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Coast to Coast Protests as Immigration Fight Boils Over; Protests Across the U.S. Against Trump's Immigration Policies. Protesters Follow Trump to New Jersey; Trump Administration Has No Concrete Plan for Reuniting Families Separated at Border. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired June 30, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in Washington, D.C.

Right now, thousands of people are marching nationwide with one message, families belong together. We've seen passionate pleas from coast to coast demanding an end to the White House's zero-tolerance policy, which separated thousands of m migrant children from their parents at the border.

Here are a few highlights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I am here as a human being.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: With a beating heart. Who can feel pain. Who understands compassion. And who can easily imagine what it must feel like to struggle the way families are struggling right now.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D), MASSACHUSSETTS: We need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom. Starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: 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 and a beautiful neighborhood, and is a proud American citizen.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: A variety of voices at one of the largest protests, which is still happening right now, just steps away from the White House here in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

Diane Guerrero is there on stage right now, of "Orange is the New Black." Her parents were deported. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE GUERRERO, ACTRESS: I share my struggle to help open eyes to the agony that every one of these kids will face forever. It is not temporary. It is forever.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: It is for life.

(APPLAUSE)

GUERRERO: My situation 17 years ago was different. I could not imagine living in a cage away from my parents. Away from anyone I know or anywhere I lived. I certainly cannot imagine being detained with my parents as the new policy dictates.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: I was lucky enough not to be caged. But that is only because I did not exist in the eyes of the government. They had no regard for a child left behind. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I still don't know. But I would have had a much different story to tell if I had been imprisoned after being separated from my family. Without a warm bed. And only the cold faces of ICE agents and the crinkly feeling of a mylar blanket.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: I was lucky enough to be with my parents until I was 14. Having my parents tell me that I could do anything. I was special. I matter.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: That gave me the confidence to last me a lifetime.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: I don't know why I was lucky enough to have people in my community take me in. To be able to continue school. Or why I was lucky enough to find work or go to college.

I do know that kind of luck is one in a million.

I also know I wouldn't have been so lucky if I had been among today's generation of children who will be irreversibly damaged by our government's actions. It's a denial of children's humanity. To say because they were born in difficult or dangerous place at the wrong time, that they don't deserve a second chance.

(CHEERING) GUERRERO: That they shouldn't ask for refuge.

(APPLAUSE)

GUERRERO: How many more children are we willing to subject to a lifetime of pain?

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: Once my family was taken, I became fully aware that my community matters less to some people. That we are treated differently because of the color of our skin or where our parents were born. But we are now in a moment where we can no longer be blind to the blatant disregard of human life.

(CHEERING)

[13:05:14] GUERRERO: This time, the stakes are too visible, too well documented to be ignored. It has reached you. It has reached all of us. And forced us to ask ourselves what kind of country do we want to be? One that violates the rights of children, including the fundamental right to seek asylum?

(SHOUTING)

GUERRERO: Or do we want to be an America that values children and families and the freedom to be who we are?

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: And let's not forget our citizen children and our citizen children of color whose lives are threatened every day for reasons beyond immigration status.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: As one who has seen firsthand, I have taught myself to have hope. I have to believe that this is an opportunity for us to rise above the tyranny, the ignorance, the malpractice, and believe in change. This is a chance for us to come together as a nation and rise above division and fear. Only then can we stop the separation of families and stop the policies that place children in cages.

So far, our families and children, let us march and make our voices heard.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: Remember, remember, this in November.

(CHEERING)

GUERRERO: Remember this in November.

(CHEERING) GUERRERO: When we march to the polls, remember our anger. The outrage. And the desire to act. Remember in November that the end to these cruel policies starts with us.

Mama, Papa and Edmundo (ph), I miss you every day.

Thank you.

(CHEERING)

WHITFIELD: Actress Diane Guerrero there, of "Orange is the New Black," among those taking the stage at the nation's capital. It has become one of the largest demonstrations across the country today. Just steps away from the White House. The president is not there. The president is in New Jersey, but surely he is hearing the calls from people across the country at these many televised demonstrations.

Let's go on the ground there with our correspondents

Justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, there in the nation's capital, as well as our Rene Marsh.

Jessica, let me go to you first.

How people are reacting to what they're hearing on stage, what they're committing to do from this day forward?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka. It's really interesting because the rally is still somewhat happening up in Lafayette Park across the from the White House. We kind of trickled out thinking the march had begun. You can see some people coming behind me. While we were kind of figuring out what we should do next, I ran into these two people, Mary and Gene Albrecht.

You guys are from Virginia. It was extremely interesting talking to you. Gene, you used to be a Republican but you're not in favorite of what you're seeing happen now.

GENE ALBRECHT, PROTESTER: Because to me the Republicans have gone about the money grab and transfer of wealth. Whereas, they don't care about the people anymore. And in particular, these immigration policies, to me, they're not Christian to begin with. And separating families to me is just -- that's above and beyond.

SCHNEIDER: Mary, you have family in Mexico. Your sister married a Mexican man, moved to Mexico. They have kids there. What are your thoughts coming out here today?

MARY ALBRECHT, PROTESTER: The thought that my own family would have difficulty coming across the border if they need to seek asylum for any reason chills me to the bone. That they would separate my nieces from their parents or my extended family down there who have babies. I have people who, in my family, who could potentially be in this position horrifies me.

SCHNEIDER: What do you want to see this administration do? MARY ALBRECHT: They need to remember how our country was founded. We

were founded on the premise that all of us are equal, all of us deserve a place here and that we have the freedom and liberty to make it work. We all have to work together. It's chilling. This administration should be completely -- they should be removed. They need to go away.

[13:10:01] SCHNEIDER: Are you hoping to get that message to the president, to Congress? About just start marching here, up towards Capitol Hill? What do you want them to know?

GENE ALBRECHT: Well, I would like them to listen to what's being said at the protest. I don't truly expect that to happen. But if enough people start talking about it -- you know, obviously, Donald Trump had to basically reverse the child separation policy, because so many people were against it. Now, I'm hoping that enough people come against the policy of charging the people as criminals and so that some of these policies can get reversed and we can go back to having some morality.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Mary and Gene Albrecht, thank you.

I know, Gene, you're nursing a hurt foot so good luck with this walk here.

Fredricka, those are the stories you're hearing. Many different people from many different walks of life. You have people from right around the Washington, D.C. area. But I've talked to people from all over the country who have come out here from multiple rallies. They say they've been to D.C. for the women's rally and other rallies here, but now coming to lend their voices.

While it might look a little bit bare behind us, that's because it's been a bit scattered here. People are still up in Lafayette Park at the rally. And then soon they'll make their way down here on to Pennsylvania Avenue and then make their way toward Capitol Hill where, again, they're just looking to flood these streets, show their outrage, and get out their voices -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, and, Jessica, clearly the heat has not deterred a lot of people. I see you working with your bottle of water. It's very hot in the nation's capital right now.

Our Rene Marsh is also in Washington. And, in fact, near that Lafayette Park that Jessica was just referring to.

How are people holding up? Is the heat in any way making an impact?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Fred, we saw, you know, just a bit down the ways here from the park, we saw a fire truck just basically spraying out water. We're assuming to keep people cool. You know, people are commenting on just how warm it is, but it's actually secondary because everything that they're hearing up on the stage, which the stage is right behind me here. Folks are still, as you can see, some have trickled out. There's still many packed in here as the program here at Lafayette Park starts to wind down. They will start moving.

I want to take you through the crowd and show you who's here. Young people, old people, folks from all around the country, as Jessica said.

We have this young lady here.

You're mom, you're mom of these two young ladies. You brought them out. They're holding their sign. Says, "I fear my president, not immigrants."

Tell me a little bit about why you brought your two daughters out here today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's important for them to understand that for change to happen, they have to be engaged. We're sending a message to Donald Trump, to the Republicans, to all of his supporters, that we're not going to just stand and do nothing about it. We're going to raise our voices. We're going to march. We're going to protest until there's real change.

MARSH: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

Fred, come with me. We're going to kind of just walk through the crowd here. Folks are holding signs. Yes, it's a warm hot day. It's not deterring anyone. I can tell you, there's a lot of emotion out here. It's a wide range of emotions, everything from, you saw some people on the stage crying, to people downright angry with these policies.

This family here, you're here with your two daughters. I was saying there's so much emotion in the crowd. What are you feeling as you hear these firsthand accounts of how these policies are affecting families on the --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, inspiration and sadness, fear for our country and what might come next, but inspiration that we're all out here together and we're going to put this fight, start this fight and keep a full-court press.

MARSH: That's the thing we've been hearing, you know. I've seen signs here today where it says it's not about other people's babies. This is not just about Washington and bad policies. What it is -- it is about that but it's also about families and recognizing the individuals on the border looking to come to the United States also need to be treated with compassion.

So as we walk through the crowd and as we talk to people, the number- one message that I keep on hearing is they want the president to hear their voices. Of course, we know he's not in Washington this weekend. He's in New Jersey. But they also want to speak directly to the immigrants, the people who are looking to come to the United States. Many people said they're down-right embarrassed by these policies. They want it to be clear that everyone in the United States doesn't feel the same way. Fred, we are here now. We do expect soon we will start to be on the move. So the plan is that we will walk from Lafayette Park. We will head to the Department of Justice. And then we will walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, that will be shut down. And then we will head right to the base of the U.S. capitol building. That is the plan for everyone in this park today. Everyone very enthusiastic about getting this message out and, of course, to be televised nationwide -- Fred?

[13:15:19] WHITFIELD: All right, Rene Marsh, we'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

And Jessica Schneider as well.

All right, we continue to follow these rallies unfolding across America. Demonstrators taking to the streets in protest of family separations at the U.S. southern border. Protests are happening in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. We'll take you to those places live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SINGING)

[13:20:19] WHITFIELD: The youth choir in the nation's capital. They are joining hundreds who have fathered in the nation's capital and many cities across the country now, all in protest of the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy on immigration. We've seen people marching in Washington, D.C. and New York.

We want to go to New York right now.

(PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE)

WHITFIELD: The Pledge of Allegiance as they look to the Statue of Liberty during this march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

CNN's Polo Sandoval was there. He's joining us, live.

Polo, what's happening?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the scenes playing out here in New York very similar to what's happening across the country. As I step out of the way so we can give you a wider view of what's happening here, believe it or not, people continue to come into this park. You see some empty pockets because there's quite a few folks seeking shelter from the sun in the wings because it is definitely a hot day. But it's certainly not keeping people from making their way out here. Of course, the unified message which you'll find on the stage is how to protect families. At the same time, there are many people here calling on the government to really get its act together, to try to come up with a plan to reunify the families that were separated in the days after the implementation of the Trump zero- tolerance policy and before his executive order was signed.

Important to point out, Fred, a lot of people I've been speaking to who say they've been part of this movement for years. Even before President Trump took his oath of office, they have been protesting the way the government handles the immigration issue. This zero-tolerance policy has simply reignited the cause. So they're certainly grateful for that, certainly grateful for the attention this issue has now. It is their opportunity to step into the spotlight and, as they say, try to affect some form of change.

We heard from some Democrats lawmakers earlier today who marched over the Brooklyn Bridge, who said November is when people can make it count. After, of course, the attention could potentially go away.

Fred, this crowd, look at this. People are still coming across the Brooklyn Bridge, making their way here to this plaza in Brooklyn. This demonstration happening across the river. At least it started there in lower Manhattan -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, in New York, thank you so much.

Let's go to Chicago now where we find CNN's Ryan Young.

Ryan, your marching with folks. What's happening?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're marching down Clark Street. Of course, they've been gathering for quite some time. A lot of the conversation is just about what the crowd wanted to hear. You can hear the crowd's passion.

We've been walking along with this family.

What brought you here today? I see you carrying a little one. What brought you here? Why did you come here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of challenge in figuring out what we can do to make a difference besides voting in November and this feels like a way to have our voices heard faster and make some kind of impact because this is wrong, children should not be taken from their parents, period.

YOUNG: Can you imagine being separated from your little one?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, don't ever take my children from me. Don't ever.

YOUNG: What would you want D.C. to hear from this march?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to fix it. They need to stop this practice now and they need to go back and reunite those families. They did not keep track of those children. They do not have practices in place to make sure that they can reunite them. They need to get figuring it out now.

YOUNG: Thank you so much for taking the time for us.

Fred, there's just a lot of passion.

As we walk you forward here, this crowd stretches more than a mile down the road here. The police officers are on either side making sure that no traffic interrupts this. But the passion you felt from the people who are here has been enormous. In fact, when we talked to Senator Durbin earlier, he said he would not take the stage because he wanted the people here to have the main voice. One of the things he talked about was making sure people didn't wait until November to vote and talk about community organizing. That's something we've heard over and over again. You see a sign like this one right here. Where this man is carrying just like this.

If you don't mind me asking you, just if you had a message for the president, what would you want to tell him at this point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave office.

YOUNG: You feel that passionately about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the worst thing to happen to this country.

YOUNG: You hear the passion from people as they walk. This crowd is very diverse. One of the things I talked to a man about is he says he was a soldier. He never protested before. He talked about how much he loves this country. But he felt very embarrassed by the idea of what was going on at the border, so he felt it was his duty to come here and be a marshal. Those marshals are sort of walking around with the people as they hit street.

You see a different collection of people as we walk through. I'm just kind of bopping into people as we go here.

I know, on the spot, what brought you here today, just in terms of wanting to have your voice heard?

[13:25:28] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it's important to stand up for what you believe in and I believe families are important, so I showed up.

YOUNG: What's the passion like here in the streets?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really high, positive energy. Feels like people are bumping into each other but still like, no, you're good, you're good. A really encouraging place to be.

YOUNG: Thank you so much.

So you hear this. You can see people who have this voice. And you can see this, people talking about the wall.

But sending it back to you, Fred. This has been a collective going on for quite some time. They believe there's over 7,000, maybe 10,000 people in the streets, could be more. Hard to estimate a crowd like this -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, from Chicago, Ryan Young.

Let's go now to Portland, Oregon, and Dan Simon.

Dan, what's happening there?

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. It is a nice cool day here in Portland. We are in a park, which is basically in the center of the city. You can see things getting under way here.

But, Fred, we have to tell you that just a couple miles away from where we are, there has been a 24/7 encampment right at the ICE headquarters. This started on June 17th. We're now at the two-week point. The folks at ICE, where they formed a tent city, they're not going anywhere. We saw a few days ago where DHS officers made some arrests. About eight people were arrested. People who were blocking the front entrance of ICE. But around the facility, you have this tent city. They have quite an infrastructure there, Fredricka. We saw a food pantry. We saw a place where kids can do arts and craft. There's a first-aid tent.

I want you to listen to what one of the protesters had to say. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Right now, the entrance is clear. You see the officers in front of the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SIMON: Where do things go from here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will essentially be a waiting game. We need change. Apparently, they need to watch us. As long as we're here, they're here, and we're not going anywhere. We need for these policies and these agencies to be abolished. This is something that has to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Well, they are certainly in it for the long haul, Fred.

And the mayor of Portland, he is supportive of what they're doing. He says police officers will not be used to remove any of those protesters. Basically, as long as they stay on city property and do not go on federal property, they should be able to stay there indefinitely.

We should point out that Portland is a city that has a history of civic activism. We see that firsthand today as more and more people gather at this park.

We'll send it back to you -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Dan Simon, in Portland, Oregon, thank you so much.

A variety of demonstrations from coast to coast.

Still ahead, the president, he's not in Washington, D.C. But he seemingly has been able to escape the protests. Maybe. Demonstrators are gathered where he is in New Jersey. We'll take you there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:33:04] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back.

We're taking a closer look at all of these demonstrations taking place across the country.

This one in Chicago. You see how many people have turned out, filling up that screen, well, it's a mile long. People are marching. They're chanting. They're all gathering to contest the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy leading to the separation of children and their parents on the southern borders.

We're also keeping a close watch on what's taking place in the nation's capital, as well as in New York.

The president is not at the White House right now. But he is in Bedminster, New Jersey, and some of the demonstrations have followed him to that proximity.

While the president may have thought he was getting away from it all, well, Boris Sanchez is with us now to let us know that people have found their way fairly close to where the president is, this near holiday weekend.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. Our photographer, Mark Walls, is heading over to this location. It's a library, some three miles or so away from the Bedminster property where organizers tell us they've gathered some 300 or 400 protesters there to send a message to President Trump. Of course, he's spending the weekend at his property in Bedminster. It's unclear how much of that unrest he is going to see. Though he did weigh in on Twitter this morning, not necessarily about protests, but about his immigration policy. He pointed the finger at Democrats, like New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are calling for the end of ICE They're calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. The president suggesting that all Democrats want that. And then sort of trying to draw a line between that and a slippery slope where Democrats may want to abolish all police. Unclear exactly where the president is getting that.

But, again, he is spending the weekend here in Bedminster. He made news yesterday announcing he may be spending time this weekend interviewing one or two potential candidates to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He announced his retirement earlier this week.

We're still working on getting reaction from the White House on these protests and whether there's indication as to how these meetings may be going. We have yet to hear back though -- Fred? [13:35:20] WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, keep us posted, from New

Jersey. Thank you so much.

So these rallies are taking place from coast to coast. Demonstrations are just about to get going actually in Los Angeles. You see them happening in Washington where people have gathered. In Chicago, there are people are marching through streets for a mile long. In L.A., they're gathering. We'll take you there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:40:15] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Right now, we're watching demonstrations across the country. People expressing their frustrations with the Trump administration's policy on illegal border crossings and the separation of children and their parents.

Crowds of protesters are starting to build in Los Angeles as well.

That's where we find CNN's Nick Watt.

So, Nick, what's happening there? What are people saying? What's the plan in terms of scheduled appearances from people?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the event here is scheduled to kick off in about 20 minutes, at 11:00 a.m. local time. We're expecting people from the world of politics, Kamala Harris, the mayor of Los Angeles. And of course, being Los Angeles, just a little bit of star power. We have the piano already set up there, we assume for John Legend to play. There will also be other figures from Hollywood. But also they're expecting about 10,000 people here. California, Los Angeles, there should be a good turnout. Listen, Los Angeles went 72 percent for Hillary in the 2016 election. California is home to perhaps the largest undocumented population in this country.

And also speaking here today they tell us will be the families of those affected by the immigration policies being enacted right now. You'll see the signs all over the place, "Before we thought monsters were under our beds but now the monsters are out." I've also seen "Oprah 2020" buttons for sale. We have a gentleman behind here, in a wheelchair, a veteran, who says a Muslim undocumented doctor saved my life.

We're expecting about 10,000 people here. It doesn't kick off for another 20 minutes or so. The crowd is building. We will see exactly how many turn out and how many march to vent their frustration on an issue that obviously resonates very deeply here in California.

WHITFIELD: All right, a real variation of views and people.

Nick Watt, thank you so much, in Los Angeles.

Still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM as we continue to follow the marches happening from coast to coast. But first, don't forget to check out the new CNN film "American Jail."

It takes a look at the question of whether mass incarcerations are justified or if they're a major injustice. Catch it tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:47:03] WHITFIELD: Right now, we're watching demonstrations taking to streets across the nation. People are protesting the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy on anyone illegally crossing the U.S. border, the forced separation of children and their parents. The president has put a hold on the forced separations, but the administration has no concrete plans to reunite families already torn apart by the crackdown.

Let's bring in my panel right now, Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst and former counselor to the assistant attorney general for national security, CNN politics reporter, Tal Kopan, CNN national political and national security analyst, David Sanger, and CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali.

Good to see all of you.

Tal, you first.

The realization this administration had no real plan for reunifying parents and kids, and now you've got a court order that says it has to happen within 20 days, is it realistic? Is it going to happen for so many kids displaced across the country?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's a great question, Fred. And, you know, we only got the acknowledgement from the government for the first time yesterday about the court order. That was the first we heard from them. They basically said we're going to comply. But they offered no new information to us about how they're going to do it.

And, you know, I actually went back and dug up -- there was a court hearing on May 4th in a family separations case that had already been going on. This was just a few days before they announced the zero- tolerance policy. It turns out now we know one of those defendants was actually prosecuted under a pilot of this program. The judge asked the attorney for the government, will these parents be reunified or is it basically this black hole, judge called it, where they go into detention and then it's up to them and their lawyers to find the kids. And the attorney for the government basically said that's right. And three days later, they rolled this out nationwide. We know all along that was sort of their plan, that was going to be up to the parents and their attorneys to find their children elsewhere in government custody to reunite them.

WHITFIELD: Carrie, a lot of these parents don't really know, you know, some of those who are being detained, they don't know they could be afforded that kind of representation. Certainly, there are kids who don't even know how to communicate with any kind of legal representation. When you see protests like this across the country, when this administration sees these demonstrations, might this in any way affect change, help to speed up these reunifications even?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know if the president of the public protest is going to make a difference, because this administration was committed to implementing this zero-tolerance policy, which then had the effect of separating the children from the parents. It's really unconscionable what the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services and the attorney general have done in terms of implementing a policy that is going to separate kids from their families without any plan to reunify them. We haven't seen any articulation of a legal justification for them having separated the families to begin with. It's the rights of the parents to be reunited with their children, but it's also the rights of the children not to have been separated to begin with from their parent with no idea of when they are ever going to be reunited or see them again. It needs to be fixed. And the secretary of Homeland Security and the secretary of HHS, they need to take responsibility for seeing that these kids get reunited with their parents as soon as possible.

[13:50:30] WHITFIELD: When you hear there really was no plan of bringing them back together, it's almost an acknowledgment from the administration that they didn't really care.

CORDERO: It's a question. Did they care? Did they not think about it? Those of you watching this administration we constantly struggle with whether or not there are intentionally cruel things being done or whether they are just absolutely incompetent. Those of us who are watchers of the government and observers of how this policy is implemented constantly struggle with which one is it or is it both? In this case, though, they know they have a problem, they know they need to fix it, and the question is, who in government is taking responsibility for doing so?

WHITFIELD: So, David, cruel or incompetent, which is it?

DAVID SANGER, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, in the years I've been reporting in Washington, which is, you know, approaching a quarter century now, usually incompetence wins the day, no matter who the administration is. Because frequently, what happens is a policy gets promulgated without anybody really checking about what it would do to -- what would it take to implement it. That's particularly true, we found, in the Trump administration. Because usually policies bubble their way up, go through a process, right? At which point people sort of sort out, how would we do this in a real way and then a recommendation goes to the president. In fact, a lot of policies here start with the president and his top aides, bubble their way down until somebody comes back and says, well, sir, that isn't actually possible to go do. In this case I think it's a bit of a mix because I don't think they -- because they said outright that they wanted to use this as a deterrent, they didn't really care whether there was a process set up for the reunification because that would have undercut the deterrent.

WHITFIELD: Tim, this is a combination of intent and mistake, and this is the consequence of all of that.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, that's -- to build on what David just said -- that's generally what happens with presidential leadership, which is it's a bit of -- since you can't control all the pieces at once, no president can, but this is an administration that is understaffed. Let's not forget that they don't even have people at the various levels of government to implement their ideas.

WHITFIELD: But can you blame being understaffed with not having an idea of how do we execute a plan?

NAFTALI: No, I'm trying -- I'm actually responding to the point about incompetence.

The other issue is intent. And we know what the intent is. After all, the president has been extraordinarily clear that he is more interested in people who happen to be here than people who wish to come here. He's tough about it, and I would say mean spirited about it, but it's clear to us that he doesn't care about these people coming in. So the fact that families are being dismembered or taken apart, to him, that's not the issue. The issue is, we don't want you. I don't think that's how most Americans think about it, but I think the president's intent has been clear all along. The president's problem is he can't competently put in place his intentions, which is actually probably a good thing in many cases, certainly, in this one.

WHITFIELD: Now a splinter conversation is -- or debate now is, you know, getting rid of ICE, Immigration and Customs, you know, and is that really the answer?

I mean, Carrie, do you see that that's a legitimate argument to make? Is this ICE's fault? The execution of this plan, is it ICE's fault?

CORDERO: It makes a nice sound bite to say, let's just abolish ICE. That clearly is a political attack that some in the political debate are taking. I taught a course at Georgetown law on intelligence reform and all the agencies that were created and changed after September 11th. And DHS and the creation of ICE was one of those entities where we had post-9/11 entities that were directed towards terrorism and bolstering our Homeland Security and they were created. We are now over 15 years past that point. And --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: So it's time of modification?

CORDERO: Is it fair to be asking the questions about do we need to restructure, are these agencies implementing --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Restructuring is different than abolishing.

CORDERO: It is. It doesn't make a lot of sense to say, we are going to abolish the agency. You need to have an immigration agency that processes people who want to come here, those who come illegally and need to be handled administratively. To say, we're going to abolish it, ignores the fact that government needs to function. On the other hand, it's fair to say should we be revisiting whether these agencies are appropriately implementing their authorities, whether or not these agencies need to be changed in terms of their management structure. And, in fact, there was a letter from an ICE special agent in charge saying, we are on the inside of the agency and we think maybe things need to change.

[13:55:07] WHITFIELD: Are these campaign issues? Is this going to, you know, affect change midterms?

SANGER: It's certainly going to be an issue on both sides because, on the one hand, the president has said to many of his supporters -- that his supporters love this concept. He basically made immigration the main -- one of the main themes of how he got elected. Whether the elimination of ICE will - remember, on the right, there used to be discussion of eliminate the Department of Education. Some suggested eliminate the IRS. Well, at the end of the day, when you are all done with that, you still need to educate the kids and you still need to find a way to collect taxes. Even if you eliminated ICE, you still need to find a way to go process immigrants, figure out who is going to get asylum, who is not, who you are going to allow in on orderly immigration. So eliminating the institution, to my mind, doesn't actually get at the core of the problem.

KOPAN: And we should be clear, this is one policy that ICE is barely involved in. That's one of the interesting things about it. ICE has become this figure head. And I think part of it is its now former director, Tom Homan, who helped, but ICE isn't the ones doing this. It's Customs and Border Protection that actually enforces. It's a completely separate component.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tal, Carrie, David and Tim, thanks to all of you. I appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll have much more on the breaking news of these demonstrations taking place from coast to coast. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[13:59:49] WHITFIELD: All right. Hello, again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in Washington, D.C.

Right now, thousands are protesting nationwide under one powerful message, families belong together. From coast to coast, demonstrators are demanding an end to the separation of migrant families brought on by the White House's zero-tolerance policy. And we're seeing impassioned pleas for both empathy and action.