Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Report: Trump to Sign Order That Stops Separation of Families; Obama Says on Facebook, Are We A Nation That Accept Cruelty; Trump Will Not End Zero-Tolerance Policy; Ex-Trump Aid Won't Apologize for Mocking Disabled Girl. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. We are live in Washington, DC today with this breaking news, after days of images of children on our southern border alone in cages sleeping in mats, under foil blankets, wailing for their parents the president has caved. He is turning his finger pointing and false claims into promise to end family separations at the border with Mexico. The president saying, he will quote/unquote, sign something soon to help keep families together. This is what he said just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very strong at the border. We're very strong on security. We want security for our country. The Republicans want security and insist on security for our country. And we will have that at the same time we have compassion. We want to keep families together. It's very important. I'll be signing something in a little while that will do that and the people in this room want to do that.

They're working on various pieces of legislation to get it done. But I'll be doing something that's somewhat preemptive, ultimately will be matched by legislation, I'm sure. We are having problems with Democrats. They don't want to vote for anything. They don't care about lack of security. They would like to have open borders where anybody in the world can flow in, including from the Middle East, from anybody, from anywhere. They can flow into our country. Tremendous problems with that. Tremendous crime caused by that. We're just not going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, let's just back up here. Why now, Mr. President? Why not yesterday? Why not last month? Why not thousands of children ago, for weeks the president and his administration insisted his hands were tied inaccurately blaming Democrats and saying it was up to Congress to end the crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't do it through an executive order. KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Until loop holes are

closed by Congress, it is not possible as a matter of law to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States. Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's Congress' job to change the law. We're calling on them to do exactly that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Just to be clear, everything you just heard was a lie. We know that now the president is, in fact, going to act alone. He is going to sign this executive order without Congress and while we wait for the president to sign this order on the border, the crisis worsens. New reports today of hundreds of young children, babies, toddlers being separated from their parents. The administration is calling them tender age shelters. Three facilities in Texas housing hundreds of children, babies, toddlers all younger than 13 years of age, although, tender is a word to use in the context of small children. Perhaps not screaming for their parents.

And a short time ago, former President Barack Obama weighed in with this Facebook post. He writes, today is world refugee day. Let me read this for you from the former president's words." If you have been fortunate enough to have been born in America. Imagine for a moment if circumstance placed you somewhere else. Imagine if you have been born in a country where you grew up fearing for your life and the lives of your children. A place where you finally found yourself so desperate to flee persecution, violence and suffering that you'd be willing to travel thousands of miles under cover of darkness and during dangerous conditions propelled forward by that very human impulse to create for our kids a better life.

That is the reality for so many of those families whose plight we see and heart rendering cries we hear and to watch those families broken apart in real time puts us to a very simple question. Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms, or are we a nation that values families and works to keep them together? Do we look away or do we choose to see something of ours in our children? He goes on.

Our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others to say there but for the grace of god go I is a part of what makes us human and to find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and values at the same time is a part of what makes us American. After all, almost all of us were strangers, whether our parents crossed the Atlantic the Pacific or the Rio Grande.

We are only here because this country taught them to be an American is something more what we look leak or the way we worship. To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal and all of us deserve the chance to become something better. [14:05:00] That is the legacy our parents and grandparents and

generations before us created for us. It's something we have to protect for the generations to become. We have to do more than say this isn't who we are. We have to prove it through our policies, our laws, our actions and our votes."

BALDWIN: Those are the words from President Barack Obama on Facebook just published. So much to get into here. Gloria Borger is here, our chief analyst.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That is obviously the words of a former president. I know a lot of people around the country would wholeheartedly agree, you've seen this crisis, the fighting. The back and forth. And now, waiting for him to sign it, this executive order. This change from the president. Why? What happened?

Well, I think the president is getting hammered. He's getting pummeled by people from all over the countries. He is getting pummeled by his wife, his daughter. And I think that what he once thought would give him leverage to get legislation through congress. I mean, using this as political leverage is now backfiring on him. And when he spoke to members of congress last night, he talked about, look, I know those pictures.

They don't look good. The president, let's get this clear, is not doing this out of empathy. I think these doing it because the strategy failed, to be honest. And I think that he is not reversing his so-called zero tolerance policy, according to early reads we have been getting. What he is doing is trying, we'll see when we get his executive order is say that families can be detained together.

BALDWIN: Together.

BORGER: That would be the big difference. So, he would like to be able to say, I haven't caved. I haven't backed down. I'm still sticking with my zero-tolerance policy but, in fact, of course, he is, because he thought he would be able to use this as a way to get congress to do everything he wanted, including build a wall and it kind of blew up in his face, to be honest about it.

BALDWIN: So, here's new information. Let me throw this at you. We are getting a source familiar with this executive order says it will not end, which is precisely what you have been saying. It will be more narrowly focused allowing the families to be detained together the source noted how the families currently separated will be reunited. Your points being they'll still be held, they will be held together.

BORGER: Right. The current laws it states. Will they be held for the so-called 20 days and then be let free; how will that work? And of course, he could be subject to a court challenge on this, because if he decides.

BALDWIN: Immediately. BORGER: Well, if he decides say to detain these families longer than

20 days, then he could also be challenged on those grounds by people who say, well, you cannot do that. It's clear, if you look at the polling on this, you know, his supporters are with him on this, because immigration is their issue and this, 4when the person started out all of this, you know, he knew that. He understood the tougher he is, that it would have resonance with his supporters.

BALDWIN: Sure.

BORGER: I think what he didn't bargain on is the outcry not only from --

BALDWIN: Globally.

BORGER: Globally, people all over the country globally and from within the Republican party, people have started speaking out about this. Which you know has been pretty rare and I think he has been hearing it a lot.

BALDWIN: Gloria, thank you very much.

Joining me also now, Manny Fernandez, a Houston bureau chief for "The New York Times." He visited the shelter behind him. He wrote about what he saw. We talked about it. He tweeted this. This is the first photo I've seen, Manny inside these tender age facilities. This is the shot of this little girl maybe around 12 months of age. She is playing on this mat. Manny, tell me more about this photo and what else you have seen from within.

MANNY FERNANDEZ, Houston bureau chief, "The New York Times": Sure, yes, Brooke I actually have not been inside the facility minds behind me. The one behind me is a tender age shelter in Texas a former Wal- Mart. The former Wal-Mart facility also in Brownsville. But somebody who is inside of the shelter behind me took a picture and supplied me with that photo and it's a photo of the inside of what looks to be sort of an infant's room in this shelter. And that little girl is about 12 months old. She was separated from her family as a part of the family separation policy. Can you see her playing on this colorful mat?

You know you see the workers and other people standing around her. They are wearing those sort of hospital style booties on their shoes to keep the floor clean. But some of the people that have been in these facilities and in the shelter that I went to, is not so much a condition that they react to. It's the situation.

BALDWIN: Sure.

FERNANDEZ: I have seen these toddlers and these babies in this condition.

BALDWIN: It's what all of the tangible is masking is what you so perfectly put it to me last week. When I was reading this article that you were working on that published today the woman is quoted, who works for a young center for immigration children's rights, who helps pair these migrant kids with adults, who will then act as guardians until the kids are reunited with their parents. I want to quote her. She says, they're in crisis. They're crying uncontrollably. We see young kids having panic attacks. They can't sleep. They're wetting the bed. They regress mentally, or they may have been verbal but now they can no longer talk. Tell me more about that.

FERNANDEZ: Well, there is a real, there is sort of a real disconnect between the types of children that are now being housed in these shelters. I mean for years; these shelters have sheltered and housed immigrant children who came across the border on their own unaccompanied by any parent or guardian. They were apprehended. They were brought here. Their mindset and their issues were different from this new population coming in. And these are children who were with their parents, were with their guardians, were with their relatives. Now they're being separated by them from the government. Now they're being placed in these facilities. So, in a way there is that real, they're all vulnerable. But this is the most vulnerable of that vulnerable population.

BALDWIN: So, Manny, lastly, when the president signs this executive order and if the plan is to detain the kids and the parents together, what then happens to these little once at these tender age facilities?

FERNANDEZ: Well, what's going to happen is there is going to be a reshuffling of the shelter system, which is a million-dollar industry in south Texas. So, what's going to happen is that some of the shelters that housed only tender age children like the one behind me, they will be reconfigured to also house adults. They might be, there might be an adult facility that will be reconfigured to also house the children and there also might be new facilities that will come up. So, you know, the news today about ending family separation, it will only lead to even more of a reshuffling and a scrambling of where to house the children and the families.

BALDWIN: Manny Fernandez, we appreciate you being there and coughing all of this fork "The New York Times" and coming on CNN. Thank you very much. You know the question is, how long can the discourse go in the president's former campaign manager mocks the story of this disabled girl separated from her parent and now Corey Lewandowski is defending it. Plus, CNN speaks with Trump voters who don't have sympathy for these families. Hear why. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We are back with breaking news, you are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. The president is changing course on his own policy. He is expected to take action to keep undocumented families together. But my next guest says the damage has been done. At least for two boys, they're from Brazil. They have not seen their father since May 23rd. When they were detained at the border. The boys are 9 and 15 years of age seeking asylum.

They are represented by an immigration attorney, Amy Maldonado, who joins me now from Houston. Thank you for being with me. I think we all need to understand, what is happening, legally speaking, what are -- taking these two boys as an example since you know their case so well -- what are their rights moving forward?

AMY MALDONADO, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Thank you for having me today, Brooke, today the People's Justice Center which is a not-for-profit in Reading, Pennsylvania and I filed suit on behalf of two individual children, they're not related to each other. We do not represent their fathers. Under the Florida settlement agreement, they have the right to contest their separation from their father. Essentially the Florida settlement was entered into in 1997.

[14:20:00] It settled over a decade of litigation that started under the Reagan administration about mistreatment of immigrant children by the former INS.

BALDWIN: What is a 20-day cutoff for the Florida settlement agreement?

MALDONADO: That is actually not a real requirement in the agreement. There was I believe that's actually in the judge's order, which was entered challenging family detention under the Obama administration. But what the Florida settlement agreement does require it has as the number one priority family reunification. It requires an individualized case by case assessment of each child's placement and there is a hierarchy which starts with parents. The second is family in the United States.

Third is placement in a licensed facility. Fourth and only if those options are not available is immigration detention. In addition, the Florida settlement agreement requires the government to work to release the children. It requires that they provide them with food and adequate care and communication with their parents when they are separated. Which is not being facilitated at all by the government.

BALDWIN: That is what I was going to ask. Have they been in compliance? I know you say the government is required to facilitate that contact, right? Between the parents and the kids? And you are saying that's not happening?

MALDONADO: No, what the government is required to do is treat immigrant children regardless whether they're unaccompanied or companied by their parents as children who are human beings and to care for them. Instead of taking these children and determining what they need and where they need to go, the government has created a situation where they are torn away from their parents. They are sent in our case a thousand miles away from where their fathers are being detained. The fathers do not know where they are. Cannot communicate with them easily.

Because he fathers are in immigration detention pursuing their asylum claims. The children are in a shelter which is contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It's very hard to coordinate a private prison facility's telephone calls with an ORR shelter.

BALDWIN: Sure. I was talking to a border patrol agent yesterday, and I know we don't have that side on, but he was saying to me, absolutely, I can assure you we are treating these children humanely, he again pointed out the thermal blankets, the cages, everything has been around since 2014 under Obama. Although I recognize that the big difference is the separation. Right? I know that, go ahead.

MALDONADO: Yes, that is a difference, I wanted to comment on this. Your colleague Dana Bash earlier today got it 100 percent wrong when she said kudos to the president for ending this family separation policy. What we expected and what we are hearing is a pivot back family detention policy of the Obama administration, which we expect to see as most of the Obama administration enforcement is on steroids without the discretion that the Obama administration exercised.

I think that's politically going to make things difficult for those Democrats who did not criticize former President Obama for those policies. And I was disappointed in his Facebook statement today that he didn't own that on the part of his administration. Because the Obama administration was challenged on family detention and they lost. The judge clearly said their family detention policies violated the Florida settlement agreement. They were not caring for immigrant children.

BALDWIN: But the separations are said to be halting.

MALDONADO: So, what they're doing is pivoting to indefinite separation of families together which violates the Florida settlement. I just want to say in 1993 Justice Scalia in Reno V. Flores in the supreme court case said that basically the immigration authorities could easily care for minors who were detained with their parents by releasing the families together. Immigration crossings are down. Most people in removal proceedings who are paroled, even without, for example, an ankle monitor or you know, if they're paroled, they show up for their removal hearings. They are pursuing relief and get lawful status in the United States when they file for asylum.

BALDWIN: I'm listening to you, it's important to hear your voice. We hear all these different voices. Actually, we had reporting earlier this week. We looked at documentation, Tal Kopan, one of my colleagues here says border crossings are actually on the rise.

MALDONADO: Right now.

BALDWIN: Yes. Dana Bash who I love dearly, meant kudos in the sense the women and kids will no longer be separated by him. The detention period is not a great thing. Amy Maldonado, we have to leave it there. Thank you for what you are doing with these young people. Let's keep up the conversation.

[14:25:00] Thank you. Coming up next. The president's former campaign manager mocks the plight of a girl separated from her mother. Now Corey Lewandowski is doubling down when asked if he should apologize.

[14:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been widely criticized today for comments he made last night on Fox News, he was reacting to this report of a ten-year-old girl with down's syndrome separated from her family at the border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read today about a ten-year-old girl with down's syndrome taken from her mother and put in a cage.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, TRUMP'S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Womp, womp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say womp womp to a 10-year-old with down syndrome separated from her mother.

LEWANDOWSKI: What I said is you can think anything you want --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare you. How absolutely dare you, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Asked if he would like this apologize, Corey Lewandowski doubled down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't know the young girl that Zach referenced. I was mocking Zach, a liberal Democrat national committee activist who is doing nothing but politicizing the issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel you owe an apology of any sort?

LEWANDOWSKI: An apology? I owe an apology to the children whose parents are putting them in a position forcing them to be separated?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Before we should clarify, Customs and Border Patrol released a statement about this incident at the border that the agency quote/unquote, "separated a child with down's syndrome from her mother as a result of a smuggling attempt on June 3.