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Immigration Officials Say Breaking Point Is Upon Them Now; CBP Officials to Release Hundreds of Immigrants into Communities from Jam- Packed Processing Centers; Trump Threatens to Close Border as Border Protection Echoes Trump on Border Emergency; El Paso Republican Party Chairman Discusses Immigration, Emergency at the Border; A.G. Barr Says Lawmakers, Public Will See Redacted Mueller Report by Mid-April & Trump Will Not Get Sneak Preview; Immigration Battle Major Focus of O'Rourke Campaign Kickoff; Familiar Names Top New Poll on Democratic Contenders; Pete Buttigieg Has Best Showing in Poll So Far; Palestinians Mark Year of Protests with Gaza Demonstration; Trump Administration Urges Courts to Get Rid of Obamacare Entirely; 9 Pregnant Nurses in Same Unit of Hospital Getting Lots of Attention. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 30, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:34] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It is 3:00 eastern, noon out west. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
On the southern border of the United States right now, Customs and Immigration officials say the breaking point that they've been expecting is completely upon them now. In Texas and Arizona and New Mexico, processing centers, migrant family shelters, these temporary facilities, they're bursting. And immigration officials are about to release a lot of people, possibly thousands, from detention in Texas. We'll go live to the border in just a moment.
Take a look at this. Customs and Border Protection just released a snapshot of just how overwhelmed they are. These are just a few of the migrant processing centers that are well over 100-percent capacity, they say. In El Paso, nearly triple the number of people that they're set up to handle. And McAllen, Texas, 358 percent over capacity.
We're getting details now about a plan to release hundreds of people currently inside the jam-packed migrant centers into communities in south Texas, because there's just not enough room for everyone. And that's going to happen over the next few days.
CNN's Natasha Chen is on the U.S./Mexico border and CNN White House reporter, Sarah Westwood, is near the president's Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida.
Natasha, to you first.
Give us more information on the mass release of migrants expected to be released in the coming days and what is the plan after they're released? NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we talked to the
Brownsville city manager. Brownsville is about 30, 40 miles from where we are right now. He says that over the past two weeks, he's been observing a lot of immigrants dropped off at the bus depot in town and were given up from Customs and Border Protection that this would happen. At first, for the first week and a half about, about 50 people per day, but recently, in the last few days, averaging about 300 migrants a day, dropped off in the city of Brownsville. So the city, and nonprofit partners, have been helping these people get in touch with family members, and trying to get them bus tickets or plane tickets to get to their next destination. They said that this has happened in the past before, but this time around, communication is a little bit spotty, and they are having to do a lot of the heavy lifting with providing the migrants a bus ticket or plane ticket. Something that they felt in the past that was already provided to the migrants before they showed up in the city. So far, Brownsville has only hosted these migrants for the maximum of one day before helping them on to their next location.
Meanwhile, President Trump is threatening to close the border because of the migrants coming in. And we are talking to people near McAllen, Hidalgo, here, about that possibility, because a lot of folks living in border towns have business, dentist appointments, seeing family members, on a daily, weekly basis, that require them to cross right here into Mexico and back. Here's what a couple of them told us today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLOS FLORES, CROSSES U.S./MEXICO BORDER: Once every time I get a chance, so that I can go see my dad, he lives over, there he just acquired his visa, right, but he's only been over here for like three or four times. My kids have barely met their granddaddy. I haven't even showed him around. And you know, having this border, you know, getting shut down, you know, what am I going to tell my kids, you know, what, your granddad can come over here no more.
CHRIS LEACY (ph), CROSSES U.S./MEXICO BORDER: Every day, sometimes, that line for people coming from Mexico to go to the states can go up to two hours long, to give you an idea how many people are crossing to go to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: That last person you heard from is actually from Boston, but now lives in Mexico with his wife. He crosses the border into the U.S. to go to work on this side. He says he is a Trump supporter. He likes the president. But he says, if the president closes the border, that's going to be very frustrating for him for his daily routine -- Ana?
CABRERA: Sarah, what we're hearing from border protection, sounds a lot like what we've heard from President Trump about the situation there on the border. Tell us how border officials are responding.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. And Border Patrol agents, they're saying the system is reaching a breaking point, as President Trump is threatening to close the southern border if he doesn't get more cooperation from Mexico to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. It is not the first time that President Trump has threatened to close the border, but this is the first time that he is attaching a deadline to it. He said he will do it by next week.
[15:05:00] In the meantime, Customs and Border Patrol is saying that the increase in family units coming over the southern border has placed enormous strain on their system. They're saying their facilities were not designed to accommodate this many children and parents.
Let me read you part of CBP's statement. They said, "U.S. Border Patrol has been transparent for several months by conveying the message publicly, internationally, and to Congress, the immigration system is broken and that they are at critical capacity levels across the southern border. Customs and Border Patrol facilities and manpower cannot support this dramatic increase in apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied children. There's no consequence that the Border Patrol can apply to this demographic under current law and court rulings."
The number of children and families has forced the Border Patrol to quickly process the children and the families and start releasing them. It's diverted agents from their law enforcement duties, according to CBP. And the Department of Homeland Security said it's "committed to addressing this humanitarian need, but the current system is unsustainable for Border Patrol operations. The status quo is not an option. The legal framework must be addressed. The only remedy to this crisis is congressional action."
And CBP is now saying they are expecting to apprehend more people by the end of this month, in March, than any month since 2008. So obviously, those levels are getting much higher than they were when the president first started calling the situation a crisis and threatening to declare a national emergency, something he did earlier this year.
But Fred, it's clear that there's going to have to be some kind of change at the southern border, given what we're seeing now.
CABRERA: Sarah Westwood, Natasha Chen, thank you both for those updates.
Joining us now on the phone is Adolpho Telles, chairman of the Republican Party for El Paso.
Thanks for joining us.
I want to bring in images from the Border Patrol station in El Paso. Presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke, tweeted this, "Just went under the bridge where refugees and asylum seekers are being held, kids, moms, families being trapped for days at a time in our name."
We know these are men, women and children being confined behind wire fencing under an overpass because there's no room for the migrants inside.
Sir, what is happening in your city?
ADOLPHO TELLES, CHAIRMAN, EL PASO REPUBLICAN PARTY (via telephone): First of all, I want to point out, the border is not a border issue. It's a national issue. And the border towns are the ones that are fronting a significant amount of the problem, fronting a significant amount of the problems. And Congress needs to do something about it. And they should have done a long time ago. And I give the president a lot of foresight for having realized this is occurring. But in El Paso, we are getting immigrants, some of them that have been processed through CBP, some of them crossed illegally, coming in at higher volumes than we've ever had. The private organizations that are trying to support them, and the financial support that's being provided with taxpayer money by the city and the county, we just can't afford to continue doing it because the volume is so high. And just like other communities around the border, we are -- the facilities are overwhelmed with people. There's too many coming in. And the Border Patrol is releasing them to the street. And they're supposed to have a contact person as to where they're going to go, but they don't know what to do. They don't know where to go. They don't know where to get food from. So we are being overwhelmed. And it just was this week that, finally, our county commissioners and our city reps got together with Border Patrol to recognize that it is a crisis. It's a shame they didn't have the foresight that the president had.
CABRERA: I understand what you're saying in terms of the reality on the ground there. But again, let's talk about who is coming across the border. At a rally this week, the president mocked asylum seekers. We're seeing the images of the children, of unaccompanied minors in some cases, of families in other case, but the president says that these are people all coached by lawyers to pretend that they're afraid for their lives. Do you think asylum seekers are faking?
TELLES: I think they have been prepped. I think they are being talked to. And this is what irritates me. We have had Mexican officials that come to the U.S. to talk to people about how to continue to be here. They should be put in jail. And we've had U.S. attorneys that have gone into Mexico to do the same thing, to prep the people and talk to them about what they need to say so that they can comply with the laws of the United States. Do I think they've been prepped? Without a doubt in my mind, they've been prepped.
CABRERA: Being prepped for going through legal proceedings is one thing. Faking that you need asylum or fleeing another condition that is, you know, out of their control is another thing. These immigrants, we know, they have a legal right to ask for asylum. They don't have to go to a port of entry to do that. This is their legal right under U.S. law.
But to your point, whether they're prepped or not, they still have to prove that they are needing asylum. And we know, based on government statistics, 90 percent of people who go through the asylum proceedings don't get accepted. They're turned away. So there's a way for the system to deal with those people if they're not being truthful, no? [15:10:10] TELLES: And the problem right now is the volume. You've
got people that are coming in, they're going through the process, saying what they are supposed to say, because they're prepped, and given ankle bracelets and turned loose into the United States. They're never going to show up.
CABRERA: What do think --
TELLES: They have a hearing that is five or six years down the line, and they're not going to be showing up for that. By then, integrated someplace else and working under the table and they won't come back. This is what the problem. In addition with the problem with them coming in legally or not legally, we still have issues we're trying to deal with because --
CABRERA: The statistics show that 90 percent of the people --
TELLES: They're overwhelmed.
CABRERA: The statistics show 90 percent of people seeking asylum do go to their court appearances, so people who are being released into the interior, often times, the majority of them, do actually respond to the legal proceedings.
Now, as much as this president though has focused on the issue of immigration, and the border wall, you keep giving him credit for focusing on the issue, I'm not understanding why is it getting worse, not better? Have his efforts backfired?
TELLES: No, because there was a law that was passed several years ago, a number of years ago, that it was meant to solve this specific problem as it related to family units. Well, that law has been -- people have been educated as to that law, that's why there are family units coming across today. Because they know that there's a law that protected them, and it was set for a specific issue a number of years back. And now, it's being taken advantage of and it is being promoted, and that's why we have what we have. Do these people have problems in their country? Without a doubt. We had a civil war and we had an American revolution, and people stayed here and fought for what was right. These people need to learn to stand up for what is right for them, too, not just run.
CABRERA: The president is now planning to shut down the border next week. You live there. What impact would that have? And how does that solve the problem if the people are trying to flee devastation and dire circumstances in their home countries?
TELLES: I don't think -- again, it is not a matter of just the border. It is a matter of for the whole United States. If the border gets shut down -- and that could mean a number of different things. That could mean that he is going to stop foot traffic. That means he is going to stop commercial traffic. That means he is go --
TELLES: -- could stop vehicle traffic, I don't know exactly what shutdown the border means. But no matter what it means, if it is commercial traffic, it is not just going to hurt El Paso, it will hurt El Paso, and will hurt the border cities because we generate a lot of revenue because of transportation throughout, but it is throughout the United States. But it is also going to hurt the rest of the United States where these component parts or products need to be sent to. If it relates just to foot traffic, that's going to be a problem. Because there's people that cross from El Paso, into Mexico daily to work in the Mexican plants there. But there are also people from Juarez, who come into El Paso on a daily basis to work. And some of the people are going to have to go up and stay in that country or stay in this country and quit traveling back and forth.
But it is going to have a significant economic impact no matter what has been done. Because we have significant foot traffic. We have significant commercial traffic. And it will hurt us here on the border. But it will hurt the rest the United States because those component parts need to go to other parts of the United States for completion or distribution.
CABRERA: Adolpho Telles, thank you very much for your time.
CABRERA: I appreciate you sharing your perspective.
TELLES: Thank you.
CABRERA: As the border battle grows, one 2020 candidate chose El Paso, a city just steps from the border, to kick off his official campaign.
Plus, President Trump is now vowing to fully dismantle Obamacare. How that could impact tens of millions of Americans, possibly your family.
And oh, baby, there must be something in the water at one workplace in Maine. We'll explain.
[15:14:04] You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Congress set a Tuesday deadline for Attorney General Bill Barr to turn over the full uncensored Mueller report but it doesn't look like he is going to comply. Instead, Barr is telling lawmakers that they and the public will see a redacted version by mid-April. And Barr says there are no plans to give President Trump a sneak preview. For now, the president doesn't seem bothered by that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have great confidence in the attorney general. And if that is what he would like to do, I have nothing to hide. This was a hoax. This was a witch hunt. I have absolutely nothing to hide. And I think a lot of things are coming out with respect to the other side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: However, just a few hours after the president said that, he tweeted, cryptically, "Maybe we should just take our victory and say no."
Former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, is joining us now.
Shan, one of the reasons we may not get to see anything, that there may be redactions, is because of grand jury secrecy. Why is that information typically kept secret? And what could it include?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is kept secret because there's a federal rule, 6-E, that requires it be kept secret. The witnesses themselves are free to talk about it, but the prosecutors, and anyone in the government has to keep it secret. They can apply to the court to ask the court to lift that, and that's something that members of Congress has been asking for. And it is typically really, really integral to investigative decisions. When I was a prosecutor, I wrote many what they call pros memos, prosecution memos, sounds like a version of what Mueller is doing. When you write those, the grand jury information, witness testimony, their transcripts, the documents subpoenaed, it's extremely inter-woven into the narrative and your recommendations and analysis. So if you scrub all of that out, then all by itself, that one category is going to leave him with relatively little, I think, for us to read.
[15:20:06] CABRERA: You mentioned Congress, now applying or asking for the attorney general to go to the courts in order to be allowed to release some of the grand jury's secret information. Is there any precedent for that to happen?
WU: Well, there's lots of precedent for that to happen in terms of asking a court to release it. Obviously, there's the Watergate scenario. They're looking at that. And previous independent counsel investigations, which are different, there was requirement of a public report, so there's a little more leverage there. But it is fairly commonplace for a judge to be asked to release something and the judge will take that into consideration.
The other thing to consider here we're not just looking at grand jury information here. With this sort of moving bar, no pun intended, the attorney general has also now come up with an additional bunch of categories, and in particular, his last category, of which he says would involve any embarrassing information to third parties, who are peripheral to the investigation. That's completely in his discretion. So it gives him a gigantic kind of safety net to basically put into that category, anything he wants to keep out.
CABRERA: But when you talk about embarrassing information, isn't that along the same lines of what we've heard, which is, you don't tarnish the reputation of people or damage somebody who isn't actually indicted or charged with a crime?
WU: That's exactly right. And that's the notion of not pulling a James Comey by putting out a lot of derogatory information. But this is an unusual situation, because the report is not just a charge or don't charge, and we have a strong hint of that, because in that tiny little quote that we got, Mueller did write that the president is not exonerated. And coming from someone like him, that is an enormously big statement to make. In the land of James Comey's statements about Hillary Clinton. And it implies that there's going to be a lot of information on both sides that was favorable and unfavorable. And that is precisely why the public and certainly Congress wants to see that because, in some way, the next step is really a pass-off to the next prosecutor or next investigator, and that's going to be Congress. So they need to see the fruits of what was gathered in order to be able to do their job.
CABRERA: Shan Wu, as always, good to have you with us. Thanks.
WU: Good to see you, Ana.
CABRERA: And 2020 candidate, Beto O'Rourke, kicking off his presidential bid in the border city of El Paso. What he is saying about the president's threat to close the border?
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:27:01] CABRERA: In El Paso, Texas, where his family has lived for generations, Democrat Beto O'Rourke just gave his first pitch of the 2020 bid. It was heavy on calls for unity and demands to end the border crackdowns that has led to migrant kids being separated from their parents, for example.
Leyla Santiago watched O'Rourke's sales pitch to fellow Texans as he tries to build momentum nationwide -- Leyla?
LEYA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, Beto O'Rourke has officially launched his campaign here in El Paso with a rally on his home turf, saying it was important for him to come back to this area, an area that he knows best. This is after, about two weeks ago, he had a video announcement via social media. He took to the early states, talked to voters, engaged with those who he wanted to know more about, and who he wanted to share a bit of himself with. And now he took that and brought it back to El Paso.
And I want you to listen to exactly what he told this crowd.
BETO O'ROURKE, (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will find security, not through walls, not through militarization. We will find security by focusing on our ports of entry that connect us to the rest of the world so we have a better idea of who and what is coming in here, and we facilitate the trade and travel connected to the millions of jobs around this country.
SANTIAGO: O'Rourke addressed climate change and health care, and of course, immigration here. Talking about what has really made headlines over the last few days, with migrants who are now under the international bridge here between Juarez and El Paso, being held in custody. Many families and children there. A place he visited yesterday before his big launch today.
When it comes to President Trump, he talked about how he divides the country, and that is something he wants to go away. He is here to unite, he says, and that's why he is kicking it off in El Paso. And then he will go to other spots in Texas today -- Ana?
CABRERA: Leyla Santiago, in Texas for us there, thank you.
That gives you a taste of what is happening on the campaign trail today.
But there have been a ton of developments this past week as the 2020 race heats up. We see the field growing again. The mayor in Miramar, Florida, Wayne Messam, has announced his candidacy as two other candidates made major policy announcements. Senator Amy Klobuchar with a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and Senator Kamala Harris with a plan to raise teacher salaries.
And a new controversy with someone not officially in the race yet, Joe Biden. A former Nevada state assembly woman says Biden gave her an awkward kiss on the back of her head in 2014. A spokesman for Biden says he does not recall that incident.
This, as Biden is staying well ahead of the pack in the polls. This one is from Quinnipiac University that came out just this week. He has 29 percent of support, followed by Sanders at 19 percent.
I want to bring in our Harry Enten, CNN's senior political writer and analyst.
Harry, as that poll shows, Joe Biden is maintaining a pretty strong lead, even the lead widening it seems, that taken ahead of the most recent controversy.
[15:30:00] But is there an argument to be made that is advantageous for him to delay even more an official announcement of some sort?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER & ANALYST: You can stay above the negative fray, right, if you're out of the race. People don't necessarily attack you as a front runner. And the moment you get into the race, this guy is for real, he has 30 percent, and we want to attack him and get that 30 percent and put it in our own column. Obviously, that works to a point by staying out. You can't stay out forever. But he can stay out another few weeks, maybe a month or two before the first full debate in late June.
CABRERA: You pointed out, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, this is his first best showing.
ENTEN: Yes, this is his best showing. Mayor Pete came into this race with zero percent of the vote. His highest national poll before this in a live interview was at 1 percent. You may say, oh, 4 percent versus 1 percent, that is not a big difference. But as you get closer to zero, the margin of error shrinks significantly. This is a statistically significant rise for him. And he is in fifth place in the poll, tied with Elizabeth Warren, who I think we all agree is a major candidate.
CABRERA: He's capturing a lot of attention. Let me read some of the headlines around Mayor Pete, as his constituents call him. We have "Buttigieg is leaving Beto in the dust." "Pete Buttigieg is the hottest candidate in the 2020 race right now." "Pete Buttigieg is making waves in the 2020 race." These from different publications. Why do you think he is resonating with so many?
ENTEN: Because he is something different, right? If you're looking for the opposite of Donald Trump, you can't do worse --, or you can't do better than Mayor Pete. He's a 37-year-old Millennial mayor from South Bend, Indiana, who is a Rhodes Scholar, very well educated, who learned a fricking foreign language in order to read a book that he otherwise couldn't read. I don't think we would expect Donald Trump to learn a foreign language to read a book he couldn't otherwise read. So I think he is capturing a lot of hearts and minds for people looking for something new and that is the opposite of Donald Trump.
CABRERA: He served in the military. He's accomplished a lot in 37 years. Interesting to see him being able to relate to a lot of people in different parts of the country.
Take a look at this poll, also from March of 2015. I put this up here because this is where they were in the 2016 presidential race. And look who is leading, Jeb Bush. We know how that ended up. That being said, do these early numbers matter?
ENTEN: I mean, clearly, it didn't end up so good for Jeb Bush. Donald Trump wasn't even in that poll, I don't believe. I mean, look, Joe Biden is much farther ahead than Jeb Bush at this particular point. Jeb Bush was in the mid-teens versus Joe Biden near 30 percent on average. I would say, going back through history, if you're leading with 30 percent of the vote, that means something, right? It doesn't guarantee that you will win but it does mean you would rather be ahead than behind. But of course, it is just so, so early. These leaders can change instantaneously. We get into a debate and something weird happens and someone's numbers could collapse overnight and someone else's could rise overnight as well.
CABRERA: The debates are around the corner, too.
ENTEN: And I'm so looking forward to it.
CABRERA: I know you are. Aren't we all?
Thank you, Harry.
ENTEN: Thank you.
CABRERA: That gave me a good boost of energy.
CABRERA: Thank you. We're doing it.
If you like what you heard, be sure to tune in to Harry's podcast, the podcast with Harry Enten.
It may be hard to believe, but this scene of the Israeli/Gaza fence is considered progress. We'll explain why.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.
[15:37:21] CABRERA: Israelis and Palestinians may be one step closer to an understanding today after what was largely a peaceful protest at the Israel/Gaza border. Tens of thousands turned out for the first anniversary of the Great March of Return, a protest campaign. And for a year, Palestinians have come back to the border fence calling for the right to return to the land they lost in the Arab/Israeli war 70 years ago. At times today, the protest did get violent. One person was killed during the demonstrations. But overall, the Israeli Army says Hamas exercised restraint.
CNN correspondent, Michael Holmes, is at the border now with more -- Michael?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we are here in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli border right behind me. Now this was a test today, really, for Hamas to see whether they could turn out large crowds to show support for the cause, but also, to show the ability to keep that crowd under control, to keep violence and casualties to a minimum. To that end, they appeared to have been successful. One death reported and 200 injuries, which sounds a lot, but in comparison to past protests, it's actually a fairly moderate number. Some of those injuries, however, are severe. We're told the death toll could go up.
Now this is all in the context of those mediated talks that Egypt is mediating between Israel and Hamas. Israel was waiting to see if Hamas could keep up its side of the bargain and keep these protests comparatively peaceful. We saw lots of tear gas today, some live fire, most of it apparently warning shots. And Hamas appears to have been successful in that regard.
Now comes the hard work, setting down whatever conditions can be agreed to between Hamas and Israel, to see whether these talks can move forward to some sort of resolution and an easing of the hardships here on the Gaza Strip -- Ana? (END VIDEOTAPE)
CABRERA: Michael Holmes, thank you.
So 52 million Americans, that's just a portion of the people who could be impacted if the president gets his way on Obamacare. Your health care reality check, next.
[15:39:29] Plus, to call it a baby boom might be an understatement. Get this. All of these women work in the Labor and Delivery Unit of one Maine hospital. Their remarkable story, just ahead, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: So much for riding the wave of the apparent Mueller report victory. President Trump is now pitching a doozy to Republicans -- fix health care in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans want you to have an affordable plan that's just right for you. And by the way, you can use your doctor.
We've created new options to help Americans purchase affordable health plans all across state lines.
You get cheaper premiums and much lower deductibles.
We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions. Always. Always.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Sounds great, right? But promises and plans are two different things. It is something Republicans have already tried, more than once, and failed. This go-around though, Democrats control the House. Health care was part of their winning message in the midterms, making them much less likely to bend to the GOP on this issue.
[15:45:04] Now, you actually have the Trump administration asking courts to end Obamacare in its entirety. Keep this in mind, just this week, a federal judge blocked steps that this administration has taken to undermine the Affordable Care Act. This latest ruling involved an effort to weaken Obamacare by creating insurance exchange alternatives that would allow small businesses to get around some of the Obamacare rules. So despite Trump's moves to dismantle it, the landmark health law has been remarkably resilient. In fact, this year, 11.4 million people signed up for Obamacare through the federal exchanges. You can see it is down slightly, 300,000, from 2018. And sign-ups in the state-run marketplaces, which fund much more marketing and enrollment assistance, remains steady at three million. Contrary to the message of Obamacare critics, premiums on the federal exchange actually edged down, after several years of steep rate increases.
Here's what's key. If the Trump administration prevails, the health care of nearly every American could be affected, though most don't realize it. While most people associate Obamacare with the individual health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion, perhaps, it has a far wider impact. Some 52 million non-elderly adults, more than one in four, have a condition that could have left them uninsurable before Obamacare took effect. This is according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care research group.
Here is what else could change if the law is overturned. Children wouldn't be allowed to remain on their parents' plans until age 26. There would be no caps on out-of-pocket expenses. And employers would be allowed to put caps on annual or lifetime coverage. These are all issues that led to Obamacare in the first place.
Don't forget, health care remains a top priority for voters, tied with the economy, in a 2018 voter poll.
My next guest says he wouldn't be alive today without the Affordable Care Act. Jeff Jeans gained national attention back in 2017 when he confronted then-speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, at a CNN town hall. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF JEANS, CANCER SURVIVOR: I was a Republican and I worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns. Just like you, I was opposed to the Affordable Care Act. When it was passed, I told my wife, we would close our business before I complied with this law. Then, at 49, I was given six weeks to live with a very curable type of cancer. We offered three times the cost of my treatments, which was rejected. They required an insurance card. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I'm standing here today, alive.
Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So luckily, today, Jeff is cancer-free. He's joining us live now from Phoenix, Arizona.
And, Jeff, I'm so glad you could be here.
I know you have said -- we heard you say Obamacare saved your life. What happens to you if the courts now strike it down in its entirety?
JEANS: Well, I guess I'd be back in the predicament I was when I was diagnosed with cancer. I'd be without insurance, you know, which isn't a good place to be. Anybody that's -- most people that don't have insurance, when they're diagnosed with an illness like cancer, aren't here, unfortunately, you know.
CABRERA: Help me understand what your day to day life would look like if you didn't have health insurance, what you were going through back before Obamacare. JEANS: I mean, it was just worry. And you know, what I put my family
through, it affected my personal relationships, my friendships, just knowing that, you know, if my cancer would come back, if I was uninsured, I would die.
CABRERA: And you said at the time you even had money sort of set aside to pay out-of-pocket, and you still were getting rejected from the health care providers, right?
JEANS: Right. We offered three times the cost of my treatments in cash, and here's something what happened during my treatments, like I would have gone into cardiac risk during chemotherapy, my cancer metastasized, anything like that, I would have been an unfunded liability at that point.
CABRERA: Now, the president says, don't worry, they're going to come up with a plan that will protect people with pre-existing conditions. Do those words give you any comfort?
JEANS: As long as they -- you know, they take care of cancer patients, survivors, children, parents of children, then I would be OK with it. But I have not seen or heard anything that would put my mind at ease, no.
[15:50:15] CABRERA: We heard you in that town hall asking then- Speaker Paul Ryan, why would you repeal without a plan. But that's what the situation is. Critics, including the president, who are saying Obamacare is not good enough, they point to premiums increasing, the high deductibles. What has your experience been like with the costs?
JEANS: Well, of course, our costs have gone up, starting back in 2014 when the spending bill was introduced and they began their sabotage of the Affordable Care Act at that time. It's been the loyalists throughout the whole time the Affordable Care Act has been law. And, you know, I kind of equate it to, if I went into your house and poisoned your dog food and your dog died, do you blame the manufacturer of the dog food or do you blame the person that poisoned the dog food. It's kind of a simple layman's way of explaining it. You know, they've done nothing but drive up premiums, make it harder for everyday Americans, cancer survivors, to get affordable comprehensive health care coverage. Junk plans don't do that either. And high-risk pools haven't done that.
CABRERA: So where does that leave you? Who do you trust to handle your health care moving forward?
JEANS: Well, if they do take away my health insurance, I would probably travel to a foreign country for my treatments, if I need them. That's a sad thing to say in America. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
CABRERA: I'm glad you are sharing your story and how this impacts you, everyday Americans. A lot of the talk right now is being done by people in positions of power who aren't necessarily people who are directly impacted by Obamacare, and whether it stays, lives, dies, goes a different direction.
Jeff Jeans, your voice is really important. Thank you for taking the time with us.
JEANS: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: We want to take a moment to honor this week's "CNN Hero," Carrie Brody, whose parents were immigrants, and who helps refugees in the U.S. launch culinary careers and get one step closer to the American dream.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE BRODY, "CNN HERO": What we're teaching our students isn't just life skills and it isn't just cooking. It's the idea that you are a human and you have value, and that's something that people have tried to strip away from others for such a long time.
What's the dream team cooking up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Samba cake.
BRODY: Samba cake. Awesome.
That experience of watching our students transform, of seeing our students really come into their own inspires me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: To learn more about Carrie's program and to nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com.
[15:57:55] CABRERA: All right. Get this. Nine, yes, nine pregnant nurses, who are all in the same unit of the same hospital, are due to give birth around the same time. That's the case at the Maine Medical Center in Portland.
CNN's Erica Hill caught up with them to see how they're handling all the attention.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This week, they became known as The Nine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a friend in Australia who reached out to me and said, you're famous!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our manager said that she knows someone in Poland that's seen it. I've heard it's on an Italian podcast. It's just wild.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia, Germany, Britain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: France.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Italy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: India.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're seeing languages we don't even know.
HILL: We sat down with seven of the nine moms-to-be who are still processing the attention that Brittany's photo brought their way.
(on camera): There's probably been a few people who have said to you,, is there something in the water here?
HILL: Is that getting old?
You're laughing, so that's good.
HILL: Lonnie, I hear reality shows have been calling. What would you think about a reality show for you guys?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure the world's ready for that.
Otherwise, my life is really boring, so I'm not sure how exciting it would be.
HILL: How many of you, this is your first baby?
So three new moms. The rest of you can offer a little advice, or not, depending on what they want, right?
Does anybody know what they're having?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boy.
HILL: How many boys?
How many girls?
Are you guys making plans for play groups after arranging marriages?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely. I'm one of the only known girls in this group, so she'll have a lot of boys to choose from. Should she choose boys.
But we're definitely talking about play groups. We're definitely talking about getting together when we're on maternity leave, going to the beach.
[16:00:04] CABRERA: Top of the hour. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being here.