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Interview with Acting Deputy Director of ICE, Matt Albence; Concerns Raised on Date Rape During Neomi Rao's Confirmation Hearing; Trump Calls Out Rep. Omar Ilhan for Anti-Semitic Tweet; Possible Independent Presidential Candidate, Howard Schultz, to Appear at CNN Town Hall. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] MATT ALBENCE, ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ICE: But they certainly do come to us for our opinions with regard to what the impact of any certain legislation may be.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I know one of your concerns when it comes to limiting that cap on beds -- and of course, I know that you can only have as many beds as you can afford, right, that's why the budget is so important. But I know one of your concerns you've talked about has been if you actually had an overflow and you would have to release people. You talk about releasing violent criminals. Is there room to release offenders who are non-violent criminals, because there are a lot of them in detention?

ALBENCE: There are a lot people that ICE releases annually. We've released 160,000 people so far this year for a myriad of reasons. It could be the individual has a humanitarian issue and there's a medical issue that doesn't make them suitable for detention. It could be there's a judge's order for release. Not all of this lies with ICE.

Of the 72 percent of the people we had in custody, Congress has already declared them to be subject to mandatory detention. Congress has passed laws that state these individuals pose both either flight or safety risk, and therefore, need to be detained during the procedures of the immigration system.

KEILAR: When you look at the increase in asylum seekers, a 1700 percent increase, which is huge. How does that fit in to what you think Congress needs to do in order to address what you see as a problem?

ALBENCE: We've been maintaining for years that these are problems that are largely solvable by Congress. The Border Patrol is apprehending over 30,000 family units a month. We were able to remove less than 3,000 family members --


KEILAR: Apprehending or you mean these are ones --


ALBENCE: Well, that -- KEILAR: -- are these ones coming through legal ports or -- I'm just being --


ALBENCE: Most of them are coming through the ports of entry

KEILAR: Apprehending to me says they're trying to sneak over the border. These are people --


ALBENCE: Most of them now are not trying to sneak over the border. They're just coming -- coyotes direct them from the border. They come directly over to Border Patrol because they know we don't have the capacity or the authority to hold these individuals. We have released 49,000 family unites since mid-December. There are over 30,000 a month, coming in, turning themselves in to Border Patrol requesting asylum. And because the threshold is so low, most of them reach that initial bar. And as such --

KEILAR: But officials and humanitarian officials say that the bar is actually not low and that the reason there are more people coming in is because of the violence. You're looking at El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela. We're talking about some of the most dangerous nations in the world.

ALBENCE: Only about 10 percent of people that come from those countries and claim asylum or follow through with asylum claims actually receive asylum. So the initial fear threshold for that initial claim is an extremely low bar. And Congress --


KEILAR: You're seeing only 10 percent --


ALBENCE: That actually succeed in an asylum claim in front of an immigration judge.

KEILAR: How does that make the case where you say the bar too low, you're saying, for initially?

ALBENCE: It's complicated, but there are two things. When an individual is arrested --


KEILAR: And they're waiting. They're waiting to see if their claim will actually be accepted and they'll be granted that status.

ALBENCE: Most of them will claim fear. They say a couple key phrases that reaches through the credible threshold. They're then released. Half of those individuals that are released, claim credible fear, never follow through and file an asylum claim. Those that do, only a small percentage of those actually get an asylum in front of an immigration judge. Again, of this entire universe, 10 percent of them actually receive asylum. So you're getting 30,000 fraudulent or ineligible asylum claimants --


ALBENCE: -- at the border every month.

KEILAR: But it depends on the region you're looking at. If you're looking at somewhere like New York, asylum claims are granted at a much higher rate than, say --


ALBENCE: Immigration judges have discretion to look at the evidence in front of them. That's on DOJ and how they look at that evidence. That's a separate thing. But I think if you look across the board with the vast number of asylum seekers --


KEILAR: I guess my point is, don't they have a reason? Many of the people who are seeking -- because you've seen this trend toward individuals, male individuals, and now families. You're seeing a different customer, if you will, for refuge in the United States. Doesn't that tell you that they're actually fleeing something?



KEILAR: You say they say they say some key phrases, which means you're really casting doubt on whether their claim is real.

ALBENCE: The statistics cast doubt on that because 10 percent are only actually receiving asylum. They're coming because they know they can gain the system --


KEILAR: The U.N. says 80 percent of the asylum seekers actually would meet the standard for what asylum should be. You said judges have discretion and it's also arbitrary.

ALBENCE: They do. Judges have discretion. But the statistics show 10 percent actually receive it. What you have is a situation where individuals are coming here because they know, especially family units, that there's no way for ICE to detain them. We don't have the authorization or the funding in which to do so. And they will be released into the interior of the country. And most of them don't even show up for their hearing.


KEILAR: Sir, that's not true. That's not true.

ALBENCE: Yes, it is.


KEILAR: No, that's not true.

[13:35:07] ALBENCE: Let me explain to you. We ran a project with DOJ to try to accelerate this docket for family units so we could limit the number coming to the border. In the past six months, 600 cases were completed by DOJ on these families. And 2500 of them ended up in removal orders, which means 90 percent of the people did not show up.

KEILAR: During the Obama era, the program, which was the family case management, there was a 110 percent attendance in court that they had. The number -- I'm not saying -- there's still a lot of people who are not showing up for court, right --


ALBENCE: We have hundreds of thousands of fugitives right now.

KEILAR: Tens of thousands of people.

ALBENCE: Hundreds of thousands.

KEILAR: But 60 to 75 percent of migrants, who were released pending court hearings, with the statistics in the last five available years, actually showed up for their court hearings. The numbers are higher for asylum seekers. That's just migrants in general.

ALBENCE: Well, the family case management system would be very small --


KEILAR: No, this -- that's not what I'm talking about. This is overall. I mention that case management system. Those numbers have to do with the total number of migrants who are released pending court appearances and also the higher number for asylum seekers.

ALBENCE: Right. So what you have to look at is many of these cases drag on for years. So individuals will show up for the first hearing, second hearing, third hearing, and then attendance in compliance with those hearings gradually taper off. Especially when they get to the point where they realize they will be ordered removed and their claims don't become valid. Those individuals do not show up at that point. Again, we have 560,000 fugitives. That means individuals who have been through the complete immigration process have been ordered removed and failed to comply with the order. That number grows every month.

KEILAR: I would love to talk about the statistics off line.

ALBENCE: Absolutely.

KEILAR: I'm seeing a very different picture. Matt Albence, thank you very much.

ALBENCE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Really appreciate you coming --

ALBENCE: You, too.

KEILAR: -- you coming to be in studio with us from ICE.

ALBENCE: Any time. Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you.

One of Trump's judiciary nominees is saying sorry for her past comments suggesting women should change their behavior to avoid date rape. Hear her take now.

And for a president how rarely apologizes, Donald Trump has a strong opinion about a congresswoman's apology for remarks that many viewed as anti-Semitic. Is there a double standard?


[13:41:46] KEILAR: Neomi Rao, President Trump's nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on a very powerful appellate court, is apologizing for comments she wrote decades ago about date rape. While attending Yale, Rao said that women should, quote, "Stay reasonably sober to avoid date rape. She apologized in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She said, "As a society, we should create an environment where survivors feel empowered and comfortable coming forward. I am sorry for anything in my college writings to the contrary."

Senator Joni Ernst, herself a survivor of sexual violence, also a Republican, raised concerns about Rao's commentary at her hearing.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Do you believe rape is wrong?


ERNST: Who is at fault in a rape?

RAO: The rapist, the man who commits the rape is, of course, at fault.

ERNST: Man or woman?

RAO: Man or woman, but usually a man.


KEILAR: After meeting with Rao privately, Ernst said a lot of her fears have been alleviated.

We have Joan Biskupic with me.

Joan, this is a nomination that's getting a lot of attention.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: And it should. This is a very powerful court. It's a court that hears lots of disputes over regulations, including those involving sex discrimination in the work force. And those comments raise broader concerns about the nominee's views of equality between men and women, and equal opportunity.

And fundamentally, she reinforced some of her views when she even testified last week. She tried to distance herself from those 1990s writings, but she said over and over that she had been voicing common- sense observations that women shouldn't drink to excess, perhaps maybe they should watch what they wear. You know, she was sort of almost reinforcing an angle that she --


KEILAR: Victim blaming.

BISKUPIC: Yes, victim blaming, even though she kept saying, I'm not blaming the victim. This letter that came out six days later, she emphatically said, I definitely was not blaming the victim. I was not saying anything about -- I didn't want to convey the idea that women shouldn't drink to excess or should watch what they wear.

KEILAR: This is important to watch, because this isn't just -- you can't look at it in a judicial nomination. This could be a springboard to something.

BISKUPIC: This D.C. Circuit Court has been a launching pad for several Supreme Court justices. Most recently, Brett Kavanaugh, but also Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chief John Roberts, Clarence Thomas.


BISKUPIC: Clarence Thomas was only on the D.C. Circuit 18 months before he was elevated to the Supreme Court. John Roberts, just two years. So President Trump could have his eye on Neomi Rao for a future court, not just this powerful D.C. Circuit one.

KEILAR: Rao could be on his list.

Joan Biskupic, always making it all understandable for us. Thank you so much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Trump calling on a Democratic congresswoman to resign over a tweet that many viewed as anti-Semitic, but he isn't exactly an expert on the art of the apology.

[13:44:48] And why one Republican is calling Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, quote, "Trump's worst nightmare." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: The president is weighing in forcefully on a subject that he knows very little about, how to apologize. Freshman Democrat Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, faced major backlash, including from her own party, for trafficking in an anti- Semitic trope by tweeting that support for Israel is bought.

Her apology started, "Anti-Semitism is real and I'm grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me in the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes." She went on to say that she unequivocally apologizes. But it wasn't enough for President Trump who just said this moments ago.


[13:49:57] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congressman Omar is terrible, what she said, and I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. What she said is so deep-seated in her heart that her lame apology -- and that's what it was, it was lame and she didn't mean a word of it -- was just not appropriate.

I think she should resign from Congress, frankly, but at a minimum, she shouldn't be on committees, certainly that committee.


KEILAR: Remember, President Trump not once, but twice equated the white supremacists in Charlottesville to the protesters speaking out against them. White supremacists who were chanting "blood and soil," a Nazi phrase for racial purity. And this comes from a president who during the campaign tweeted anti-Semitic imagery. No apology. Told a group of wealthy Jewish donors, quote, "I'm a negotiator like you," and said they donate money to, quote, "control your politicians."

The remarks were laughed off and dismissed by the Jewish Republicans he was speaking to. But it was also invoking the anti-Semitic tropes of Jews as manipulative puppet masters and ruthless negotiators. But without saying that he was sorry for doing so. And President Trump criticized the congresswoman's apology just a day after mocking the Trail of Tears, a genocide that killed thousands of Native Americans in the mid-1800s when they were forced to make a death march largely from their lands in the southeast all the way west of the Mississippi River.

He invoked that genocide as he tweeted insults at Elizabeth Warren using the racist slur he constantly uses to describe her. President Trump has offended so many people in groups, from a Gold Star family to prisoners of war, to immigrants and women, en masse, and yet he refuses to apologize for any of it.

President Trump never commented, much less condemned another member of Congress, Republican Steve King, after he recently embraced white supremacy, even after Republican leadership stripped King of his committee assignments. So as we point out that the president takes issue with the congresswoman's apology, let's also point out his expertise on the topic of saying, "I'm sorry," is rather limited.

We're back in a moment.


[13:57:01] KEILAR: Tonight, on CNN, a presidential town hall, live from Houston, with former Starbucks CEO and possible Independent presidential candidate, Howard Schultz. Schultz has not officially said that he's running yet, but there has already been a huge outcry from some Democrats that argue he could siphon off votes and hand President Trump a victory in 2020.

Vanessa Yurkevich is inside the debate hall.

Vanessa, what kinds of questions do we expect that Schultz is going to face tonight?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Schultz has been preparing all week. according to his spokesperson, preparing for those tough questions on things like immigration, health care and gun control. And while we don't expect him to make any proposed changes to existing policy, we do expect him to expand on some of those key issues.

He's going to be pointing to his time at Starbucks as chairman and CEO as having experience with these issues. He credits himself for bringing health care to all of his employees at Starbucks. And he also credits himself for starting the initiative to bring 10,000 refugees into the company. We know for the past six months or so, since he's left Starbucks, that he's actually been traveling across the country talking to different groups of people and even making a trip down to the border.

One thing he's acutely aware of, is that he's relatively unknown. A CNN poll that came out last week reported that about half of American don't even know who he is. So he's going to be using tonight to try to connect with those voters, who are going to be asking him questions, and to really position himself as an alternative to people who he says are disillusioned with both political parties -- Brianna?

KEILAR: He's got a pretty amazing story, coming from poverty to then being a billionaire, but he's still a businessman. I wonder if you think we'll get a sense tonight if the country's open to electing another one.

YURKEVICH: Oh, for sure. He'll be using that story, talking about how he grew up in Brooklyn, in public housing, born to working-class parents, often times relying on food banks to help meet ends. But as we know, Brianna, Trump sort of set that precedent for the country being open to electing a businessman, a billionaire, in fact.

But the one thing that Trump had that Howard Schultz is still finding is that President Trump came out with a big message and he stuck to that message of building this wall. Howard Schultz hasn't made that splash yet. But he's hoping tonight to come out with some things that voters can take away and that will get them more interested in Howard Schultz as a potential presidential candidate -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much.

Tonight, on CNN, watch a special presidential town hall. Former Starbucks CEO, Independent Howard Schultz, will be live in Houston, Texas, with Poppy Harlow, talking about the 2020 election. That is tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

[14:00:07] And that is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.