Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

First Lady Visits Child Immigrant Detention Center In Texas; Trump Meets With Cabinet. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- family. And that could be through verification of birth certificates, photo identification. But we do communicate with their families.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: So when the children come here, what kind of stage, you know, physical and mental stage they come here? Do -- are they distract? So, what would you say the percentage that come here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no that's clinician.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So usually the great majority are Guatemalan. It's not a higher percentage rate. Usually when they get here, they were very distraught, in the sense that they don't know where they're at. They're thinking they're going to continue in the process of just processing them. And when they see the environment and they see the other kids and they see the yard, they start relaxing.

So, the first 24 hours are crucial for us, you know, making sure that we got them the basic needs, showers, you know, clothing, food, and before we even start the assessment. And within those 24 hours, our unit shelter manager is in charge of, you know, doing a brief update with what's going on with them, that way we can address it immediately. And then eventually every department takes a turn to be able to further assess the needs of the kids. So, it's a process.

TRUMP: It's a process, yes. But I've heard they're very happy, and they love to study? They love to go to school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, absolutely. When the children first get here, you know, it is a process. They go through an orientation. They go through a 24-hour orientation. This is where we get as much information as we possibly can from the children, again, to assess and make sure that we're not missing anything. If there's an immediate medical need that is immediately addressed. If there's an immediate mental health issue that needs to be addressed, we bring in our clinicians and then we take it from there.

You know, after they do an orientation -- they go through several orientations. They'll go through the shelter, they even go to the case manager orientation, then they'll also go to clinical orientation, so they will get the understanding of their current placement. And again, this is to inform them and keep them as calm as possible, and to reassure them that they are in a safe place, that they will be well take care off here. That they don't know have anything to worry about. Now they're in a safe environment free from abuse.

You know, every day is something new with the children. We provide a lot of structure here. During the Monday through Friday schedule, they do attend class and we try to educate them, we try to assimilate them to what the public education system is going to be like. And then we also integrate recreational activities, spiritual care for the children, down time for them. You know, this is their home. You know, they refer to these as shelters, but it is really a home for the children.

This is their house. So their bedrooms are their bedrooms. And as you will see, First Lady, when we do the tour, you'll see the children and you'll see the smiles on their faces and you'll hear them giggle. It's just fantastic. You know, the staff that we have here, we just have a tremendous passion for working with these children, and we see them as if they were our own. You know, then we do maintain boundaries and we do follow all the O.R. policies and guidelines, but just the passion that is there in working with these children, ensuring that they are safe and ultimately reunifying them with their families.

TRUMP: How long is the time that -- the last time that they spend here that they will be reunited with their family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we are averaging currently 42 to 45 days. So it's not an extended stay. And we're always following O.R. policies and procedures and guiding as far as unification with the children. But the average length of stay is between 42 and 45 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, there is some occasions where some children do not have anybody to go back to. And in those situations, they are further assessed by the legal service provider that can help identify if they qualify for some type of legal relief and eventually some children will move on to refugee status and not unaccompanied children. And again it's few and far between, but we do have that process where, you know, some children do not have anybody to go to.

[12:35:01] These families have been killed, murdered, just different, very tragic situations. And hopefully when you get to speak to some of the children -- to a couple of the children today, you'll see that there's not hope for them to go back to a country that they're leaving. So, we get the broad spectrum. We have kids that come into custody and are reunified rather quickly if everything is in order and then we have some children that will unfortunately stay within the system for a number of years until they can qualify for refugee status and move on to our other assisted program on a couple refugee (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: So these children also don't come here alone without parents?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority of our children, yes, ma'am, they are unaccompanied and/or detained by DHS and border patrol for the majority. And that's a big part of who we are and who we work with, yes, ma'am.

TRUMP: Because they are between 12 and 17 years old, right, so they kind of understand and they know where they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am.

TRUMP: They're not young-young?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am, that's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have the capability to take care of younger children here younger than 12?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our state license does allow us to take children as young as six. But for the current census right now (INAUDIBLE) to stay within four to 17 range.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. Secretary, often times we'll place younger children in our foster home. Could you explain that process, how you do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, sure. So at the time of detention or apprehension, we work very closely with our parents over at Homeland Security and they identify, you know, young children let's say zero to five years old. And we have a series of a network, a foster homes throughout the United States that are licensed in that particular state to work with children from zero to five years old. And there's a family setting that these kids work in.

And again, the same standard applies. We assess them for any medical need or any serious complication where we may have to use doctors, hospitals in that situation because we get every type of child in our custody, somebody who is nonmobile, nonverbal to, you know, somebody whose mom may have, you know, perished in the Rio Grande or something that -- here at South Texas. So, those kind of kids are taken care of very special circumstances and they're throughout the United States also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we also have foster care programs in Corpus Christi as well as El Paso and as of today we're currently serving around 100 children in this program.

TRUMP: I see. Great. Thank you very much. I'm looking forward to meeting the children and tour the facility. So, thank you very much again for all of what you do.

(OFF-MIC)

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: OK. We have been watching something pretty extraordinary and unusual, an unannounced visit but one that the First Lady clearly wanted to get out to the world, bringing our Kate Bennett and our camera crew and our live equipment to show her first stop at a detention center in Texas, in McAllen, Texas. She had these discussions. I want to talk about this with our panel, with the federal and local officials who are running this detention center, trying to get information. One thing that was noteworthy is that it sounds like the majority of

the children who are there came unaccompanied, about 10%. So there are 60 kids, about five or six, were separated from their families. So that's the experience that she has and she's about to get when she actually tours, which we're not seeing quite yet. Although it looks like there is a shot of her starting her tour. You know what, let's listen in to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this will allows me to know what their basic schedule is going to be like. It identifies the will, (INAUDIBLE) the roles of the facility and then their daily activities. So this is change daily so the children know exactly what they're going to be doing throughout the day. Of course we have our goals.

TRUMP: Yes. They keep it very organized.

[12:40:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They keep it very organized. They keep up with their rules.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do their own benefits. They do (INAUDIBLE). We do have certain rules, but for the most part, children maintain their rooms. They take ownership while they're here, and a lot of times they'll say, this is my bed? They never had a bed before. Absolutely, this is your bed while you are here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of our few complaints we get from them is that they (INAUDIBLE) so they think it's cold in here.

(OFF-MIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we don't think about that.

(OFF-MIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we can walk on over here. Another here room. Here we can (INAUDIBLE).

(OFF-MIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Follow this gentleman here.

BASH: OK. You can see this is raw, live TV, everybody. We are going with what we're getting down there because this is something that obviously is happening on the fly. You just, I think, heard one of the press officials there saying no cameras. At that point it looked like that was at the time when the First Lady was actually going to go in and interact with the children. But you saw the beginning of her tour listening to the man who heads that shelter there, explaining what the schedules are for the children during the day, so on and so forth.

Let's bring it back around the table. Just to talk about, first and foremost, the imagery and the import of what we just saw and the fact that the First Lady was and is there. JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It is important. It's different. Most of the children were there, as you noted, are not the children that were taken from their parents. They're children that have come unaccompanied across the border. We heard a lot about this, actually, during the Obama administration and he received quite a bit of criticism for how he dealt with that crisis a couple years ago.

That said, yes, it's important that she's taking the press through. It's important that she's drawing attention to this. That said, that briefing was a little bit like everything is fine. The kids come in here, they're a little upset and then they relax, I think is what one of the officials there.

You know, we've read accounts that that is not the case, especially with these young children who come in and do not calm down or catatonic. There could be permanent damage from what has already occurred to them. So, forgive me for looking at this with a bit of a skeptical eye.

BASH: And these are, if I may just add since we're just getting information, of the 60 children but the age range is 5 to 17. So this is not the tender age facility that one of them that we've been hearing about and talking so much about. These are kids, presumably, who can communicate unlike some of the babies who can't and just want to be held and be held by their parents and can't. Most of the kids here did cross the border illegally but unaccompanied.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And, I mean, this was a hand-picked place by the American government to give a certain impression of what these facilities are like. We don't know what these facilities are like. They're all over the country. There are some in New York. There are some in Michigan. Apparently, there's some in South Carolina, there's some in Texas as well. They're run by different sorts of people.

And, you know, I mean, that's what this highlighted to me, again, how little we know and how selective the government has been in giving access. I mean, the President has tried to get access to some of these --

BASH: That's an important point.

HENDERSON: -- you know, the press is trying to get access to some of these places and they've been very sparing in terms of allowing cameras in. Certainly there are privacy issues with these young kids. In some ways, it was hard to hear what they were saying in that exchange but at some point they seemed to suggest that it could take 45 days for kids to be reunited with their parents, or, you know, if they're unaccompanied minors.

There was one statement that said some children will move on to refugee status. Is that because they're unaccompanied minors and already their families aren't there? Is that because their parents have been deported back and there's nowhere to place them? So, you know, I mean, I'm not sure this is going to be the feel-good story and the sort of compassionate take on this that the White House hopes.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I think they were obviously going for that. They want to show this is a place that's got a lot of programs, as well run. These are obviously people who care about what they do. But at the same time, it imports as the whole idea these kids have been taken from their families and they might get a phone call, be able to make a phone call to someone. You know, they come in, they're upset.

I think that, you know, it's driving the point that this is still going on. And they're not quite sure when they're going to be united, how long they're going to be in the system and there sort of questions that the administrations is going to be confronting them.

[12:45:10] BASH: And let me just say, look, the images that we're looking at here from moments ago and right now you the First Lady is meeting with children. Understandably, these are minors. And apparently the shelter rules are such that they don't want to have cameras in there no matter who is in there which is understandable. Go ahead.

FRANCO ORDONEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: I will just going to add. I agree. I think the First Lady does deserve some credit for going down there, visiting these children, showing her face and being there. But there are just so many questions. And the fact is these kids are there without their parents. And unfortunately, I think that's not the image that they want to portray.

Melania going there is not a substitute for a parent. I'm sure they would much rather be there with a parent. And I would be curious if those are the kind of questions that are going to be posed to the First Lady and I'd be curious what their answer would be.

BASH: And I want to keep this discussion going for the next minute or so, but we are waiting for tape from the President who is just wrapping up his cabinet meeting where he actually announced the news that the First Lady is there. Made a public, we obviously knew about it in private.

Go ahead, Nia.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, we'll see. I mean, I think this is a logistical nightmare for these kids. It's a horror. I mean, you can imagine being ripped from your parents at that age. I remember going off to kindergarten and being horrified that I was being separated from my mom for an afternoon. And you imagine that these kids are there.

I mean, we'll see what the First Lady is prepared to do when she gets back. I do think she should be commended for going down there and bringing some information back to the President and bringing information about what's going on with those kids down at the border. But I think, as you said, more questions and more uncomfortable questions for this White House.

BASH: Yes. And so Kate Bennett, among the things that she's reporting back, is that the First Lady said she wants to see a realistic view of what's happening. This is one of two shelters that she's going to get to. Now, she is seeing a realistic view. I mean, she's being told by the people who run the place what's happening, and she will and she is getting a chance to actually talk to the children.

Actually -- hold on that thought. I want to go to the White House, to the President speaking at his cabinet meeting.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody, thank you very much for being here. This is a cabinet meeting and we have plenty of things to discuss and plenty of success. We've had a tremendous amount of success.

We're working, however, right now on immigration, which has been going on for many years. We have come up with a lot of solutions, but we have Democrats that don't want to approve anything because that's probably, they think, bad for the election that's coming up. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people suffering, and that's unfortunate.

Unrelated, and before we get into that, the new employment claims recently out just yesterday show that we have the lowest level in nearly half a century. That's something that is an incredible statistic. And in half a century. That's a long time.

And the economy is booming. It's doing really well. We're renegotiating trade deals. We're doing very well on those trade deals. Its taking a little period of time. We put tariffs on certain countries and certain industries where it's been very unfair to the United States. Our Treasury has taken in billions of dollars. And these other countries are coming along that have not treated us well, and they are negotiating very vigorously. And lots of good things are happening.

This should have been taken care of a long time before my administration came into being. But for some reason, for 25, 30 years, nobody ever looked at trade deals. They're out of control, how bad they are. But we're going to make them very good. And we're going to make them fair for both countries, for our country and for whichever country we're dealing with. And there are plenty of them because they're all bad. There's nothing good.

My administration is also acting swiftly to address the illegal immigration crisis on the southern border. Loopholes in our immigration laws, all supported by extremist, open-border Democrats, and that's what they are. They're extremist, open-border Democrats. If you look at Nancy Pelosi and you look at Chuck Schumer, you'll see tapes where they wanted to have borders. They needed borders for security, just a short while ago.

A number of years ago, I see Chuck Schumer, we must have borders. Hillary Clinton, we must have borders. If people penetrate our borders, we must get them out of our country. Now, all of a sudden, they're big open-border people. It's a whole big con job. In the meantime, people are suffering because of the Democrats. [12:50:05] So we've created, and they've created, and they've let it happen, a massive child-smuggling industry. That's exactly what it's become. Traffickers, if you think about this, human traffickers are making a fortune. It's a disgrace.

These loopholes force the release of alien families and minors into the country when they illegally cross the border. Since 2014 alone, nearly 200,000 unaccompanied alien minors have been released into the United States as a result of Democrat-backed loopholes, including catch-and-release, which is one of the worst. You catch them, and then you release them. Might as well save your time. Don't bother catching them. And this is what we're stuck with. They're the worst immigration laws in the history of the world. The whole world is laughing at the United States, and they have been for years.

These alien minors were separated and sent all the way up here alone. But they really came up with coyotes. You know what a coyote is. Not good. These are not good people. They were sent up here with human traffickers because the Democrat-supported policies have allowed this to happen.

Democrats also refuse to fund the personnel, the bed space, the resources that we need to house the minors. Now, they want us to take care of the minors, and that's fine. But they don't want to give us the money to take care of them. Because the worse everything looks, they think, the better they're going to do, with respect to the blue wave which is turning out, frankly, to be a red wave if you look at the polls. I think we're going to have a red wave, not a blue wave.

So they want us to take care of bed space, and resources, and personnel, and take everybody. And, you know, like, let's run the most luxurious hotel in the world for everybody. But they don't want to give us the money. So you could ask them about that.

We have to house these minors, and we have to house them safely. And frankly, we have to house them and we should be taking good care of them, and then we should return them back home. That's what we have to do.

But every time we ask for resources, the Democrats say no. They say no to everything. They're obstructionists. Because they think that's good, politically. I think it's bad, politically. For them, I think it's bad, politically. We'll see.

In addition, Democrat and court-ordered loopholes prevent family detention and lead to family separation, no matter how you cut it. I signed a very good executive order yesterday, but that's only limited. No matter how you cut it, it leads to separation ultimately. I'm directing HHS, DHS, and DOJ to work together to keep illegal immigrant families together during the immigration process and to reunite these previously separated groups.

But the only real solution is for Congress to close the catch-and- release loopholes that have fueled the child smuggling industry. The Democrats are causing tremendous damage and destruction, and lives by not doing something about this. And they know that. They know that better than anybody up there with a pen.

If we don't close these loopholes, there is no amount of money or personnel in the world to address the crisis. Very serious crisis. Been going on so long. This isn't Trump administration. You look back at 2014, during the Obama Administration they have pictures that were so bad. They had a judge that said it was inhumane the way they were treating children.

Take a look at some of the court rulings against the Obama administration. They talked about inhumane treatment. I read them. I looked at them. They're all over the place. Inhumane treatment. They were treating them terribly. We have a situation where some of these places they're really running them well. And I give a lot of credit to Secretary Nielsen and all of the people that have worked. It's the nicest that people have seen. But it's still something that shouldn't be taking place.

My wife, our First Lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this and to seeing it, as it bothered me, as it bothered everybody at this table. We're all bothered by it. But we need two to tango. We have 51 votes in the Senate. We need 60, unfortunately, because we have the ridiculous filibuster rule. So we need 60.

And I think I'll get four or five or six from senators, frankly, running in states where I won by 25, 30, 40 points with Mike.

[12:55:03] And I think we'll get six senators, maybe we'll get seven senators. That still doesn't get us to 60. So there's nothing you can do to get there. And people don't understand that. When we have a majority in the Senate, we have a majority by one, but we need 10 votes.

So we need 10 -- essentially, we need 10 Democrats. Not going to get them. They're told by Schumer and Pelosi, don't do it because we want to see if we can pick up seats. They don't care about the children. They don't care about the injury. They don't care about the problems. They don't care about anything. All they do is say, obstruct, and let's see how we do. Because they have no policies that are any good. They're not good politicians. They got nothing going. All they're good at is obstructing.

And they generally stick together. I respect them for that. That's about it. Their policies stink. They're no good. They have no ideas. They have no nothing -- the Democrats. All they can do is obstruct, and stay together, and vote against, and make it impossible to take care of children and families and to take care of immigration.

We should be able to make an immigration bill that can really solve the problem, not just -- this is one aspect of it. This is one very important but small aspect of it. We should be able to do a bill. I'd invite them to come over to the White House anytime they want. This afternoon would be good. After the Cabinet meeting would be good. They are invited, officially. I'll let you do the inviting. Let the press do the inviting. But we have to do something about immigration in this country. For 50 years, and long before that, it was a disaster. But over the last 20, 25 years, it's gotten worse. Every time they write a rule or regulation, it makes it worse, not better. We can solve this problem.

We have to hire thousands of judges. No country in the world is hiring judges like that. They hire border people that -- you can't come into the country. Mexico, by the way, is doing nothing for us. Nothing. They have the strongest immigration laws. They can do whatever they want. They can keep people out of Mexico. You have a 2,000-mile journey up Mexico. They walk through Mexico like it's walking through Central Park. It's ridiculous. Mexico does nothing for us.

So then when people say, why are you being so tough with NAFTA? And I am being tough because we -- it's a terrible deal for the United States. Mexico is making $100 billion a year off us and the horrible NAFTA deal. And I am being tough. One of the reasons I'm being tough is because they do nothing for us at the border. They encourage people, frankly, to walk through Mexico and go into the United States because they're drug traffickers, they're human traffickers, they're coyotes. I mean, we're getting some real beauties.

Mexico is doing nothing for us except taking our money and sending us drugs. They're doing nothing. They could solve this problem in two minutes; you wouldn't even have to do anything. But they don't do it. They talk a good game, but they don't do it. So we'll see how that all comes out. It'll be very interesting to see.

So with that, I'll end by saying we had a tremendous success in North Korea. We continue to work on that. Mike Pompeo has been fantastic. John Bolton, working together with Mike, has been fantastic. I don't even know where -- there he is. I thought he might have gone back to North Korea. He spent so much time in North Korea. Surprised to see you here.

But I think I can speak for both of us in saying it's been an incredible experience. The relationship is very good. They've stopped the sending of missiles, including ballistic missiles. They're destroying their engine site. They're blowing it up. They've already blown up one of their big test sites. In fact, it was actually four of their big test sites. And the big thing is, it will be a total denuclearization, which is already starting taking place.

And I understand, Mike, that they've already sent back, or are in the process of sending back, the remains of our great heroes who died in North Korea during the war. And that's already in the process of coming back.

Plus, as you all know very well, we got back our hostages, our three hostages, who are right now living very happily with their families, and we're very happy about that. So we've made tremendous progress with respect to North Korea, even since I last spoke to you. What we agreed to do is have a meeting. I know that some of the media says, oh, they agreed to meet. Well, yes, anybody would have agreed to meet, and it would not have been possible for past administrations to have met in the way that we've met. This was an incredible, important meeting.

All over Asia, they're in love with the United States because of what we've done. And Japan, I spoke to Prime Minister Abe, and he was so thrilled. He doesn't have rockets going over Japan. That makes him very happy, General. You know that, right? He's very thrilled not to see rockets going over Japan. There were plenty of them sent right over Japan, and he said, I want to thank you --