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Trump Administration's Zero Tolerance Policy Is Being Put Into Practice Along The Southern U.S. Border; Melania Trump Weighed In On The Crisis At The Border;; Seven members of the U.S. Congress Literally Pounding On The Door Of A Migrant Detention Center; Image Of A Little Girl Screaming In Fear In The Dead Of The Night As America's Immigration Crisis Envelopes Her; Former Trump Adviser Roger Stone Met With A Russian Who Was Offering Dirt On Hillary Clinton Back In May of 2016; Musician Won A Six-Figure Lawsuit Against His Ex After She Faked A Rejection Letter From The School He Had Always Hoped To Attend; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 17, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:10] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
And today is father's day. And I want to ask, do you know where your children are right now? Count your blessings if you do, because the parents of as many as 2,000 children on the U.S. border don't. Their kids were taken from them by U.S. border patrol agents when they crossed illegally into the United States. And if those parents want to know where their kids are, well, they have a phone number printed at the top of a handout flyer, and an information line that's good only during the week and only between certain hours. That's the only way parents arrested for being illegal immigrants can find out if their children are OK.
What I'm describing is how the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy is being put into practice along the southern U.S. border. At least one person at the White House is not happy about it, the first lady.
A spokeswoman for Melania Trump tells CNN today Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws but also a country that governs with heart.
Let me remind you that her husband, the President, has expressed compassion for children before. It was more than a year ago when he claimed that seeing suffering babies in Syria drove him to order military action there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, were a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was. That crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That was then and this is now. Thousands of little boys and girls like this one possibly without their parents this weekend sleeping and eating in America darn ever-run detention centers. The President can stop this practice with a phone call or with a signature just like he did to help those suffering babies in Syria, but he hasn't stopped it and for now it doesn't look like he will.
I want to go to Brownsville, Texas right now where CNN's Nick Valencia is there with us.
Nick, that is a large immigrant detention center behind you that some U.S. lawmakers saw with their own eyes today. Tell us about it.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the largest child care facility for migrant children in the country, Ana. It is a housed in a former Walmart, a former superstore has the ability of housing 1,500 boys ages 10 through 17. And this is just in the last few minutes where the Democratic lawmakers stopped.
They have been touring across the U.S.-Mexico border processing centers this father's day trying to highlight the issue they say resulted from the Trump administration zero tolerance policy on immigration.
We haven't been allowed inside, but our colleague Bob Ortega was here last week and got inside that facility and what he described is packed conditions.
This is run by a nonprofit here which is under the umbrella of health and human services and in cooperation with the office of refugee resettlement. And what they tell us is that 70 percent of the children that are in their possession, they have shelters 26 of them all across the southwest, 70 percent, they say, are unaccompanied minors, but they say they are now seeing surging numbers of children separated from their parents as this new zero tolerance policy has been put into effect -- Ana.
CABRERA: Nick Valencia, thank you for that.
Now, this today near New York City. Seven members of the U.S. Congress literally pounding on the door of a migrant detention center. They demanded to be let inside, and the people in charge said no.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As congressmen we are entitled to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you did wrong. You were doing fine up until now. Now you did wrong. This is America. This isn't Moscow.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Seven Democratic lawmakers from New York and New Jersey there. They wanted to talk to people inside who are being held by immigration officials. Eventually they were allowed inside. No cell phones, no cameras, and they were allowed to speak to detainees.
CNN's Paolo Sandoval is in Elizabeth, New Jersey with this story -- Polo.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, certainly some bizarre moments have played out at this immigrant detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey earlier today.
Seven Democratic lawmakers traveling here to meet with five of the roughly 250 undocumented people who have been detained at this facility. Initially, when they arrived hoping to meet with these five men on father's day, they were denied access. Instead, some of the staff here had to call supervisors and eventually the local police to sort all of this out. After about an hour and 45-minute wait we watched. These seven Democratic lawmakers finally make their way inside visiting away from the cameras, visiting with these five individuals and then finally came out a short time later telling us about what they saw in there and sharing some of the emotional stories. Some of those men recounting how they were separated from their children at the border when they were detained before they were transferred here.
Important to point out these kinds of surprise visits from legislators are certainly nothing unusual, though they are extraordinary. Not too long ago we witnessed some of the scenes play out here in other parts of Texas. Tomorrow in California, the message that lawmakers are hoping to send to the Trump administration is that they end this practice of separating children from their families -- Ana.
[19:05:39] CABRERA: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you for that.
So much of this story has been about what we can't really see. Detention centers where CNN's cameras have been blocked from entry and moments of utter desperation when children are pulled from the arms of their parents. We can't even show you even a fraction of that human agony unfolding in American border towns because the government simply won't let us.
But we can show you this. This image of a little girl screaming in fear in the dead of the night as America's immigration crisis envelopes her. It is one image that speaks the untold stories of thousands. Getty photographer John Moore took this photograph and told me what he can about her story.
JOHN MOORE, PHOTOGRAPHER, GETTY IMAGES: Well, I was able to speak with the mother very briefly. I had photographed her and her daughter and several other children, other families. The mom told me that they had been traveling for a month. And coming from Honduras through Mexico over the course of a whole month is a very difficult journey for these folks, often very dangerous so by the time they reach the U.S. side they had probably been through a lot already.
CABRERA: What was going through your mind when you took the picture?
MOORE: Well, they had been body searching people as they were loaded into advance to be taken to a processing center where they were possibly separating parents and children. And one of the last people to get on the bus was the mother of this child and her daughter together. And when they went to body search her against the vehicle, they asked her to put down her child. And right then in that moment the little girl broke into tears and, you know, it's not unusual for toddlers in any circumstance to have separation anxiety, but I think this particular situation with the separation of families leads -- and gives a new meaning to that phrase.
CABRERA: Oh, God. I mean, that picture, it makes us all get tears in our eyes. It's so hard to see her -- her crying and seeming so desperate.
When you took that picture did you know that it was something that it could become a defining image of this moment in history?
MOORE: Well, I had photographed families trying to seek asylum many times on different visits to the U.S.-Mexico border. What it looked like in many ways was similar to what I had seen before. And I think the families there, no idea that they would soon be separated from their children.
I can tell they weren't up on the recent news. They have been traveling in difficult conditions, but I knew what was going to happen next. And for me to take these pictures, scenes that I had seen before but with the knowledge that these parents and their children would soon be in separate detention facilities, made it hard for me personally as a journalist, as a human being and especially as a father.
CABRERA: "The Daily News" used your picture on its cover. This picture has also gone viral all over the internet. Hard to find anybody who hasn't seen it. It wrote callous, soulless, craven Trump, "the Daily News" wrote those words. What words came to your mind?
MOORE: Well, for me it was very simple. It was just sad. When I took this picture, I had very little time. When they body searched her mother it happened only over maybe ten seconds. I had to quickly move into position and take a knee and get on to the child's level. I had very few pictures before they were finished and they were bundled into a van and driven off. And so as I finished taking these photographs, I had to stop and take a few breaths and I was sort of overcome with emotion myself and then it was over and then they drove away.
CABRERA: Do you know what happened to her?
MOORE: I wish I knew. They don't tell you in that moment where they are going to be taken, and -- and the process of the separation of families happens away from the lenses. I was able to see about as close as one can get to whatever it looks like. (END VIDEOTAPE)
[19:10:02] CABRERA: An image we will not soon forget.
Some breaking news I want to share with you. At least five people are dead near the Texas border after this vehicle flipped while being chased by border patrol agents. The vehicle was traveling at speeds around 100 miles per hour when it ran off the road and turned over several times. The (INAUDIBLE) county sheriff says the driver was a U.S. citizen and that the vehicle was carrying undocumented immigrants.
Straight ahead, a new report involving yet another Trump associate, a Russian national and offer to hand over dirt on Hillary Clinton for $2 million.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:14:39] CABRERA: Well, we now know about another meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian national during the 2016 election. This time it was former Trump adviser Roger Stone. And he tells CNN that he met with a Russian who was offering dirt on Hillary Clinton back in May of 2016. This meeting was apparently set up by Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo. Both he and Stone failed to tell congressional investigators about it, and it wasn't until Caputo was shown text messages by Robert Mueller's team earlier this year that he claims his memory was refreshed.
"The Washington Post" obtained these texts, and the first message Caputo writes this.
How crazy is the Russian, to which Stone replies he wants big money for the info. Waste of time. Caputo. The Russian way. Anything at all interesting? Stone, No.
Well, today, Caputo and Stone claimed the Russian national was actually an FBI informant. The Russian, however, denies he was working on behalf of the FBI at the time of that meeting and "the Washington Post" who throw this story also says there's no evidence to also back up this allegation.
Joining us to discuss CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti and former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz.
Jim, this is now the third meeting that we know of in which a Russian offered Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton. Is this a witch-hunt like the President says or are these meetings something that should be investigated?
[19:16:04] JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: So Roger Stone is known opposition researcher made his living on that and mace his reputation on that for Dole and Kemp and Reagan and Nixon all the way down the line. And a Russian reaches out through Caputo, according to the reports, and he meets with Stone wearing a maga hat, a maga interest shirt, speaking with a Russian accent, demands $2 million and Stone says it's a waste of time.
Sounds about right to me. I mean, that's what we would expect Stone to say. So no surprises there. And it's a little ridiculous and kind of made for TV movie stuff if it was true. But it's certainly entertaining, that's for sure. I don't know how much substance there is there.
CABRERA: Renato, given that it does appear that the text messages sort of back up this idea that nothing came of this meeting, does it matter?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, absolutely.
Actually, as a legal matter it doesn't matter whether or not the meeting was successful. What matters is the intent that goes into it. And I have got to say what's entertaining to me is the explanation being offered for -- as opposition research, somebody getting information from a foreign entity.
I will tell viewers at home. If a foreign adversary or foreign national offers information to you or approaches you with that, you should contact the FBI. And it is entirely appropriate for the FBI to be investigating whenever a foreign adversaries are conducting intel operations in the United States. They should be investigated.
And just to be crystal clear, there is no evidence to suggest that this was an informant. You know, when you -- there's an old legal saying that, you know, when had you have the facts on your side you argue the facts. When you have the law -- if you don't have the facts on your side you argue the law and if you don't have the facts or the law on your side, you know, you say that you are set-up. And I think that is kind of what is happening here.
CABRERA: Renato, Mueller showed Caputo these texts when they interviewed him this past May. Listen to what Caputo told CNN just hours after his interview with the special counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: The Mueller team knew more about what I did in 2016 than I knew myself. And I think they know more about the Trump campaign than anyone that ever worked there. These guys have got every single email, anything that's ever gone down, and they are clearly focused on trying to identify some Russian collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Renato, how would Mueller have gotten these texts between Stone and Caputo?
MARIOTTI: Well, one obvious way would be actually imaging the cell phones themselves. Texts usually aren't kept on a central server or elsewhere. So that's one way. Another way is if the texts are, for example, imessages that are sent from iphone to iphone, those can be stored in the cloud. So potentially he could have gotten those via search warrant on Apple.
But I will tell you, it is not surprising to me to hear, you know, listening to that quote now. You know, typical federal prosecutors gather a wide array of information. And usually people when they are interviewed have that reaction, wow, they know a lot about what's going off. They typically know more than you do and that's why you need to be honest because you don't want to lie to the FBI. That is a crime.
CABRERA: And I guess that brings me to this because you say, Jim, it's sort of a nothing burger, this meeting, this report. But still it doesn't explain why this is now another meeting that was not previously disclosed. Again, Roger Stone completely denied meeting with any Russians. We had Hope Hicks previously denying that any members of Trump's team, the campaign or the transition met with Russians, and yet they keep piling up. They keep coming out, the truth is being revealed.
SCHULTZ: I think -- I think we saw Caputo say he wasn't sure whether it was Russian or Russian-American, now it turns out he was 17 years cooperated with the FBI. I don't think anyone really knows who this individual is except for Mueller and his team.
I mean, Schiff is trying to make a big deal about it. And snap finger and feet about it, saying we are going to bring folks in and charge them with perjury. They should be charged with perjury.
I mean, the fact of the matter is people do forget from time to time. And the forum that matters most is that of Robert Mueller and not that of the political effort that Schiff is undertaking.
[19:20:27] CABRERA: Let's talk about pardons, guys, because, again, Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani keeps floating the possibility that Trump could pardon people after the investigation is over.
You are an attorney, Jim. Why would Giuliani keep saying this?
SCHULTZ: Because he can. I mean, the President has pardon powers. I'm not sure why Giuliani is saying it, but fact of the matter, is yes, the President does have pardon powers as it relates to federal crimes he can pardon whomever he sees fit. That's part of the Presidential executive powers under the constitution, so -- but as a political strategy, why would Giuliani be talking about pardons, I'm not too sure.
CABRERA: Renato, do you have an idea?
MARIOTTI: I think it's fairly obvious. He is trying to convince some of the witnesses not to flip against the president. What he is doing is floating the possibility that if they hold out, if they don't cooperate they will get pardoned in the end. I think it is a fairly transparent strategy. It is something that he can get away with doing because it's very difficult to prove his intent beyond a reasonable doubt. But it is obstructive activity. It is meant to undermine Mueller's investigation.
CABRERA: Renato Mariotti and --.
SCHULTZ: Everybody knows what the -- everybody knows what the pardon powers are. To say that Rudy Giuliani is sending a subliminal message is just ludicrous.
CABRERA: But he does keep on saying -- no, no, no, he doesn't plan to pardon and then he keeps on throwing this caveat at the end. But if the President thinks somebody is treated unfairly in the investigation, you know, he is not ruling a pardon out. So he is kind of leaving that little carrot dangling out there is my interpretation.
Jim Schultz, Renato Mariotti -- gentlemen, I got to run. There's always more to say and I'll have you back for sure because you're the experts, not me, when it comes to things legal.
Coming up, his girlfriend didn't want him to leave Canada so show crushed hits dreams. The story of a musician who won a six-figure lawsuit against his ex after she faked a rejection letter from the school he had always hoped to attend.
[19:26:54] CABRERA: OK. File this away in the category of craziest things a partner can do to you. This musician has just won a quarterfinal million-dollar lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend who was apparently so afraid of losing him she fooled him into thinking he had been rejected from his dream college.
Eric Abramovitz is an elite concert clarinetist who applied for and won a full scholarship to finish his bachelors' degree at Colburn Conservatory at Music in Los Angeles. The scholarship is worth $50,000 a year. And would have allowed him to study under one of the best clarinet instructions in the world.
Well, Eric spent many late night from the practice room just prepping for his audition. And when he thought he had been rejected, he was crushed. It turns out his girlfriend intercepted an email that said he was accepted to the school. She replied to the school pretending to be him and rejected the scholarship offer and she deleted the acceptance email and took it a step further creating a fake email to send to her boyfriend, a rejection email from the school.
Well, Eric Abramovitz is joining us live.
Now, Eric, this story is crazy. When did you learn what had happened?
ERIC ABRAMOVITZ, MUSIC STUDENT: So in May of 2016 that's when I figure it had all out.
CABRERA: Live TV. That happens. I did still hear you.
ABRAMOVITZ: Very sorry. I'm have so. (INAUDIBLE)
CABRERA: It's a little distracting, but, continue, please.
ABRAMOVITZ: So in May of -- the process from -- OK. So sorry about that. That is not ideal to say the least.
But anyways. So, of course I had gone to, like you said, I have gone to an audition the first time. I got the fake rejection. I didn't know about it. So then two years later in 2016, in February, I went to audition again and when I got into the room and I spoke with the teacher I wanted to study with we (INAUDIBLE), we had an awkward exchange where he said what are you doing here? You rejected me. And I responded, you rejected me which he said you rejected me and you can guess what I said you rejected me.
So, we went back and forth. It was very confusing. I wasn't sure what to make of it. So I still -- I just figured you must be confusing me with tons of people and, you know, everyone is trying to go with him. So you know, it could just have been a weird coincidence.
But a few weeks later, I was speaking with a former student of his with and I was living in Montreal at the time and this former student of his had join the Montreal symphony orchestra. And he asked me one day, you know, Eric, why didn't you go study at Coburn when you had the chance. And once again, I'm thinking, why do people think could I have gone to Coburn? I got rejected. But really got me suspicious. So I had gone back to the email exchange that I had had with the teacher (INAUDIBLE), and obviously looking back now it was not actually (INAUDIBLE), it was my girlfriend.
So I forwarded the (INAUDIBLE) exchange and I said, you know, is this you? And he confirmed that it was not his email address nor had he ever seen that exchange in his life. So that was -- that was the first step of knowing that something underhanded was afoot. I have got to give credit to my father and of course, got to shout-out happy father's day. Anyway.
[19:30:33] CABRERA: OK. So let me fast forward for just a second because I don't want to run out of time here.
CABRERA: But this was your girlfriend at the time who did this to you?
ABRAMOVITZ: I mean, if I can speculate perhaps jealousy played a part in it. Perhaps she didn't want me to leave town but I really can't get into the head of someone who would do something like this. So, your guess is good as mine.
CABRERA: So you were never able to actually confront her about it once you put all the puzzle pieces together?
ABRAMOVITZ: Once all the puzzle pieces were together, I was advised by my parents and some of the people to seek legal counsel and not do anything myself which was good advice. Of course, I wanted to confront her but I held back.
CABRERA: Well, I'm glad to hear that the story had a happy ending. You got the money. You won the lawsuit, and ultimately you have gone on to be a very successful musician. And I know that came with a lot of hard work so congratulations to you.
Thank you for sharing your story, Eric Abramovitz.
ABRAMOVITZ: Thank you very much. Just to clarify, I did not actually get the money. But in the process of trying to. It is a long, long process but thank you very much for having me.
CABRERA: But you did -- you won the lawsuit, so we'll have to stay in touch.
ABRAMOVITZ: Collecting it is a whole other process in and of itself.
CABRERA: OK. Thank you, Eric. Have a good one.
ABRAMOVITZ: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: Coming up next. Doctors warn parent-child separation may cause lifelong trauma. A leading pediatrician explains why kids yanked from their parent's arms may struggle with emotional scars for years to come.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:36:38] CABRERA: In the week after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un President Trump has challenged American values, praised dictators and adopted their rhetoric and positions. And the Kremlin is now signaling that a meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin could happen next month.
That brings us to your weekend Presidential brief, a segment we bring you every Sunday night highlighting some of the most pressing national security information the President will need when he wakes up tomorrow.
And joining us now CNN national security analyst and former national security council adviser Sam Vinograd. She spent two years in the Obama administration helping to prep for the President's daily brief.
So Sam, let's look ahead to this potential summit between the President of the U.S. and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think Putin is gunning for a meeting because it's such a prime opportunity to show the world how easily he manipulates President Trump.
We are still under a live attack by Russia. DNI Coates said about a week ago that Russia is still trying to interfere in our election. Mattis said they are still trying to undermine our credibility. But Putin thinks he can seize on the momentum from the Singapore summit and Trump's desire for another win to push the President into meeting. And imagine the picture, Ana, if Trump is smiling next to Vladimir Putin while we are under live attack.
CABRERA: So you think that the Singapore summit was actually encouraging for Russia?
VINOGRAD: I think that it was for several reasons. First off, I think Putin is really struck by the premature adulation that Trump showed towards Kim Jong-un. He has been showering him in compliments despite the fact that North Korea is attacking us still in places like cyber space so Putin thinks he can expect the same treatment.
He also knows that Trump is parroting Russia and parroting North Korea in using phrases like war games or the word provocative to describe our joint military exercises. He is not echoing his generals. He is echoing Vladimir Putin.
CABRERA: Do you think he picked up on this picture of President Trump saluting one of the North Korean generals?
VINOGRAD: Most definitely. I think this happy hands moment was another win for dictator's club because Trump was showing a sign of respect for someone that probably had to do some bad things to make it on to Kim's A-list. So Putin could bring, for example, someone who is involved in the ongoing attacks on the United States when he meets with Trump and Trump could show him a sign of respect. That would be really troublesome.
And I also think that Putin was aware that Trump didn't raise tough issues for Kim Jong-un, things like human rights. Trump says that he is focus on the nuclear agenda. So if you are Putin, you identify one specific agenda item, get Trump focus on it and know that he won't push you hard on another areas.
CABRERA: Thank you for your insight, Sam Vinograd. Always good to have your take.
We are back in just a moment.
[19:43:46] CABRERA: On this father's day, we are reporting on scared children being taken from their parents and held in government processing centers near the U.S. border. I want to show you this, brand-new images from the border patrol showing children trying to sleep on mats inside a detention facility. This one is in McAllen, Texas. And these are images that we can show you because they have been provided by customs and border patrol, but this is all they are letting us show you. They will not let us in to film our own images.
A short time ago I spoke to Senator Jeff Merkley who today toured a government facility processing some of these children. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE MERKLEY (D), OREGON: We did, of course, see the children who were held inside of here in wire mesh chain link cages that are about 30 by 30. A lot of young folks put into them.
It is inflicting enormous trauma on the children and enormous angst on the parents who engage in this family separation and there's no need at all and no justification of any kind for doing so as people await asylum hearings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I want to bring in Dr. Julie Linton. She is a pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American academy of pediatrics.
Doctor, thanks for taking the time for us on your Sunday afternoon or evening. You know, we are showing these images, kids being held in cages. Other children in processing centers or detention centers away from their parents. We are hearing the stories of children being taken from parents. Parents being told that the kids are just going to the bathroom.
How do you even begin to measure -- sorry. I'm going to have to come back to this question. We have a live press conference happening right now at the border. These are the senators who have been just inside Brownsville, Texas, telling us what they saw.
[19:45:34] MERKLEY: They are not with their parents. The vast bulk of these children, we are told, arrived on the border unaccompanied, as unaccompanied minors. But a certain share of them came with their parents and then were separated from their parents. And here we are told that the percentage of kids who were separated from their parents is small. And they feel only about five percent of the kids at the facility, because these are older kids ten years and up, whereas a larger percentage of the unaccompanied or the children separated are younger.
I want to be very, very clear on this point. Southwest keys is a nonprofit that's worked with kids for a long period of time. Separation do not occur here. We have two different sections of the federal government involved. We have the department of homeland security that runs the border control stations. That's where separations occur. Children are then sent here to be -- to be cared for. So do not confuse this facility with what is happening with the separations. That's happening elsewhere at the border processing facilities.
So let's turn to just the heart of this, and that is we have this new policy from the federal government that attorney general sessions and President Trump and Steve Miller and John Kelly, the chief of staff, have put together that decided to do they call it zero tolerance. But a better name for it is zero humanity, and there's zero logic to this policy. The administration is arguing that by inflicting this harm on children and parents, this stress, that they are sending a message, a deterrent message for people not to seek asylum in the United States. It's completely unacceptable under any moral code or under any religious tradition to injure children, inflict trauma on them in order to send some political message to adults somewhere overseas.
The President is also arguing in the last few days that this policy gives him political leverage with legislation. Hurting kids to get legislative leverage is unacceptable. It is evil.
We are going -- I'm going to turn this over to my colleagues to share some thoughts and reflections on what we saw inside, and then we'll open it up to your questions.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, again, I want to thank senator Merkley for bringing us together. We were just visiting this facility southwest key programs. And I want to emphasize the point that the people who are working there are doing the best they can with the kids that are there under a very bad situation that has been given to them in large part because of this change in policy by the Trump administration.
As senator Merkley said, they have a fair share of kids here from the separation policy. I think it was about 100 or so here. Most of the kids that have been separated from their parents are at other facilities in this area. Some of them that are run by this same organization and they are under 10 years old. And what they told us was most of the kids who are being separated from their families are under 10 years old and most of them are under different facilities in this area.
And make no mistake. That is a direct result, a direct result of the Trump administration policy of separating parents from their kids because they have told us that they have seen a huge spike in the number of those kids over the last six weeks. So clearly it's a result of a policy decision.
And what is so cynical about it, as Senator Merkley said, is number one, it's supposed to try to send a deterrent effect which it doesn't when you are trying to flee violence and a threat to your life and your family's life. But in recent days, the President of the United States is literally holding these kids separated from their parents as hostage to try to pass his version of some kind of immigration legislation that's not related to the need to separate them from their parents.
A lot of other issues he is trying to deal with the immigration front. And so, it is a cynical evil policy to try to hold these kids hostage, separate them from their parents in order to try to gain leverage.
President could change this pol policy today. He could change it right now. He could change it on father's day and make sure some of these kids can be reunited with their dads and their moms.
And now, I'm going to turn it over to one of our colleagues here from the House of Representatives. Sheila Jackson Lee.
[19:50:38] REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Thank you, senator. And I think all of us are going to echo our appreciation to Senator Merkley for really this pointed and provocative mission of members of Congress.
I would like to call it a mission of mercy. And I want to emphasize the facility we just visited, the southwest key Casa Padre, are doing the best that they can for children for a policy that as a member of the Judiciary Committee, I helped structure some ten years ago. Which related only to the place for unaccompanied children who that he had their way across the border by themselves.
The President is not telling the truth. There is no law. There is no policy that has allowed him to snatch children away from their families. There is absolutely no policy. His representation is a patent untruth. And out of politeness, I'm not using the stronger word, but he is not telling the truth. And it's important for the American people to understand that the immigration policies that we are espousing are openly a humane policy, a comprehensive policy.
No one here is arguing for bad guys to be allowed into the United States. We are fighting to the very end for children who are snatched away from their families. And we have seen mothers who we've been able to briefly talk with, who have expressed fear the child that they are holding in hair happens, the 45-day baby to this mother who made it 2,000 miles will be b forever lost to her.
Finally, I think it is important that not only have we made a ugly statement to Americans to disregard that all of us are immigrants except our native American friends, but now the United Nations high commissioner has attacked the United States for violating international rights and the only response the President could give was that it was an ignorant attack. So now we have the international shame and the domestic shame.
This week, Judiciary Committee members will introduce legislation to stop President Trump from separating children from their families, from snatching them. And the real question is whether Republicans will join us to say to the President, enough is enough. I hope that there is enough mercy to do so. But I can assure you we will be fighting to the end to stop this ugly, vile program that is harming children and creating massive child abuse.
Now I -- Mr. Welch. Thank you.
REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: You know, it's pretty heartbreaking to be in that building and to see these kids aged 10 to 17, 18, who have these incredible journeys, had to leave where they live in order to live. That's literally what happened. And we have got an explosion of the population here now just in the last several weeks as a result of the new policy by the Trump administration. And we are coming to the close of our day, but there's two things that stand out for me.
One is I have seen a lot of tremendous workers, including in there who want to do whatever they can for these kid. We just saw some border control people who took us around. They were taking care of mom who made an eight-month journey and had a 2-month-old child. And they were doing everything they could to help her. But then you see the policy of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions and Jeff Miller that basically are saying we are going separate child from a parent. And it's appalling. It is un-American. It's unnecessary.
And you know, cynical is too light a word for it. I mean, when the President of the United States to get his, get tough on immigration policy, you know what he is entitled to have that, he is entitled to have it, but he is not entitled to have a hostage a young, innocent child. Whether it's a dreamer who was brought here by his or her parents or these kids who showed up with their parents when they were knocking on the door asking the greatest country on earth, country of freedom of statue of liberty for help. And the President is making that a crime. And that he is using that as a tactic to get his way on an immigration bill and is willing to sacrifice the well-being of these children, the heartbreak of the parents, is appalling and beyond cynical. It's got to stop.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good afternoon. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. And I want to thank Senator Merkley for organizing our visit. This has been a really difficult day. And if is difficult for us, it have been even more difficult for the children we visited with.
There's sort of an old very long standing proposition of law in our country. And that is when it comes to children, decisions have to be made in the best interest of the child. And there is no interpretation of that that standard would ever suggest separating young children from their mothers is in the best interest of a child. Maybe in the best interest of a political strategy for the President or negotiating technique. But it's really abominable. It's detestable. It undermines all the things our country stands for.
And while I was impressed with the services this organization is attempting to provide, there has been a huge spike in the number of children. Started with 300, then went to 500 and 1200 then 1500 and now they are anticipating further growth in the population of children in that facility.
And this is all occasioned by a change of policy by this President just a few weeks ago, about six weeks ago, in consultation with attorney general Sessions, with Steven Miller, who somehow concocted this hideous scheme, that if we just take away children from their parents, that somehow we can help stem the tide of people who are leaving prosecution and violence and coming to America for protection that somehow we will be successful in doing that.
It's a terrible policy. It undermines all that we stand for as a country. It is a terrible example to the world. We are committed to going back and doing everything we can to stop this as congressman Jackson Lee said. We wanted to see this and bring attention to this so that we can encourage to American people to be part of this effort to demand that the administration and the President will reverse this policy immediately.
REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN: Hi. I'm Mark Pocan from Wisconsin. You know, looking at a Walmart supercenter that's now a Trump super detention center because of a perverse decision because you somehow you are going to try to force Congress to pay for a wall or to try to send a message to someone else, just shows how awful of a decision it is to use children like this.
I often worked as state legislator and corrections issue. And while this facility and the people here are trying to do the best they can, think about it, they grew in two months from 500 people to 1,500 people. They said they are looking for now another 1,000 beds to find for people. This week, 860 people were hired by them.
This is not job creation. This is a really awful, awful real life action by a terrible decision that the President's doing because he just doesn't care enough about human beings. And all he cares about is trying to get a wall no matter what it costs.
And you know, I think us being here and others tomorrow, when you see this up front and close up, their concern, mental health professionals. They need 90 mental health professionals to deal with what they have just in the last two months and they don't have it. You don't think a child who is in this facility, who has a six by ten living area, by the way, a super max prison cell is eight by twelve, six by ten area and you get out two hours a day.
CABRERA: OK. We are going to break away from this press conference. Again, these are U.S. lawmakers just touring a facility in Brownsville, Texas, where immigrant children are being held right now. We will continue to bring you updates throughout the evening on CNN.com as it pertains to the immigrant situation at the U.S. border.
In the meantime, I want to close my show today with a message to all the dads out there. A very happy father's day to you and a special wish to my dad, Ron, my father-in-law, Al, and my husband, the father of our children, Ben. You guys are all incredible men. All three of you, you are passionate. You are fun. You are adventurous. You are hard working. And these are all qualifies I really admire and I appreciate in you.
Mostly, I'm grateful for your unconditional love and support. I feel lucky. And Ben our children are very lucky as well.
I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for being with me. I hope it is a good evening and great week ahead. Happy father's day. Good night.