Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Coast to Coast Protests as Immigration Fight Boils Over; Interview with Dick Durbin. Aired 11-12n ET

Aired June 30, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:20] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Fredericka Whitfield in Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for joining me.

Nationwide outrage over the zero-tolerance policy -- right now thousands of people are marching across the country sending a powerful message against forced family separations at the southern border. The Trump administration's zero tolerance policy split more than 2,500 migrant children from their parents. And today, marchers are demanding that every child be reunited even though there's currently no plan to get them back together.

Meanwhile President Trump is challenging calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, saying Democrats will soon want to remove all police. Hundreds of marches are happening from coast to coast hosted by nearly 150 organizations including Move On and the ACLU.

CNN has a team of reporters tracking every step. Let's take a look.

One of the largest protests is happening just steps away from the White House. CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is there at Lafayette. So tell us what's happening.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Fredericka -- the outrage has descended right here Lafayette Park, like you said, just across the street from the White House. And while the President himself is not at the White House this weekend, he's at his gulf club in Bedminster, New Jersey thousands of people have come here to Lafayette Park to get their message directly to him as well as to Congress.

It is a little bit quiet here right now. That's because they're listening to the speaker behind me. But earlier, just a few minutes ago there were chants of "vote them out". I've talked to people here all the way from Denver and California, even heard of one family who drove 13 hours from Alabama.

So a lot of people have come here to D.C. This is really the focal point of all of those rallies happening all over the country.

So just behind me is the stage where all the speakers are taking center stage. We're expecting to hear, actually, from several children; they're aged seven to ten. And we understand that they're going to be reading letters that they've written directly to these kids who have been separated from their families and are now in shelters.

We're also expecting to hear from actress America Ferreira, singer and songwriter Alicia Keys, as well as the "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. They're all here. Of course, the thousands of people are surrounding me.

After this rally, they'll be headed up Pennsylvania Avenue directly toward Capitol Hill. And the Capitol, of course, Fredricka -- that is when they will try to make their voice known for this entire capital city and then at the end, end up right at the Capitol hoping to get their message not only to the President but also to Congress -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jessica Schneider -- thank you so much right outside the White House there in Lafayette Park.

CNN correspondent Rene Marsh is also in Washington, D.C. So Rene -- what's the perspective from there?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're on the other side Fred of the park where Jessica is. And she's right. I mean there are thousands of people out here, people with signs. I had the chance to speak to a lot of them.

Look -- and many of them say it is hot, it is humid. It's one of the warmest days in D.C. so far this year. But that is why they're out here because their message is so important.

I was just speaking to you actually, and if you talk to us live on TV -- William, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark.

MARSH: Mark. Sorry about that -- Mark. So, (AUDIO GAP) it's so important for you to come out here is because you wanted to send a message. What is the message?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to send the message that we're people, and that we're all families. And you know, 55, 65 years ago -- no, longer than that -- 80 years ago, we put people in Menzanar because they were Japanese. Now we're separating families because we don't like the color of their skin.

They're here because they want to get away from the violence and the corruption in their own country. They forget about the fact that there were a bunch -- there were 800 Jews that came over here, tried to get over here in 1938 and 1939, got sent back, and were all killed.

MARSH: So, Fred -- I mean that is one perspective out here. But, you know, I spoke to others who said, you know, they want to get the message to the President that they don't necessarily agree with his policy. But they also want to get a message out to people who want to come to the United States. You're kind of sharing that perspective with me as well. You said,

look, you're not just speaking directly to the President today, right? Who else are you speaking to?

[11:04:55] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm here because even if this does not change anybody's vote, the lawmakers' votes, I want people who want to come here, who want refuge in our country to know that there are many, many citizens of the U.S. who do not agree with what is going on now. And I want them to see this. I want to be another body for them to see.

MARSH: Thank you so much.

So Fred -- just a sampling of what we're hearing out here. Of course, we're going to start moving and marching from this park, and we'll make our way toward the Capitol. They will be making a stop at the Department of Justice and then again moving their way to the Capitol.

We will be with them throughout the way. So we'll see you again once we start to move -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Rene Marsh with sentiments there with the march getting under way. And in the background you're hearing from the voices and the sounds of the Piscataway Indian Nation.

All right. Thanks so much and Jessica Schneider outside the White House.

All right. Now let's check in with CNN's Polo Sandoval right there in New York City, and what's taking place there?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A really incredible sight here -- Fred. We are at the head of a massive March that is walking onto the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Behind me what organizers say are thousands of men, women, and children who have come together here in New York City to get their message heard loud and clear, calling not just for the reunification of these families but also for the stop and the removal of President Trump's zero tolerance policy.

In this crowd as we mentioned there are families, also lawmakers including New York Congressman Adriano Espaillat. Congressman -- you're live on CNN. Tell me what brings you out here, the main message you want your Republican colleagues to hear as you walk on to Brooklyn Bridge?

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK: Well, first of all, New York City and New York State must be the place where this movement begins because we're a city and a state of immigrants.

Second of all, we have to make sure these children are reunited with their families. That's why I'm sure with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez to make sure that dreamers come out of the shadow, make sure that family reunification that brought me to this nation is kept whole and to assure that we TPS (ph) and diversity (INAUDIBLE).

That's the agenda. That's the agenda. It should not be laced with toxic stuff like the wall. It should not be laced with toxic stuff like eliminating family reunification, or beating up on dreamers, and obviously keeping children away from their mothers.

SANDOVAL: Congresswoman Velazquez -- this is -- the issue of immigration is nothing new for Americans across the country. What is new now especially after the President's zero tolerance policy? What has changed that has led so to many people getting involved?

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ (D), NEW YORK: Because people realize in this country that we must fight for the values that have made this country a beacon of hope.

Here we are, with this type of events all over across America. You can see white, black, brown, Native Americans, every one, old and young, coming together to send a strong message to the President of the United States. This cannot happen under our watch.

SANDOVAL: Thank you so much to the both of you. Good luck today.

Fred -- again these are two voices. There are many more people here. Something that's interesting as I step out of the shot so you can see that there are many families here. Many of these families have not been directly affected by this but they say that they are here representing those families familiarities who are throughout the country still either being held or in the process of being reunified with their families.

They say those reunifications have not happened often enough. And they are very confident that the President is watching -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval -- thank you so much, with the voices there in New York City on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now let's check in with CNN's Ryan Young. He is live in Chicago -- Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're about 45 minutes away from this protest starting and already a large crowd is gathered. Senator Durbin is also here. And of course, you see people starting to gather here.

There's a lot of passion from people in terms of this subject. What are you hoping to get the message out to the country today from a protest like this.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Look at these families. On the hottest day of the year in Chicago, bringing their kids out here and marching for other families. Two-thirds of the American people have said the zero tolerance policy of Donald Trump, separating children from their families, is just plain wrong.

These folks are going to walk in the streets today to make that point which is what you do in a democracy.

YOUNG: Look, you're a senator. You obviously can have your voice heard but there are some who feel very frustrated right now with not being able to make change. We've been talking immigration for quite some time. What can happen? What can be changed now so people can have some sort of relief?

DURBIN: Let me tell you. I believe in two things. I believe in the goodness and values of the American people and I believe in the constitution. The constitution tells us in November, we get a chance to speak.

And I'm asking people across the United States, voters participate, be part of this election. Don't stay home and curse the television -- sorry. But come on out and use your citizen's right to vote. That's the most important thing.

YOUNG: When I walk around here, there's a lot of people who are passionate. People brought their children here. They're walking around with signs.

[11:10:02] They obviously want people like yourself to do something. What should you tell the other members of Congress at this point? What should they do to make some change happen?

DURBIN: They can either listen today or they're going to hear the message in November. I think the American people are going to speak loudly, that they're sick and tired of what's happening in terms of this immigration policy.

Look at ICE -- what a group of incompetents. At this point they're focused more on toddlers than terrorists. They want -- instead of deporting felons, they want to deport that are being persecuted by criminal gangs.

We're in the middle of the worst drug epidemic in our history and instead of focusing on stopping bad drugs from coming in and stopping dirty drug money from going out they're focusing on separating kids from their families.

YOUNG: Senator -- I hear the passion in your voice. What are you going to tell these people today? And how has this affected you personally?

DURBIN: Here's the good news for this crowd. No politicians will be speaking. There are going to be members of the clergy and those representing the families. We'll be in the crowd as we should be, I hope taking back the message to Washington and it's time to put an end to this cruel and incompetent policy.

YOUNG: Senator -- thank you so much for giving me your time.

DURBIN: You got it.

YOUNG: Obviously a lot of people are here wanting to talk to the Senator as well. But you see there's more than an hour away. They're expecting more a couple of thousand people to show up here today. This might be one of the biggest marches according to the organizers.

I can hear them say no politician is taking the stage. They plan to turn this over to the people and the clergy. They want to have their voices heard -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Young -- thank you so much there in Chicago.

Let's go to the southern border where there has been a lot of activity in the last few weeks in McAllen, Texas whether it be by people who are crossing the border being processed or even many protesters for the last two weekends have gathered.

Our Dianne Gallagher is back there in McAllen, Texas. So what is expected there today?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred -- our protest much like Chicago isn't expected to start for a little bit of time now. It's going be most likely smaller than what you're seeing around the rest of the country in part due to population but also due to the fact that look, they've been out here protesting weekly if not daily in these border communities, not just since the rest of the nation became aware of the zero tolerance policy, but some of them for years now protesting ICE as an entity itself.

Now here MoveOn.org as well as some of the organizations that are sponsoring the protests around the country are also involved in these. We're thinking probably about a hundred people, according to organizers.

And really McAllen, Texas -- the images from the processing center, which is just down the road here. I toured it a couple of weeks ago. Those images of children in cages, their parents in cages that last place, covered in those Mylar silver blankets before they're separated. That's what galvanized so many across the country. The people here in McAllen looking to the people around the country to show them support today.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dianne Gallagher -- thank you so much in McAllen, Texas. Appreciate that.

As we continue to monitor the gatherings across the country, still ahead more on the marches happening nationwide as millions take to the streets. We'll take you to more cities right after this.

[11:13:07] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

You're looking at the protests gathering across the nation, those who are in opposition of the immigration zero-tolerance policy.

Right now, I want to take you straight to Washington, D.C. And you're hearing from four kids who are reading letters to children detained. Listen.

(LIVE EVENT)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Being separated from their families. And two, it's just wrong. You haven't gotten to see much of America yet but there are so many different types of people in America.

I really hope you and everyone else get free and live a happy, playful life like a kid should.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish the President would think about everyone else who is suffering and sad and try to help. People may argue that there are good reasons for us, but there are not. There isn't even one good reason.

Me and my mom won't stop protesting until everything is right. Love, Olivia. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear friend -- I wish I could meet you and help you to follow your dreams because that is something no one can ever take away from you. The pain you feel today is the strength you will need to carry on and keep going.

It may feel hard but you can do it. I know you can. You are not alone. And if you ever feel alone, just think of me and all the other people in the world that want to help you and your family get back together.

I know that if we met, we could be great friends and we could talk about what you're going through and make you feel better. Your friend, Addison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a letter to all the children in the detention centers. Do not think of America as a cruel place where people hate you and put you in jail. There are people -- good people who are going to help you find your families again.

Family separation is not right and we will keep fighting until each and every one of you is back in your families again -- that is a promise.

My father came to America at age 17 with $400 in his pocket. Now he has his own business, a wife, my sister and I, a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood and is a proud American citizen. So don't give up hope. Anything is possible. With love, Noah.

[11:20:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Lucy. I'm so sad that you can't be with your family. That is so messed up.

I would miss my family too. I would miss their hugs and playing with my sister. I wish I could give you a big hug. I know that kids should be with families. My family will keep fighting to make sure that happens. Love, Lucy.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Powerful messages coming from kids ranging in age from seven to ten there in Washington, D.C. trying to offer appeals to kids that are detained from the southern border.

I want to go straight to Boston now -- Senator Elizabeth Warren, one week after visiting one of the processing centers in McAllen, Texas. Let's listen in.

(LIVE EVENT)

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is about children held in cages. This is about babies scattered all across the country. This is about mamas who want their children back.

President Trump seems to think that the only way to have immigration rules is to rip parents from their families, is to treat rape victims and refugees like terrorists, and to put children in cages. This is ugly, this is wrong, and this is not the way to run our country.

The President's deeply immoral actions have made it obvious we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and values.

This moment is a moral crisis for our country. Dr. Martin Luther King said there comes a time when silence is betrayal.

We will not be silent. We cannot be silent. We will build a country that reflects our values. That is why we are here.

Thank you all. It's an honor to be with you. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. You're listening to Senator Elizabeth Warren there making her plea, saying this is ugly, this is wrong, and this is not the way we run our country -- meaning this zero tolerance policy, the separation of children from their parents.

Senator Warren was in McAllen, Texas last weekend and had very terse words after her observations there of how children had been separated from their parents there on the border. She also offered this challenge to the Trump administration saying we need to rebuild the immigration system and starting with replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality.

And we know that the President ahead of these demonstrations throughout the country tweeted today saying the Democrats are trying to remove ICE, but offering his support to immigration authorities and encouragement.

All right. Let's talk about all of this that's unfolding right now across the country.

Joining me right now CNN political commentators Matt Lewis and David Swerdlick. Good to see you both.

So, you know, David -- you first. You know, the road is very long for any kind of legislation that would remove or in any way modify ICE. But the challenge right now of reunifying children and parents -- that can be immediate. That is something still the President could do.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, good morning -- Fred.

So, right, the President has it in his power to go back to the policy that was in place during the Obama and the Bush administrations which some people refer to as catch and release. This idea that when people come across the border and they're interdicted -- they're processed but then sort of released into the United States on their own recognizance, sometimes maybe with electronic monitoring to return for a later immigration hearing or an asylum hearing or something like that.

As you said, we're a long way from a broader comprehensive immigration reform. And also from anything like quote, unquote "abolish ICE".

But what you see going on here is this jockeying between the senators who, by the way, might be presidential candidates in 2020.

[11:25:03] You said Senator Warren said let's think about replacing ICE. Senator Gillibrand yesterday said let's abolish ICE. You had Senator Harris the other saying let's re-imagine it.

This is what --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And Senator Dick Durbin said, when in Chicago talking to our Ryan Young. He said, you know, look at ICE, you know, it is more focused on toddlers than on terrorists.

SWERDLICK: Right. And I think that this is a situation where Democrats are expressing the outrage of people who see a cruel policy of separation of families.

On the other hand, though, this is not a position that's been endorsed by the leadership of the Democratic Party in Congress. And I think we're seeing some tension there about that trend, represent people who want change but also not get too far out ahead on the issue.

WHITFIELD: So Matt -- while the President is not at the White House right now, he's in New Jersey. He's not in another country. He's got a television set. He can see what's taking place across the country.

He can hear from these kids who had their letters that they recited there, ages seven to ten, you know, with a lot of compassion. Really challenging the White House, you know, to be more compassionate. How can he ignore what is taking place today?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we know he's watching. He watches TV.

WHITFIELD: He's watching TV all the time. Right.

LEWIS: So but look, I think right now Donald Trump is thinking that Democrats are playing into his hands and I think they are. If the conversation is about family separation and finding some way to fix that, then I think the onus is on Donald Trump and on the White House and I think the Democrats would be winning politically.

But I think they're making this mistake which is to make it about ICE. When Kirsten Gillibrand and Durbin and anybody else -- when they talk about it they're changing the subject from family separation to I think a much more radical idea which to some people and in fact maybe some midterm voters might sound like open borders. Like you know, no enforcement at all.

And so I think that Democrats are --

WHITFIELD: Well, the President even said that. He said, you know, first it's ICE now, you know --

LEWIS: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- The same people will want to take away police. But nobody has said that. That really is extremist kind of view and it doesn't appear as though it's realistic that anyone thinks that.

LEWIS: Well, I don't even think it's realistic that we're going to do away with ICE to begin with. But look, I think as Dave was mentioning, Democrats right now have this problem which is, it's in their collective best interest to do one thing and I think that's to talk about family separation.

But individually they have this perverse incentive to one-up each other. Let's get rid of ICE. This reminds of what Republicans were doing. Remember Rand Paul wanted to audit the Fed. Ted Cruz wanted to abolish the IRS. Rick Perry had three agencies he wanted to get rid of, one of which he now runs.

WHITFIELD: Right.

SWERDLICK: Right.

LEWIS: I think Democrats are kind of going through their period now of this.

SWERDLICK: Yes. Fred -- can I just say --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

SWERDLICK: I kind of agree with Matt. Look, there's a moral component to this. There's a legal component to this. And polls show that the majority of Americans think President Trump has handled the (AUDIO GAP) majority of Republicans (AUDIO GAP) the way he's handled it.

But on the pure politics I think you're right. Democrats risk getting out in front of this issue because ICE and then the border patrol -- two separate entities of the Homeland Security Department are interdicting people at the border.

How you treat those people is a little bit further upstream. And I think when the issue as you said is on look, this is a cruel policy of separating families and not giving people due process when they make asylum claims, Democrats are winning.

When it's abolish ICE and, you know, allowing the President, even if it's wrong or an exaggeration to say that Democrats are vilifying law enforcement, that might be a little --

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: But when you're running for president and you're in a state that just nominated -- or the Democrats just nominated a Democratic Socialist and you want to run for president and you're trying to out- flank Kamala Harris and others, this makes a lot more sense as an individual than it might for the Democratic Party.

SWERDLICK: I think that's right.

WHITFIELD: But back to the morality issue, when you have in the same week, the first lady Melania visits her second immigration, you know, facility. That in concert with the President saying equally, you know, he hates seeing that these kids are being separated from, you know, their parents. Does it not send a message that there is -- whether it's Melania, the first lady, using her influence to help promote some sort of change?

I mean does it not promote some sort of sincerity question. How sincere is the White House really on being compassionate about this issue if the needle really hasn't been moved?

LEWIS: I don't know if they are because - we've got --

WHITFIELD: We have a real slow rate of reunification.

LEWIS: We have really two opposite sort of arguments. I mean we've heard reported that Donald Trump and certainly Jeff Sessions and Steven Miller want family separation to happen.

SWERDLICK: Right.

LEWIS: They want this to be as ugly and chaotic and messy as possible --

WHITFIELD: As a deterrent.

LEWIS: -- as a deterrent.

And then on the other hand we want to hear -- we hear from Donald Trump and Melania about compassion. So both things can't be true, right?

SWERDLICK: Right.

LEWIS: And I'm inclined to believe the former that actually this is part of the plan.

[11:29:58] SWERDLICK: Yes, there's some disingenuousness on the part of members of the administration. Attorney General Sessions went to the border in May and said he wanted to do this family separation as (inaudible), as you pointed out, but now that there's so much backlash, the president, the White House, the first lady's office, various institutions want to say, no, no, we don't want to be cruel to these children. We want to figure out a solution. That's what the president's executive order was about --

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The message is still the same as long as you have people who were separated. Until families are brought back together in an expedited fashion, will anybody really feel like, OK, you know, something's --

SWERDLICK: No. It's within the president's power. And to your point, the president wants to be the tough guy and also the compassionate "I love the kids" guy. At the same time, that is not possible in this situation.

WHITFIELD: All right. David and Matt, we leave it there for now. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you. We'll be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:14]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Growing uproar over U.S. immigration policies. Right now, thousands of people are marching in Washington, D.C., and across the country, and that includes New York City where we saw this happen just moments ago.

(VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: They had taken a pause on the Brooklyn Bridge there. That's where we find our CNN's Polo Sandoval. So, what was that moment all about, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really quite a brief but powerful moment, Fred, as this massive crowd stopped just short in the middle of the Brooklyn bridge, looked toward Lady Liberty and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Certainly, a lot of symbolism there.

The monument representing so much a new beginning for many immigrant families. So, that clearly was meant to send a strong message to the people who are watching including the president of the United States.

I've had an opportunity with many people here, men, women, children even, many people bringing their families out here saying they're here for the families who could not be here, many of whom are still in detention or in the process of being reunified with their family.

I'll leave you with this, obviously, the main message is here to stop this ongoing practice of separating families we've seen for some time. But one woman from Brooklyn told me, Fred, that this is more about (inaudible). It is about having the government get its act together and try to find out a way, solution to making these reunifications happen. Fred, back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. In New York now, I want to take you to Boston, Massachusetts, Representative Joe Kennedy III speaking now. Let's listen.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: -- infant little girl, infant little boy, we stand up and we say, not on our watch, not while we have something to say about it, not while you will hear our voices and see our signs, notary while we can march, not while we can protest.

Not while we will stand up and say to the people of Boston and Massachusetts and the United States and around the world with nearly 650 gathering just like this one around the planet today. That we will stand up and fight for our humanity and the humanity of our neighborhood.

We will fight for a government that is as good as the people it seeks to serve, that we see our humanity in the eyes of those children locked in those cages, and we will not accept it. Folks, I will leave you with one last message.

You, the thousands of people gathered in this square brought forth the emancipation movement, you brought forth the women's right to vote, you brought forth guy rights and equality. We will win. We will win.

It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow, but we will win. Thank you for being here. Stand up, speak out, keep fighting. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Representative Joe Kennedy III there in Boston, Massachusetts challenging the audience saying they're the ones who can help provoke change. I'm quoting him now, "Kids locked up in those cages, we will not accept that."

You're hearing from lawmakers in Boston, Massachusetts, and then across the board in cities from Chicago to L.A. and even New York. You're hearing from ordinary citizens who are turning out in large numbers in protest of the immigration zero tolerance policy.

WHITFIELD: All right. To Los Angeles now where people will soon be gathering there. Joining me right now is Josh Campbell, a CNN law enforcement analyst and a former FBI supervisory special agent. Josh, good to see you.

So, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE, really is in the political crosshairs right now with many calling for it to be abolished altogether. You heard from Senator Warren earlier who said we need to rebuild the immigration system, replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality," she says, should be the focus.

So, help people understand when they hear that, ICE should be abolished, according to many who are advocating for that. How is that different from the U.S. Border Customs agents who are also on the border?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hi, Fred. Well, it can get confusing really quickly when you start throwing out the names of agencies and then it gets even confusing still when there are different components and subcomponents.

[11:40:05] So let's separate the two for a second. First, you have Customs and Border Protection, these are the physical officers you see there at the border as we see the scenes of, you know, arrests and interdictions that are taking place. They're the ones who are physically there.

Then there's a separate agency, ICE, Immigration and Custom Enforcement. This evolved in the aftermath of 9/11 and it's the agency that has an investigative arm and also a detention and removal arm.

That's what folks have to understand. There really is two separate issues here. Now, if you recall in the last couple of days, we've seen obviously the issues growing a little more tense.

There were 19 special agents in charge of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Service, who actually sent a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen asking that within ICE, those two agencies actually be split into two because it does get confusing.

Where you have that investigative arm, which is looking at transnational crime, human trafficking things like that and that is getting clouded and confused with those who are actually responsible for going out and identifying those here who are here illegally and then trying to remove them.

And I could tell you lastly, I mean, that's going to be a key issue here in Los Angeles at the rally today. Obviously, we're on the west coast, it's a little early. We don't get under way for another least two hours.

But you look behind me, you could see the stage is getting set and we are going to have a rally that's going to start here. As we pan over, what ends at the ICE detention facility here in Los Angeles.

So, as we talk about these agencies, we can expect that to be front of mind for a lot of these protesters here and those who are rallying in support of immigrant rights, and really against some of the images that we've seen.

That will be the focus. And as the rally ends at ICE detention facility, we can expect this issue will be for a lot of people's minds as we continue to see, police are starting to do a soft closure now. We expect people should show up in the next hour.

WHITFIELD: So, these hundreds of people who are turning up, protesting today across the country, many of them are motivated by this argument that the U.S. is showing a lack of compassion and morality, but when it comes down to ICE and how it enforces immigration laws, is there really any wiggle room, you know, for compassion, morality from those individuals who are working for ICE or is this simply carry out the orders that have been given from DOJ, Department of Justice?

CAMPBELL: Yes, you've nailed it, Fred. That is the crux of the issue. And a lot of this starts at the top, right. Any law enforcement agency, whether it's the police department, national law enforcement, immigration and customs, there's a certain level of discretion that we expect from our officers.

Even prosecutors in their prosecutorial manual, they're told that you should exercise judgment to determine, if you see a crime, does it necessarily warrant prosecution?

That is, you know, the script that has flipped here on that because you have the Department of Justice that is essentially saying we have a zero-tolerance policy now. Crossing the border, you will be prosecuted.

That actually removes that discretion from the officers that are on the ground, from the prosecutors when you have national leadership that are, you know, enforcing and actually directing such an onerous policy.

Again, you know, we talk about elections having consequences. Each Department of Justice gets to set their own tone as far as what issues they will focus on. This appears to be one that Attorney General Sessions and the leadership of the Department of Justice is really taking on and not giving a lot of wiggle room to those who are actually on the ground facing those who were coming across the border.

WHITFIELD: And then when it comes down to the management or enforcement of the processing center to detention facilities and this effort to reunite families based on what the administration is committed, how are immigration authorities involved in that?

CAMPBELL: So, again, direction comes from on high as far as these are policies. You'll recall a lot of this is actually impacted by the courts where they're coming in and saying, hey, this separation policy, we need to take another look at that.

So, again, you know, the officers on the ground will be taking their orders, their directives from those who are on high and then it comes down to actually doing the reunifications.

It's very tough for the officers that are on the ground because, you know, they take the orders. They are told these are the priorities. These are what we need to do and as those change, you know, different polities, they'll reflect and react to do that.

I think one thing that, you know, we have to remember, and this is from, you know, purely analytical standpoint is that in our country, we have to balance law enforcement and ensuring that we have safe borders with what that actually does for our national security and image abroad.

If we have these images of children in cages, images of children being separated from families, is that worth, in a cost benefit analysis, the 100 percent zero-tolerance enforcement that we're seeing. It's something we're going to have to balance as a nation.

WHITFIELD: All right. Josh Campbell, thank you so much. It won't be long from now before people start gathering there in Los Angeles.

Meantime, large crowds have gathered in Washington, D.C. We're going to take you there right now. Impassioned remarks coming from Reverend Tracy Blackmond, senior pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ from Florescent, Maryland. REVEREND TRACI BLACKMON, SENIOR PASTOR, CHRIST THE KING UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, FLORESCENT, MARYLAND: -- from children who are caged in a prison industrial complex. That is too profitable for the few.

[11:45:05] In the name of God, America snatched over 30,000 children and caged them in juvenile detention centers, where we would rather incarcerate than education in the name of God.

And let us not forget America sent back fleeing Jewish refugees too, back to their death in the name of God.

We have been this way before, and we must not forget. We must also remember that this is not as much about safe immigration policy as it is about separatist ideology. And people of faith must not be silent in the face of a God that we do not serve.

WHITFIELD: All right, impassioned remarks coming from a variety of people. This pastor from Florescent, Missouri there in Washington, D.C., at the gathering there. We'll have much more of our breaking news coverage of this nationwide immigration protest today in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the nation's capital. We'll take a look at the people marching across the country at a variety of demonstrations, all sending a powerful message against forced family separations at the southern border.

The Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy split more than 2,500 migrant children from their parents and today marchers are demanding that every child be reunited even though there's currently no plan to get them back together. More live coverage of the nationwide marches in just a moment.

First, let's talk about the President Trump administration. He is spending the weekend at his golf resort in New York where he plans to interview candidates for the Supreme Court vacancy.

It's a decision the president said he'll make by next week. In fact, tweeting today, "I will be making my choice for justice of the United States Supreme Court on the first Monday after the July 4th holiday, July 9th."

The president is in search for a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring at the end of July. Trump says five people are on the short list with at least one woman.

[11:50:11] With me now to discuss this is Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian and a distinguished professor of history at American University. Professor, good to see you.

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Good to see you again.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, President Trump could go really down as one of the most influential presidents. LICHTMAN: Correct.

WHITFIELD: And because of a variety of things. Here now is a second opportunity to seat a U.S. Supreme Court justice. There is, of course, his tax plan that has made an impact for so many. And not for a lot of others, and then this immigration policy, zero-tolerance policy. So, how do you calculate, how do you assess how influential have we seen this president to be in just 18 months?

LICHTMAN: Incredibly influential whether you like or not. Let me talk about the grave importance of the Supreme Court nomination. John Adams, the second president of the United States, served for four years. His Federalist Party faded away.

But he put Chief Justice John Marshal on the Supreme Court who served more than 30 years and put the fingerprints of the dead Federalist Party all over the Constitution.

Here are some of the areas that are so critical in this Supreme Court nomination that's likely to move the court to the right. People have rightly focused on the social issues. Particularly women's right to a safe and legal abortion.

WHITFIELD: Gay rights.

LICHTMAN: Gay rights.

WHITFIELD: Voting rights.

LICHTMAN: Contraception. But let me talk about the balance of power in the country, which is hanging in the balance. First of all, voting rights. We've seen a court so far fairly willing to accept restrictions on voting in terms of voter purges, political gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering.

Second, the balance between business and labor. We've seen a court moving towards empowering business and crushing labor. Also, the power of the presidency is at stake here. Are we going to get a justice who is going to give us kind of uncontrolled presidential powers? So, the whole balance of power in our society is at stake here.

WHITFIELD: So, in your view, with this president will be looking for a replacement for Anthony Kennedy, someone who is like him, or will this president choose someone more like himself in terms of, you know, his beliefs on certain issues, any of those certain issues or political?

LICHTMAN: I have no doubt he couldn't care less about replicating Justice Kennedy who was somewhat of a swing vote.

WHITFIELD: He's praised him.

LICHTMAN: Thoughtful and introspective justice. That's fine. But he is going to look for someone in the model of Neil Gorsuch, a down the pipe powerful intellectual and aggressive conservative, who on all of these issues, including women's rights, gay rights and the balance of power in this country, is going to come down on the hard right.

WHITFIELD: Can I ask you, Professor, to hold your thought for a moment. Want to take folks outside to the gathering at Lafayette Park right outside the White House. This is the Hamilton Musical Creator Lin Manuel Miranda. Let's listen in. He's going to sing.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, "HAMILTON" CREATOR: I love you too. We're here because there's parents right now who can't sing lullabies to their kids. And -- well, I'm just going to sing a lullaby that I wrote, and this is for those parents. And we're not going to stop until they can sing them to their kids again.

(LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA SINGING)

[11:56:45] MIRANDA: Don't stop, don't give up until these families are united. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, you're listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda there in Washington, D.C. at that protest there, singing a lullaby, he says, to the parents who have been separated from their children. Rene Marsh is there in the crowd. Rene, what was the reception there from people who had an opportunity to hear that?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of emotion. You have that performance there by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and obviously the crowds went wild but, you know, earlier today they played that audio of those young children crying at the border, followed by Jeff Sessions' voice, announcing the zero-tolerance policy, and you just heard loud boos.

I want to set the scene for you. This is what we're seeing as far as the eye can see. People are packed in on one of the hottest days here in D.C., holding signs. I spoke with people who are from Vermont, Massachusetts.

You said you're traveling from Massachusetts. I heard your son chanting "change, change, change."

ALICIA KEYS, SINGER SONGWRITER: My name is Alicia Keys. And I'm a mother. That's all right. We got a little sound issue. I'm a mother. I love you. Thank you. My 7-year-old son is here with me today. His name is Egypt. And I couldn't even imagine not being able to find him. I couldn't imagine being separated from him or scared about huh he's being treated.

So, this is all of our fight because if it can happen to any child, it can happen to my child and your child and all of our children. So, I'm here to read the words of another mother whose son was held in immigration detention. The names have been changed but the words are hers.

My name is Margarita. I am the mother of Carlos, who is currently being held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in a detention center in Portland, Oregon. The first time I realized Carlos had arrived in the United States was when I received a voice mail from him in which he told me he was being held in Kansas City. When I spoke to Carlos, I felt my soul had returned to my body. I had spent nights without sleep searching and searching for my son without knowing where he was, a torture day by day.

The case manager explained to me he was going to send me some forms to apply to be my son's sponsor and he asked me for many documents. I was also given a home check. The investigator ensured me that in a week they would have results, that for the new year, they would surely give me my son.