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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama in Danger?; Ferguson Decision Imminent; Officials: FBI Boosts Presence in St. Louis Area; Obama Signs & Sells Action on Immigration; At Least 12 Dead in Snow Disaster
Aired November 21, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: After months of tension and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a bombshell grand jury decision is imminent. Are police ready for the worst?
We're learning new details about the policeman who shot and killed Michael Brown. Does he expect to face any charges? A friend of the officer, Darren Wilson, he is now standing by to join us.
Plus, a woman with a gun nabbed outside the White House. It's the second arrest there this week. Is the president in any greater danger right now?
And dramatic new views of the deadly snow emergency in Buffalo, New York. It's about to take another very dangerous turn.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. A grand jury decision may be finalized any moment in the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting case. We're watching the Saint Louis County Justice Center, where grand jurors have been meeting for any word on a decision.
There were new arrests in Ferguson overnight as protesters wait to learn if the police officer, Darren Wilson, will face charges in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. There are widespread fears of new violence. Like the unrest we saw after Brown was killed. And we're learning more about security operations in Ferguson right now and the possible timing of the grand jury announcement.
We have team coverage in Missouri, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
First, CNN's Ed Lavandera, he is joining us live in Ferguson.
What's the latest there, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, here in the city of Saint Louis, across the region, law enforcement officials from the feds all the way down to local officials here are preparing for the announcement from this grand jury, which could come at any moment and many people very anxious to see what the public reaction is going to be.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Tensions are rising in Ferguson. The last two nights, local and out-of-town protesters have scuffled with police and tried to block traffic on city streets. Three arrests last night. All this as it becomes clear that at any moment the grand jury will announce its decision on whether or not police officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violence is not going to be tolerated.
LAVANDERA: Local law enforcement officials say they have spent the last three months preparing for this moment. Missouri National Guard soldiers will be stationed in almost four dozen locations to help prevent property damage. Saint Louis officials say law enforcement officers on the ground will be more tolerant of peaceful protesters engaging in civil disobedience, but that violent protesting will be squashed.
CHARLIE DOOLEY, SAINT LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, EXECUTIVE: We will be respectful of the protesters. We're going to be respectful of the residents of these communities. We will be respectful of the protesters' right to protest. But we also understand that the police need to protect them selves as well.
LAVANDERA: With a grand jury decision expected soon, the Saint Louis area airways are filled with messages urging peace from Saint Louis Rams football players.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All eyes are on us now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole world is watching.
LAVANDERA: To the father of Michael Brown.
MICHAEL BROWN SR., FATHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation. But hurting others or destroying property is not the answer.
LAVANDERA: And Attorney General Eric Holder.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials in every jurisdiction to work with the communities that they serve to minimize needless confrontation.
ROBERT WHITE, PASTOR: Now we're a little bit more concerned, because the tension that has built up over the last few days, few weeks of what is going to happen, what will that response be?
LAVANDERA: Pastor Robert White was in the middle of the violent protests back in August, fighting to keep the peace. He says he will be back on the streets, urging the angriest protesters to stay calm. But he's just as worried about some police officers.
WHITE: I am afraid as a citizen that there's going to be factions on both sides that's not going to be able to keep peace.
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, across the city here in Ferguson, you see store owners that have boarded up their windows, anticipating violent clashes that could turn violent as well.
So the word here tonight, and again over the next couple of days as we await this decision is anxiousness -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, Ed, thanks very much, Ed Lavandera reporting.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, has been working his sources as we wait for word on the grand jury decision. Evan is joining us now live from Ferguson.
What else are you learning, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the word is anticipation. We know that the grand jury came in here today, and the focus is on the grand jury room still on the second floor of the Justice Center behind me.
We know that law enforcement officials have been told that they should prepare for a decision to come out this weekend. We don't know whether that decision has been made. We don't know when that announcement will come. We were at a briefing just a couple hours ago inside the county building across the street, and they were talking about some of the rules of engagement that the police officers are being given.
They have had these meetings with some of the protest groups. They have been told that they're going to respect people's constitutional rights. However, you can already tell, Wolf, that there's some disagreement as to whether or not the police are really holding up their end of the bargain.
There's some complaints about police wearing armor when they confront some of the unarmed protesters, protesters who are nonviolent, but are blocking traffic and so on, and are not paying attention to the orders from the police. So it seems like it's a work in progress. We will see how this weekend goes, Wolf.
BLITZER: I spoke to the Saint Louis police chief just a little while ago, Evan, and he told me that he's worried that there have been lot of gun sales, concealed weapons permits authorized over the past few weeks, and he's really worried there will be a lot of weapons, if you will, in that area. What are you hearing about that?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, I think that is actually one of the concerns that they have. You have property owners who are fearful frankly that the police might have stood down during some of the earlier protests and were not protecting some of the property. We know there were some fires set, and so on. So you have people who have decided that they will take it upon
themselves to protect their own property, which you can't blame them for. But obviously that adds to the tension on the streets, because you don't know how all this will turn out once there is a decision announced.
BLITZER: We will stay in close touch with you, Evan. Thanks very much, Evan Perez, our justice reporter. He is on the ground for us in Ferguson.
Let's hear now from a friend of the police officer, Darren Wilson.
Jeff Roorda is a state lawmaker and he works for the Saint Louis Police Officers Association.
Jeff, thanks very much for joining us.
I understand you had a chance to meet with Darren Wilson, what, yesterday. Tell us how that went.
JEFF ROORDA (D), MISSOURI STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Wolf, I have talked to Darren several times throughout this episode, and, you know, it's not easy for him. But he's trying to live through it like the rest of the Saint Louis community.
BLITZER: What's the state of his mind right now?
ROORDA: I don't feel like I should speak for him.
I don't claim to speak for Darren or his defense team. But he's a brother in blue, and we're concerned for his well-being, as we are for every police officer that's out there in harm's way as we approach zero hour here.
BLITZER: Does he think this grand jury is on the verge of making a decision?
ROORDA: Well, I think there's a palpable sense throughout the entire community that this decision is coming very quickly. The media reports and the just -- watching the chess pieces move on the chessboard indicate that we're close to a grand jury decision, and the announcement that follows.
BLITZER: You don't believe he will be indicted, is that right?
ROORDA: I don't believe he will be, no.
BLITZER: Tell us why.
ROORDA: You know, from what I know as a police officer, and I don't claim to know any more than anyone else in the general public. But from what I know of this case, it seems to be a case of kill or be killed and a case where deadly force was justified.
BLITZER: Well, if the police officer had a weapon and Michael Brown, the 18-year-old, did not have a weapon, at least on that basis, it seems unfair, right?
ROORDA: Well, deadly force isn't necessarily having a firearm.
Deadly force can be physical force. It certainly is deadly force when you try to strip an officer of his firearm, which is I think pretty clearly what happened in this case.
BLITZER: Why do you believe that? Tell us why. I assume that's Darren Wilson -- he suggested that he was only trying to protect himself because Michael Brown supposedly was going for his weapon inside the vehicle, is that right?
And that's been widely reported that the first shot fired was inside the car during a struggle for the weapon. Again, I don't talk to officer Wilson or his defense team about details regarding the shooting. You know, they are under orders from the grand jury not to talk about their testimony.
So this only comes from what I know as a member of the public who is watching the situation very closely, who represents police officers who are going to be on the front lines when this decision is rendered.
BLITZER: And this police officer, Darren Wilson, he has received several death threats, right?
ROORDA: We all have.
I have received death threats. Anybody close to this case has received those threats and we take them very seriously. Listen, I expect violence to follow the announcement, whether it's an indictment or not an indictment, whether it's violent protest or violent celebrations.
I, unfortunately, based on what we saw in August here, expect more of the same, which the media just I think has underreported, that there were attempts to kill and injure police officers every night for those first two weeks after Michael Brown was shot. To call these peaceful protests does not do justice to what really happened there.
BLITZER: What are you doing about the death threats that have been leveled against you?
ROORDA: Well, I mean, we're all just -- we're cautious. We pass those threats on to the police intelligence unit and they are assessed and we let them take it from there.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Jeff. We have more questions to ask. This is obviously a huge story we're following right now. The stakes are enormous. We're literally awaiting word from the grand jury on whether or not there will be an indictment.
Much more with Jeff Roorda right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back with Jeff Roorda. He's a friend of the
Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury is expected to decide very soon, literally any moment, on whether to indict Wilson in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Jeff, what are you hearing? Will officer Wilson resign from the Ferguson police force if he's not indicted?
ROORDA: I don't know anything about his intentions, Wolf. I mean, that's a personal decision he has to make with his family.
BLITZER: We heard from the Saint Louis police chief that he didn't think it was realistic for him to stay on, given the commotion, given the uproar, given all the problems, that, realistically, he wouldn't be able to be a decent, fair police officer in Ferguson any longer, given the history. You agree with the Saint Louis police chief?
ROORDA: I would be more worried about his safety. Obviously, there's attempts and plans to injure and kill police that are associated with these protests. Him being back on the street would present some challenges in that regard.
BLITZER: And based on conversations you have had, and I know you don't want to give us too many details of those conversations, but he believes, the officer, that he was acting in his own self-defense when he shot and killed Michael Brown; is that right?
ROORDA: Well, I think that's been repeated in several reports, that he has maintained his innocence, yes.
BLITZER: Does he look back on it and believe, well, maybe there's something else he could have done short of killing Michael Brown?
ROORDA: Well, again, these are sort of off-limit topics. He's been before the grand jury. He could still be recalled before the grand jury, and he's not at liberty to talk about the events of that day.
BLITZER: Over these past few months, certainly we haven't heard from a lot of people out there coming to his defense. What do you think he would like to say to people who are watching right now, especially those who really do hate him?
ROORDA: Well, I think that every police officer, certainly the 1,150 Saint Louis police officers that I represent, hope that people will respect the justice system.
It's the foundation of our country, and we have to allow it time to work. You know, the rush to judgment that followed the Michael Brown shooting almost instantaneously doesn't do justice to our system of jurisprudence.
BLITZER: As you say, because of all the death threats and for all practical purposes, he's in hiding right now, right? ROORDA: Yes, his location is not known.
BLITZER: And he really can't go out there because...
ROORDA: Not known to me either.
BLITZER: He can't walk around freely, go to a store, go to a movie or anything like that; is that right?
ROORDA: I can't imagine that he can, no.
BLITZER: And as you told us yourself, you have gotten some threat deaths, so you're taking very, very careful steps at the same time.
Give us a thought on how you think the local Ferguson Police Department has behaved throughout this whole ordeal.
ROORDA: You know, Wolf, I'm disturbed by this notion that the police showing up to protect life and property somehow has enticed the crowd into violence.
Those protesters responded with violence every night for two weeks. And the police kept changing their tactics, and we still saw the same results, shots being fired by protesters, Molotov cocktails being hurled, glass bottles and bricks hitting police officers and their police cars.
The response of the crowd was to their own emotions and their own goals, not to the police.
BLITZER: So what are the most important lessons all of us should learn what has happened?
ROORDA: Well, that for law enforcement, I think we need to do a better job of getting information out there quicker about what we know with regards to details when there's a police shooting.
I think for the citizens, I think they need to be patient and wait for -- wait for real evidence. Dorian Johnson is sort of the Mrs. O'Leary's Cow of this whole entire episode. His confabulations are what caused much of the early violence and violent protests.
BLITZER: Jeff Roorda of the Saint Louis Police Officers Association, we will continue our conversation. I suspect these next few days will be very, very tumultuous. We will see what happens, but we will stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much for joining us.
ROORDA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're digging for new information about that grand jury decision, how it will play out. Our panel is standing by. We will break it all down for you.
And mountains of snow for miles and miles and miles. We're going back live to Buffalo, New York, where residents are bracing for another very dangerous turn in the weather.
BLITZER: Approaching 5:30 p.m. local time in Ferguson, Missouri, that the end of the business day. We're standing by to learn if a grand jury has reached a decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
We're joined by our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN anchor Don Lemon, who spend a lot of time there in Ferguson, and our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He's in Clayton. That's where this grand jury has been meeting outside of Ferguson.
Evan, what's the latest? What are you hearing right now?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, we know that the grand jury came in here today. We know that they met. They saw some -- got some evidence from the prosecutors, some final bits of evidence from the prosecutors. And then they began doing their deliberations.
Now, Wolf, a lot of people have been commenting on weren't or not they could reach a decision so quickly, which is what local authorities have been telling us. These jurors have been living this case. They have been able to discuss it all along. It's not like a regular jury. And so that's one reason why officials here thought that they would be able to reach a decision relatively quickly.
We know that there's some procedure that they have to go through. They have to notify the judge. And then they're going to let everybody know what they have decided.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, this grand jury, the way it works, it does not have to be a unanimous decision, right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Correct. You need nine out of 12.
And the standard is probable cause, which is a considerably lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is what you need for conviction in a trial.
BLITZER: We know that of the 12 grand jurors, three African- Americans, nine Caucasians, seven men, five women. Can we draw any conclusions from any of those statistics?
TOOBIN: You know, I don't know. I really think it is certainly appropriate that it is a diverse jury. But people are complicated, and they don't necessarily vote how you think they're going to vote.
But I do think it's good for the community that this is at least a somewhat diverse jury.
BLITZER: And, Don, you're bracing for a decision literally at any moment right now. You're going to be heading back to Ferguson to start anchoring our coverage from there, right?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. I head back tomorrow.
And then we're here tonight if anything happens. And regarding the jury, I think it's interesting. Jeffrey said you need nine out of 12, nine. There are three African-Americans. And as we know in this country, African-Americans many times see race and issues like this, especially in Ferguson, differently than whites.
So it's going to be interesting. I think the interview after this of course is Darren Wilson, but to speak to the grand jurors to see what went on when they were hearing evidence and deliberating.
BLITZER: Do you know if they're allowed to speak after they come up their decision?
LEMON: Well, as we heard from the prosecutor earlier in the week, that he may want -- he said he's going to give all the evidence and all the information, but he may redact the names of the jurors because he feared for their safety.
But I think the jurors, yes, they're American citizens. They can speak out afterwards if they want to. I'm not sure they will want to, but they certainly can.
BLITZER: Evan, what about the grand jury decision? They're going to make a decision. Presumably, they have made a decision. We all suspect today is the last day that they have been meeting. Then they will wait, what, 48 hours to make an announcement to give law enforcement time to prepare. But there's serious fear there could be a leak. Right?
PEREZ: That's right, Wolf.
I don't know how you are going to be able to keep a decision once it's made without -- from getting out into the public. We know that the grand jury had been meeting at least a couple times a week, depending on the week. We know that that they apparently formed a bond. They have become quite friendly with each other. So they spent a lot of time together.
But we don't know really what -- once they got into the deliberation sessions today, we don't know how that went. We don't know if they asked for more time, whether they asked to see anything else. So that's the big question right now.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you have studied this. Obviously, you're a legal analyst. You know the subject. Usually -- correct me if I'm wrong -- if a prosecutor wants to get an indictment out of a grand jury, they can get an indictment, right?
And what's so unusual about this process is, usually, prosecutors tailor their presentation to a grand jury to get an indictment, and present only the incriminating evidence they need, and then move on to the trial.
What the prosecuting attorney, McCulloch, has done here is thrown all the evidence into the grand jury.
Now, if you are not cynical, you could say this is an effort to be fair and have all the evidence presented in advance. If you are somewhat more cynical, you would say, this is an effort on the part of the McCulloch to cover his own behind, so that he can pass the buck to the grand jury rather than make the decision himself, which is the way it usually works in front of a grand jury.
BLITZER: Don, you heard my interview with Jeff Roorda from the St. Louis Police Association. He's been talking to Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. When you heard his side of the story, what went through your mind?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I thought it was good to hear the officer's side of the story. Of course, everyone wants to hear from the officer. I think it's good to hear that side. We haven't heard a lot of it. The only thing we heard in the beginning was a friend who called in to a radio station who did not have permission from Darren Wilson's family and friends to speak. So, I think it's good to hear.
But as he said, as we have heard from at least the leaks -- the alleged leaks from the grand jury, that he was in fear of his life. And I think that's what the jury is going to grapple with, how much he was in fear of his life, how aggressive Michael Brown was. And also, what's going to happen, if he was aggressive at all, and what happened in those moments when that fatal -- during the fatal shooting.
BLITZER: You reported, Evan, that Darren Wilson is in the final stages of resigning from the Ferguson police force, is that right?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf.
There have been these conversations that have been had in the last couple of months. There's a lot of concern about, frankly, about his own safety. If he's cleared and whether or not he can come back to this force, whether or not his fellow officers would be safe if he comes back and if he's cleared by this grand jury.
So, we know that he's been having these conversations. We know that one of his concerns was simply that if he resigns while the grand jury was still hearing evidence, it would be indication that perhaps he's guilty of something. He believes he's not.
So, he wanted to wait for this process to be over before he handed in his resignation. We know that those conversations were ongoing as recently as the last couple of days.
BLITZER: And, Jeffrey --
LEMON: And, Wolf --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Don.
LEMON: Wolf, just speaking to some of his representatives, as you know, we call and we ask for interviews and ask them to come on and speak. I get the sense from them that he does not want to be part of this police department. I don't think that he can be after all this, even if he wanted to be, even if they say he's not guilty. It would be really tough to go back into the community with what happened there in Ferguson.
BLITZER: And, Jeffrey, you heard the case that was made by his associate or friend, whatever you want to call him, Jeff Roorda from the St. Louis Police Association, that it was legitimate self-defense, the argument that Michael Brown got into that vehicle, started to go after the weapon. There was a shot that was fired inside the car, and the police officer was acting in legitimate self-defense. That's the argument his side of the story brings forward.
How do you think that will weigh with these grand jurors?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, this is not a complicated case legally. This is a very straightforward decision for the jury. Was this legitimate self-defense? This is a legal issue that anyone can understand.
One thing I know for sure, we don't know all the evidence that is in front of the grand jury. And I think that's very important to keep aware of now, is that they have a lot of evidence that we don't have.
So, I don't know what they'll do, I don't know what they should do. But it will certainly be illuminating for all of us if and when all the evidence before the grand jury becomes public.
BLITZER: And we're on stand by for that decision as soon as we know what happened. We'll, of course, hear it with our viewers.
Jeffrey Toobin, Don Lemon, Evan Perez -- guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead: a new disaster looming after epic snowfall, massive flooding. We're going live to the emergency zone.
And, Republicans vow to fight as President Obama signs unilateral immigration reform and goes on the road to celebrate.
BLITZER: President Obama hit the road today to sell his new immigration plan that defers deportation for 5 million undocumented immigrants. He signed the executive action on the way to Las Vegas. Republicans are promising to fight back. They're still deciding their next move.
The House Speaker John Boehner says President Obama is damaging the presidency.
But when it comes to immigration, President Obama sounds a lot like George W. Bush did back in 2006 when he was trying to get comprehensive immigration passed. He failed at the time but listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I've asked for a few minutes of your time to talk about the reform of America's immigration system.
OBAMA: Our immigration system is broken and everybody knows it.
BUSH: Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society.
OBAMA: To remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
BUSH: We're a nation of laws and we must enforce our laws.
OBAMA: Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we're also a nation of laws.
BUSH: We're also a nation of immigrants and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, Bettina Inclan, she's a Republican strategist, the RNC's former director of Hispanic outreach, the former NSC director, and the journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas.
To all of you, thanks very much for joining us.
Bettina, the president decided to speak in Nevada. He was in Las Vegas today about this executive action he's taking on immigration. That's a state that has, what, 27 percent Hispanic population, the fastest growing segment of the population.
Is the president upping the ante, shall we say, for Republicans on how they proceed with Latinos?
BETTINA INCLAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. Clearly, like, Nevada is going to be really important, especially in 2016. And, clearly, what the president is doing is making sure that his message is getting out there.
It's something Republicans need to be aware, to be very strategic how they move forward. They have to be smart on how they approach this executive order and talk more about the process and not fall into traps that Democrats are trying to set them up, to move back on the gains they did with Hispanics and Asians in 2014, and hopefully move forward and get more support in 2016.
BLITZER: What does it say to you, Gloria, that House Speaker John Boehner not only speaking out very negatively about what the president announced last night, but also going forward with a lawsuit now against Obamacare?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this plays into the theme of the imperial presidency, which is something we heard in the midterm elections, wolf. I think the president has contributed to that himself when he said, you know, I'm not an emperor, then issues an executive order which Republicans can then say, well, wait a minute, you're acting like you are one, because you made the argument against exactly what you ended up doing.
I think this does really wave a red flag for Republicans, but they have to decide how they respond. As Bettina was saying, if they're intemperate about this, if they do something like shut down the government, I think it will be a problem for them going forward in 2016, with a constituency they really need to attract.
Remember, Mitt Romney was talking about self-deportation, and he had 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
BLITZER: Hurt him in the Hispanic community, no doubt about that.
BORGER: George W. Bush, 44 percent.
All right. Dan, let's talk about what the president -- for months, he was talking about the restrictions, he said he's the president, he's not an emperor. That, obviously, has been getting a lot of attention.
Today, he said he's got the executive action. It was legal. He got all the rules put forward, the explanation from the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security.
So what does all this say about the president supposedly abusing his power? Where does he go from here?
DAN RESTREPO, FORMER NSC DIRECTOR: I think it's kind of a little silly to say he's abusing his power. This is something that 11 presidents have done 39 times over the course of the last 60 years, to use executive authority to make discretionary decisions in terms of enforcement. And that's what the president has done here. He has not solved the whole problem.
When he repeatedly said he couldn't solve this, that this was our broken immigration system in its totality. The president took a very big step last night, as big a step as he can take. But he didn't take one that solves our broken immigration system. That can only be done through legislation, and the Congress has an opportunity to act on that.
I don't have a whole lot of hope that they will, given that the last 500 days, the House Republicans decided not to act on a bipartisan bill that came out of the Senate. But I think a lot of this would depend on the Republican reaction.
You've had a pretty extreme reaction from parts of the Republican Party. You've had other parts of the party recognizing their problem with Latinos, trying to tamp that down. Let's see what happens when Congress comes back in January and they have an opportunity to start acting. Whether they act constructively or whether they act disruptively and continue digging themselves the hole that they have with Latinos across the country.
BLITZER: Jose Antonio, let's talk a little bit about -- you listened to the president's speech today. You listened to his televised address last night. You tweeted this, "I can now have temporary status, a work permit, and see my mama in the Philippines after a 21-year separation."
Give us your reaction to what you've heard over the past 24 hours.
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, JOURNALIST & FILMMAKER: You know, I have to say, because most of what I've heard in the past 24 hours have been political, have been framed with what the Republicans are going to do and how this is a political move from the president. I mean, that's how we've been framing this.
I think we're forgetting the fact that, you know, what, about 5 million people in this country, many of whom, most of us call this country our home. This is where we go to school, we work, go to church. All of a sudden, the president just recognized us, right? The president did up the ante.
And now, it's really up to the Republican Party to figure out how they're going to respond to that and in a way that's compassionate, right, in a way that aligns with ideals of this country.
I have to tell you, by the way. I'm in Las Vegas. I was just at the auditorium, the packed house that President Obama spoke at. It was really wonderful to see this president, our president fired up about this issue, right? And saying, look, if Congress wants to do something, let's sign something now. Let's do something now.
Inaction is no longer acceptable. The status quo can't remain. And I think that's the message that only the president is sending, but our community, the undocumented community, the immigrant communities all across this country, that's what we're sending.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, earlier, I interviewed Senator John McCain. And I mentioned that the president, President Obama, he's been branded, at least for last night, the deporter-in-chief, because he's deported supposedly more people than earlier presidents. We went back -- because he was denying that, but we went back and looked up the statistics there.
There you can see them. This president, first six years, deported or sent back 2,087,000; President Bush, 2,012,000; President Clinton, 869,000; President George H.W. Bush, 141,000; 168,000 or so from Ronald Reagan.
Now, you can interpret those numbers in different ways.
BORGER: What is a deportation?
BLITZER: But those are the government statistics, what's a deportation, what's a return?
BORGER: Right. You can interpret those numbers in different ways. But I will tell you, in talking to people at the White House, that they believe that they have been very strong on deportation, that they have been very strong on border security, and they've been criticized by the Latino community on the deportation front and they've got nothing in return from the Republican Party when it comes to legislation in the House of Representatives.
So, they feel that they can't win either way.
BORGER: All right. Gloria, guys, all of you, thanks very much. This conversation will clearly continue.
Just ahead, we're going to take you live to the snow disaster area in Buffalo, New York, where roofs are collapsing. The crisis is far from over.
First, this "Impact Your World".
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With new backpacks almost as big as they are, the children file into the Beytin Orphanage after school. Their faces and behavior betray few of the horrors they have witnessed or their suffering. Their fathers are dead, lost to illness or war in Syria. Their mothers decided to send them here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your name?
DAMON (on camera): My name is Arwa. What's your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Maram (ph).
DAMON (voice-over): She's eight. Her father killed by a bullet on his way to work.
"Daddy used to take me everywhere with him," Maram tells us.
The orphanage opened in September, offering a safe place. Toys replace those they left behind as they fled Syria. Clean water to wash with and regular hot, healthy meals.
The orphanage was established by the Maram Foundation, named after another little girl who was paralyzed by shrapnel.
YAKZAN SHISHAKLY, CO-FOUNDER, MARAM FOUNDATION: Well, we're trying to raise our children like away from all the ideologies (ph) happening inside Syria and also to give them the right to have a normal life away from the war because of the regime.
DAMON: And the impact is already being seen. Mayada Abdi, head of the orphanage, says Maram was very solitary, often lost in the memories of her father.
"I would see him in my dreams," Maram remembers. "I would see him giving someone something."
She seems less haunted by his death, dreaming instead of going home to Syria and teaching Arabic.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Reyhanli, Turkey.
BLITZER: There has been another arrest of a person with a gun right near the White House. This is the second in just two days following revelations of stunning Secret Service security lapses in recent weeks.
Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is working the story for us.
It's pretty disturbing when you think about it. Two incidences in two days. What's going on?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Very disturbing, Wolf. In fact, we just got off the phone of the brother of April Debois, the latest person arrested by the Secret Service for carrying a weapon outside of the White House, just this week. He tells us that he's baffled that his sister is a caring person, she's a supporter of President Obama and he has no idea why she would go to the White House carrying a gun.
BROWN (voice-over): Today, Secret Service agents search this suburban Michigan home of April Debois, the 23-year-old former mixed martial arts fighter was arrested outside of the White House Thursday night, and charged with carrying an unlicensed pistol. Authorities say she was spotted with a gun holstered under her shirt. Though, it was unclear what exactly drew them to her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going to be looking to see if there are any other conspirators, to see if this person was a part of a larger conspiracy or maybe even a smaller group of conspirators that were a part of this, who either egged them on, trained them, initiated them, or manipulated them to do this type of actions.
BROWN: Her arrest comes 24 hours after a 41-year-old Iowa man drove to the White House with a rifle and ammunition in his car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very concerning and at the same time, it is the gig. It is part of your job. But it's concerning in that people would have the wherewithal, the gall, to actually attack or approach and breach the security of the White House and now you have in society people, who, for whatever the agenda is, copycatting those actions.
BROWN: In September, an Iraq War veteran, Omar Gonzalez, is seen in this video running across the front lawn and into the White House, even bawling over and making it deep inside. The incident highlighted serious security lapses in the Secret Service and led to the resignation of Director Julia Pierson.
Thursday, the acting Secret Service director, Joseph Clancy, said the agency is stepping up measures to keep the White House safe.
JOSEPH CLANCY, ACTING SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: When I came back to the Secret Service and accepted this position, I identified three main areas of concern. One was staffing, one was training, and obviously the morale as well.
BROWN: And the law enforcement officials say despite the recent incidents at the White House just this week, there is no uptick in alarming incidents. As one official said, unfortunately, these types of incidents outside of the White House are not uncommon occurrence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope everything remains fine at the White House. Pamela, thanks very much to you.
Floodwaters up to six feet deep, that could be the next disaster to Western New York, where up to 7 feet of snow has fallen in some areas. At least 12 deaths are now blamed on the weather emergency and with rapid snow melt expected this weekend, lives are still in danger.
Brian Todd is joining us from Buffalo right now. He's got more.
What's the latest there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest is they are getting ready for the next round of meteorological hardship. There is so many different stages of hardship that the residents of buffalo have to deal with, they've got the initial snow event, and then they got this one aspect that we're dealing with here, the snow removal.
I'm standing in the middle of a huge pile of snow where they are dumping some of the removed snow from the neighborhoods here in East Buffalo in a rail yard. This file is about 50 feet high, the dump trucks are coming in, the mayor says more than 35 tons have been removed from South Buffalo, the areas hardest hit just in the last couple of days.
So, you got the snow removal. They just run out of places to put it. This is one of the places.
Another aspect, the sheer scope of this and how far the snow has gotten.
We took an aerial tour earlier today, we flew over several hard- hit areas where they are still not dug out yet. Several unplowed roads, people still really up against it. We flew over Ralph Wilson Stadium, and it's incredible, the snow accumulations are still there. They have not been able to get the snow off the field or out of the other facilities in the stadium. The Buffalo Bills, as most people following this story know by
now, were going to play a game this Sunday against the Jets. They've rescheduled that to Monday night, they've taken the game to Detroit. They can't play in that stadium.
We also had the perspective of an average homeowners with six foot-plus snow drift in front of their house. And for that, we'll take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Trying to negotiate getting on top of a natural snowdrift up here, starting to sink a little bit. Oh, I'm definitely sinking.
I dug as far as I could into this hole until I couldn't dig any more. This 6-foot yardstick does go to the bottom, and this is close to 6 feet, and this is after some of the snow has melted. These are buried cars. Look at the top of the house, another huge problem, huge snowdrifts on the top of just about every house here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, that area of the Buffalo region got about six feet two inches of snow, another area got 88 inches, seven foot four inches of snow.
Now, for perspective, again, we want to make you understand, this is all snow. It looks like dirt or mud behind me, it's not. It's just really dirty snow, about 50 feet high. They are adding to this pile, bringing more in, Wolf. Snow removal is a huge problem and then we've got possible flooding on the way.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Well -- thanks for that excellent report, even by as I said, by Buffalo standards, an enormous, enormous amount of snow.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer or tweet the show @CNNSitroom.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.