

In a moment, I'll show you how this humanitarian crisis is bringing out the worst in some Americans. But first -- and I'm not talking about anybody here. But first, today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz."

What was the Border Patrol budget last year? Is it $900 million, $1.8 billion, or $3.5 billion? We'll have the answer when we get back.


CUTTER: Welcome back. Now the answer to our "CROSSFIRE Quiz." The Border Patrol budget was $3.5 billion in 2003. That's over one billion more than when President Obama took office. So those who say Obama hasn't been proactive on border security are actually dead wrong.

If we want to solve the humanitarian crisis, we need to change the current law to stop encouraging these kids to travel to the U.S. in very dangerous conditions. And we need to deal with the children who are already here.

One thing we don't need are demonstrations staged by national anti- immigration groups. These protests are disgusting. The signs are "Tax Money for You? Hell No" and "Protect Your Kids from Diseases." Thankfully, these protests are not reflective of most Americans and not in the tradition of what it means to be an American.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, former governor -- governors Ted Strickland and Bob Ehrlich.

Governor Ehrlich, don't you think that this debate tends to get out of control?

EHRLICH: Of course it does.

CUTTER: And shouldn't we condemn some of these -- you know, those are buses of children.

EHRLICH: I condemn hard right and hard left. This sort of neither (ph) this thing is anti-intellectuals, anti-American, anti -- pro- American culture, when the left -- let's not pretend we have a law. Open borders. I'm equally aghast of that sort of stuff that I see from the left regularly these days.

CUTTER: Yes. Do you condemn those protests?

EHRLICH: I condemn both sides. The bottom line here is that four of us could probably draft a bill. There is a worldwide difference between the path to citizenship, path to immigration -- path to legalization.

I hate when the right and left, I hate the moniker debate. It's pro- life, pro-choice, they mean nothing. They're signals, catch phrases. They are emotion-laden in order to generate a response.

You have to define your terms on this issue. And speakers talked about it. Ted were talking about it just a few minutes ago. We have to have a bill in Congress.


EHRLICH: It has to be led by the president.

CUTTER: So, there is a bill in Congress. I want to ask you a question --

EHRLICH: There are many bills in Congress.

CUTTER: The bill that was passed by a bipartisan Senate --

EHRLICH: Staring point.

CUTTER: -- Democrats and Republicans, sent to the House a year ago, that's a starting point.

Do you think that House Republicans who lead the House of Representatives should try to move something? Because right now they're just saying no.

EHRLICH: Yes, with one caveat. Something substantive -- maybe this is it. Maybe this headline is it. Something substantive has to be down with regard --

CUTTER: To this current crisis.

EHRLICH: To the crisis, the interim -- the immediate crisis is horrible, the humanitarian crisis. But the ongoing crisis, this administration lacks credibility.

CUTTER: But I can just -- a couple of facts on that. Governor, please join in here, and, Newt, you too, of course.

EHRLICH: He gets to talk too?


GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) from that. I love Stephanie's facts.

CUTTER: Well, you know, the president has taken lots of criticism from people on the left for the highest deportation rate every, higher in Bush in five years than Bush did in eight years, record investment in border security, strong enforcement using new technologies and drones on the border.

So, what is it that he hasn't led on? And has actually led on comprehensive reform.

STRICKLAND: Stephanie, we all know --

CUTTER: I just want to know what you're talking about.


EHRLICH: His rhetoric doesn't match that --

CUTTER: His rhetoric.

EHRLICH: The speech, it's an unserious approach to what needs to be a comprehensive reform.

STRICKLAND: But if the Senate bill was given a vote, if my former colleague and my friend from Ohio, Speaker John Boehner, would just simply let the House vote, we know this problem would be solved.

CUTTER: I agree.

STRICKLAND: We know that the votes exist in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate for a bill similar to that.

EHRLICH: Depends on the Senate.


STRICKLAND: This would be and this would be -- CUTTER: We should try.

STRICKLAND: This would be an accomplished.

GINGRICH: No, look, fact here.

But the fact is and all three of you agreed on this earlier. This thing which is currently catching the American public's attention is an enormous increase from 8,000 children under Bush's last year to over -- estimated 80,000 this year, to potentially 160,000 to 200,000 next year. And these are legal.

They're walking up to the border and saying, I am asking for political asylum, they're reading exactly what they're supposed to say. Let's be clear. Nothing you're describing right now would change that.

Just a second, Stephanie.

One of the reasons no normal person thinks the president succeeded is because you look up with 60,000 kids coming in, you're being told the border is being controlled, and technically, that's right. You look -- wait a second, how come there are 60,000 kids coming in.

Let me show you what the Democratic congressman said over the weekend about President Obama's position. I think, this is Congressman Cuellar, it's worth looking at.


REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: With all due respect, I think he's one step behind. They knew this was happening a year ago. Last year and again they're just over -- they're not reacting fast enough at this time in my personal opinion.


GINGRICH: This is a Democrat on the border, member of Congress, who is saying that the president is a year behind the curve.

STRICKLAND: But we would be in better shape to deal with this current crisis if we had passed comprehensive immigration reform and --


STRICKLAND: Well, because we would have had resources that would have been directed toward this current crisis rather that not having the resources.

GINGRICH: Do you know the number of children who have been returned home has been going down? It's gone from I think 8,000 down to 1,200 at the very time that the number coming in as exploded?

EHRLICH: But again, we keep talking about comprehensive reform. We have to define our terms. Does that mean you have to learn English? Does that mean you have to pay back taxes? Does that mean you have to get back in the line? STRICKLAND: That's exactly what the Senate bill did.

EHRLICH: With regard to the people who have done the right thing and are here legally.

CUTTER: That's the Senate bill.

EHRLICH: I know. I've read it. I know. It's in my book. Read my book.

My point is, these are starting points and you have -- those positions are not going to hold water with many Democratic members in the House and you know it.

STRICKLAND: Let's have a vote. Let's find out. Just bring it to the floor, let's have a vote and I believe we would pass a bill in the House, it would go to conference, and we could finally bring this issue to a conclusion.

CUTTER: Do you think that Republicans in the House would support that?

EHRLICH: I think some Republicans hide behind border security as camouflage. I think a lot of Republicans and a lot of American public believe this administration lacks credibility in this issue. That the Republican administration lacks credibility in this issue and there's an unserious approach to really stopping this, is what I believe.

GINGRICH: I want to speak for myself, but -- I don't -- you have a pattern here for the country. You have a V.A. that doesn't work, an IRS that doesn't work, border patrol work, which will -- and I agree with Stephanie. All of the members look good until you say, so how come all these kids are coming in. Oh, well, that's different.

So every time you turn around, there is something which is different. I think, frankly, at least on the Republican side, the level of the credibility this president has. No accident that last week in the poll, he was named as the worst president since World War II.

And I think, well, that's mostly Republicans saying that, there is a pretty big intensity saying, why would you trust this guy with additional power?

EHRLICH: How about a beer summit in the White House? Invite the speaker, invite members of the House leadership.

CUTTER: You drink beer?-


STRICKLAND: I think --

GINGRICH: I think he meant (INAUDIBLE) speaker of the House.

STRICKLAND: I think from the time this man was elected --


STRICKLAND: From the time Barack Obama was elected president, the House, not the Senate, and not everybody in the House, there is some good people in the House that would, Republicans, that would like to vote on an immigration bill. But for some reason, this is not coming -- they are not even having a chance to cast a vote, to have a debate in the House. It's not occurring.

And, Newt, I think if you were speaker, something would be happening in that.

GINGRICH: Well, maybe.

CUTTER: Why do you think it's not occurring, Newt?

GINGRICH: Because I think the level of distrust, starting with Obamacare, is so deep. The hostility is so deep, that is it's very, very hard to see how you're going to get things done the last two years.

EHRLICH: I've been on record went around this country saying, if there's one thing that potentially, besides criminal justice reform, potentially lends itself to a bipartisan, true, substantive honest to God solution. This is it. That credibility is lacking right now.

GINGRICH: Stay here.

We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Should undocumented children be returned to their home countries? Tweet yes or no using #Crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We will also have the outrages of the day. You are going to be amazed to find Stephanie siding with one of the most rightwing political bloggers.


CUTTER: Welcome back.

Now, it's time for my outrage of the day.

It's no secret that I'm outraged by current House Speaker John Boehner's decision to waste our tax dollars by suing President Obama. You can read his phony excuses for the lawsuit in an op-ed he wrote for

But I never thought I'd agree with conservative blogger Erick Erickson. Something today he wrote is actually right on target. Quote, "John Boehner and the House Republicans may lack the testicular fortitude to fight President Obama but I would kindly ask that he save the taxpayers further money on a political stunt."

Newt, you have to agree with me that this is a political stunt.

GINGRICH: Well, I don't know if it is political stunt. I don't agree with Erick and I can't image (INAUDIBLE) he's going to start describing Hillary.


GINGRICH: I would say, look, the House has four options -- impeach the president, impeach secondary officer, cut off funding or follow lawsuit.

CUTTER: Or the House could actually ask? How about that?

EHRLICH: A fifth option, let the Supreme Court actually read the law and the rule on right and left every day --


EHRLICH: And stop acting extra constitutionally, you don't have to worry about the Supreme Court.

CUTTER: Get something done. Stop the do-nothing Congress.

EHRLICH: Stop acting unilaterally. There is a Constitution. Separation of powers.


GINGRICH: And they're gradually grinding restricting his powers again.

EHRLICH: Yes, and he invited it (ph).

GINGRICH: But from Boehner's perspective, he is going to get to make his case to the country, and the court will only have to decide.

CUTTER: It's another stunt. Don't take it from me. Take it from many conservatives. It's just like shutting down the government almost a year ago. It's a stunt, and a waste of taxpayers' dollars and it wastes time where they could actually be doing something.

GINGRICH: Well, we can do a show on that one night, we bring Eric Cantor to talk about those things.

Let's check on our "Fireback" results.

Should undocumented children be returned home to their countries? Right now, 74 percent of you say yes, 26 percent say no.

So, what are the three of you think of that?

STRICKLAND: I would say, what would Jesus do?

CUTTER: Yes, would God help those kids?

EHRLICH: I think people are frustrated and angry and the federal government is not working well and those numbers reflect.

STRICKLAND: I think this is a moral issue. This particular crisis involving these kids is a moral issue and we need to recognize it as such. Not a political issue. The political issue is there.

GINGRICH: How many countries can we extend to, Ted? Can we extend it to Argentina?

STRICKLAND: This is a particular crisis, Newt. It's confined to three countries. They are not only coming to America. These kids are going to other countries.

EHRLICH: Children are (INAUDIBLE), but so is sovereignty. So what the country represents.

CUTTER: Thanks to Ted Strickland and Bob Ehrlich. That was a great debate.

The debate continues online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.