Return to Transcripts main page

CUOMO PRIME TIME

Border Patrol Shows Realities Of Crisis On Southern Border; Trump's Threat To Close Border Stirs Economic Fears; Congress, White House Must Act On What A Wall Won't Fix. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 1, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: We've run out of time. But as you just saw, Chris Cuomo's on the Border covering the very important story down there.

CUOMO PRIME TIME starts now. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME, live from Hidalgo, Texas.

This is the Rio Grande Valley. This is the place you need to see. You're going to witness the systemic failure of the present and the tragic potential for our immediate future.

This migrant situation is called a crisis. But you know what? That word is overused and doesn't do the situation justice. We're going to show you what's happening here. It's not easy to see.

But the only thing harder to realize is what's not happening, shameful inaction. And there's a reason for that as well, and you're going to find out. The time to see the reality and call for action is now. Let's shine a light on what is obvious.

What do you say? Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, the numbers tell you the story. There are believed to be more crossings in just the last month here than in any month in over a decade. As I said, here in Hidalgo, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, this is the hot spot.

Right behind us is Mexico. It's actually this weird area where Mexico is actually north of Texas, the way the land bends around. The authorities say they have never faced the combination of threats, challenges, and federal inaction that they're facing right now. The President's fix is a show of strength. "Wall them off. Cut funds to the countries involved. Shut the Border." He's threatening to do that last one this week.

Fencing matters. Put that to the side, OK? It's certainly not immoral to build barriers where they're needed.

What is immoral is doing nothing but thinking about whether or not to have fences. Doing nothing is what is immoral. And that's the situation here by our highest leaders.

What you're about to see is that the main threat here is not the people. Yes, there are bad guys in the mix, all varieties. But the Brown Menace that the President depicts is a gross exaggeration.

Well over half the crossers are kids and the people who love them. The real monster here is the system. And everyone involved is begging for help. The question is where is it?

Homeland Security is speeding up a surge of personnel to the frontlines to help manage the flow. But manpower is just one aspect of a multi-level lapse.

I want you to take a look for yourself. Here is what happens every day all day here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAUL ORTIZ, DEPUTY CHIEF PATROL AGENT, U.S. BORDER PATROL, RIO GRANDE VALLEY SECTOR: And I tell people, this Border is so complicated, it isn't just about whether you feel strongly one way or the other about the fence and the system that goes along with it with what your politics are.

No matter what, the people that are caught in the middle are certainly the - the migrants that are coming because they're getting, you know, manipulated by the smugglers, by the cartels all the way from, you know, point of origin to destination, and then, you know, certainly the ICE agents, the - the - the - the Border Patrol agents, the Customs officers that are getting villainized for doing their job, that's a - that's a tough one.

CUOMO: How do you deal with the emotion of knowing that Congress, the Administration, and the people in power could be doing stuff that they're not doing?

ORTIZ: You know, we keep reminding our workforce that, you know, we - we're servants. We - we serve our communities. We serve. And what we protect isn't just the Border. We - we're protecting the nation, I tell people all the time.

You've got a humanitarian crisis, which has created a Border security crisis for us that have been doing this for an awful long time, and this is all being driven by a policy crisis. And until we fix the policy crisis, we're going to continue to deal with those other two.

CUOMO: I'm saying the men and women who are in the job of knowing the reality do you think that they get what they're sleeping on here?

ORTIZ: Yes. Yes, I - I do. I - I do think that there is some certainly political jockeying that's going on.

I think they're sleeping on it. And I think that they're ignoring it to - to some extent. And - and it's sad that, you know, we have a workforce that is getting stretched awfully, awfully thin right now, we've got to - we've got to give them some relief.

And, you know, having DOD resources come in, having other agencies support us are - is helpful. But it's not the same as replacing them with a Border Patrol agent or an ICE officer or a Customs officer out there. That's - they're not interchangeable.

CUOMO: Now these guys set up so far as guys who were looking here for opportunity. They were coming through for work.

[21:05:00] ORTIZ: Economic migrants. Most of these folks that we experience here--

CUOMO: Right.

ORTIZ: --along the Southwest border are economic migrants.

CUOMO: Now, if these were women and children, whoever they were, you believe that if you change some of the rules, you would change the flow?

ORTIZ: Yes. Definitely, there has to be an adjustment to the policy.

You got to be able to retain people longer than 20 days, so they can hear or their case can be heard by an Immigration Judge or an Asylum Officer, so they can make a determination as to whether they should actually receive some sort of relief to stay in the country.

CUOMO: That's an important thing. You know, you guys get hit with the stick all the time. You - I'll tell you Ortiz why you want to keep them more than 20 days.

You want to keep them more than 20 days to send a message of harshness and let people know to be afraid that they're going to catch you, and they're going to keep you, and you're going to hate where you are.

You're telling me a different story today though in terms of why you need to do that.

ORTIZ: Yes. So, for us, you know, we're not in the detention business. We're - we're security experts. We apprehend, we process, and we turn them over to the other agencies that are out there.

CUOMO: So, it's a domino effect. You can only keep them 20 days, you don't have the resources to keep this many people anyway, so you got to get rid of them, you got to get - let them go. That gets perceived as weakness. Now you're doing catch and release again that feeds the chance that we

should come because we're going to get a good chance of getting through the system because they're overwhelmed, and it just keeps going.

ORTIZ: Yes. This becomes a cycle. Like I said, this has played out in 2014. It's playing out again here in 2019. And until we actually fix the system, this is going to continue to be a problem for us.

CUOMO: And another problem that I don't hear talked about that often is you're worried about them.

You're worried about being able to take care of them, being able to take care of the kids, deal with them when they're sick, being able to give them the things that they need because overcapacity means you can't give the care that you want to give.

The harshness doesn't work for you. You're saying you don't have any other choice.

ORTIZ: Yes. At double our capacity right now, I don't have - don't have enough medics. I don't have enough Border Patrol agents to ensure that these folks are getting processed within the 48 hours that we should be processing them.

We're having to keep people in custody longer. Our agents are getting assaulted. Potentially, it could be a liability or even one of the individuals that are in custody could be assaulted in detention facilities that are overcrowded.

These folks just cross the river. The river is about half a mile, maybe a quarter of a mile south of us.

CUOMO: So, obviously, they know--

ORTIZ: If--

CUOMO: --we're here.

ORTIZ: If they turn themselves in, they are looking for Border Patrol agent to turn themselves in right now. And so, typically, you get us with a large group already apprehended up here on the levee.

You've got this group. And in probably another 10 or 15 minutes, you're going to have another group behind them, and another group behind them. These are unaccompanied children and family units. They're not trying to evade apprehension.

CUOMO: I know you have to shut off a part of yourself when you do the job because you got a job to do, you got to be professional.

I know this breaks your heart seeing people who have nothing, who have come here with nothing. Most of them are desperate. They're all carrying these babies. How do you handle this?

ORTIZ: I'm a father, I'm a grandfather. Somebody needs to do something about this. This goes on each and every day. Our officers are dealing with this each and every day.

And until, you know, folks in Congress, folks at the White House, folks on Capitol Hill actually put forth an honest effort to address the situation here on the Border, it's not just a humanitarian crisis, it's a Border security crisis.

We've talked about that it's being driven by a policy crisis, certainly pulls at our heartstrings. But I'm awfully proud of the work the men and women are doing down here, very vigilant in what they're doing, and very dedicated to the mission. But this is tough.

CUOMO: When you look at these babies, you care about these people.

ORTIZ: Most definitely.

CUOMO: This is--

ORTIZ: Most definitely.

CUOMO: You're not a cop looking at perps.

ORTIZ: No. That - these - these folks have done nothing other than cross the Border illegally. And most of them are economic migrants. They're looking for a better way of life.

Understanding all of that, but they shouldn't have to do it this way. They should be able to apply for some sort of immigration relief in their home country without having to travel, you know, 3,000, 4,000 miles.

CUOMO: Now, I keep hearing from your men and women that you make a point to go up to kids and say, you know, "You're going to be all right, it's going to be OK, don't worry about it."

Why is that so important?

ORTIZ: Well, for once, in their journey, this is the first time that they're not going to be exploited. They're not going to be manipulated by a smuggler. They're not going to be forced to pay a bribe at some point during that route.

Officers are going to make sure that they're fed or make sure that they get clean clothes that they're looked at by a doctor, so if they have any medical aid - ailments. So, we're doing everything we can in our power to ensure that they're safe. That's all. We want to let them know that they're safe now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:10:00] CUOMO: Look, this is just one aspect of the problem. But I hope you take away a couple of things. One, don't demonize CBP. Can police officers, can people in control make mistakes? Can they abuse their force? All of those things are possible.

But I'm telling you, in the main, these are people who come heart first to this mission. I've seen it for 20 years covering this situation down here. I've never seen them under duress like this.

I've never seen a Chief take an opportunity to speak to people in power, asking them to do more. I've never seen it. That man's been doing this job a 30 years, and I watched him with those people.

I watched the men and women that you're going to get to see tonight. Looking at people in detention, the situation is deplorable, OK? There's no question about it. How these people are being kept, it's horrible.

You're going to hear more about it later from Rosa Flores.

But it's not about having bad cops on the Border. It's not about these people being some Brown Menace. They are mostly women and kids. We are not a fence away from this being fixed.

This is a system that the men and women in Congress and in this Administration, they know the problems, and they're ignoring them. Why? They're going to have to answer for that starting tonight.

Now, what is being perceived as a solution from the President is strength. And his big threat of the moment is "I'll shut the Border down. That'll show them." Well if he does that, it will have all kinds of consequences, especially economic ones, in a city where we're going to take you next. Ed Lavandera has that story.

And later, you're going to hear directly from some of the families that have crossed over.

We met with them in a shelter. They wanted to talk about what they're told to expect when they come here. It's very important in understanding why they risk it with their kids, and why they are so disappointed by what they learn.

Dangerous lies, coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You know coming here to a place like Hidalgo, Texas, it's easy. Leaving is what is hard.

When you get here, the need that you see all around you is so great, it's hard to leave it behind. It's hard to move past. But things may not get better here any time soon. And the President's threat to close the Border could make it even worse.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has that part of this fiasco from El Paso, Texas. Eddie, thank you.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris.

Well the news of this threat is already having ramifications up and down the Border where wait times at ports of entry are already starting to slow down as CBP agents have been moved and are being relocated to other areas to help out Border Patrol agents in those areas between the - the ports of entry.

But, you know, we spoke with Silvestre Reyes. And if you've been following immigration issues for any amount of time, you might recognize the name. He's a former Border Patrol Sector Chief, down in the Rio Grande Valley and here in El Paso. He's also a former Democratic Congressman from the El Paso area as well.

He spent nearly 30 years as a Border Patrol Agent. And he says that this sounding the alarm that Customs and Border Protection officials have been doing for the better part of the last two weeks is really overblown.

He says that, you know, back in his day that they had far fewer Border Patrol agents, far less money in the budget, far less resources, and were able to process many more undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. Southern border.

He says at - at the peak, they were getting anywhere between 1.4 million and 1.8 million undocumented immigrants every year.

So, he questions why all of this talk of this system-wide failure and why Border - why Border Patrol agents and Immigration officials say they're so overwhelmed by what is happening down here at the Border.

Silvestre Reyes says they should be able to handle it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SILVESTRE REYES, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR TEXAS' 16TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, FORMER HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: We - we were able to manage it at the - at the increased influx when back in the - in the mid-80s.

It can't be good now for the President of the United States to be threatening, or even just talking about shutting down the Border is nuts, you know. That - that - that affects people on both sides. And it would be catastrophic economically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Look, Eddie, there's no question that they've seen big flow today. What we understand is that they've never seen this many different categories of need.

And there is a material difference, which is back then it was mostly Mexico. So, you had very easy repatriation. It was literally putting them on a bus, putting them - walking them back across the Border.

Now, you have so many countries that are a flight away, it's not so easy to repatriate. It slows everything down because of the requirements, which are in place to keep people safe, so there's that practicality, but we'll let that be argued out.

In terms of what might happen next, Eddie, the idea of what the impact would be of a Border shut down, let's take where you are in El Paso, what do you think the economic impact is there, the societal impact?

LAVANDERA: Well we've - the societal impact is - is - is really - it's hard to overstate just how often and how much these ports of entries, these bridges between communities on the U.S. side and the Mexico side are - are depended upon.

They're a lifeline for many of these border communities. Thousands of people go back and forth to go to school, to go to doctors, to go to their jobs, to see family and - and friends. The economic impact is staggering.

Just take this El Paso area by itself, $77 billion in trade in 2018, responsible for a 128,000 jobs in the area as well, as 18 - contributed $18 billion to the gross domestic product.

These are staggering numbers. And that's just the El Paso area.

Go downriver for like - between where you are and where I am in Laredo, Texas. That is a huge, one of the biggest inland ports in the United States, more than 4 million trucks with goods from everything - from shoes, clothes, whatever you can think of, agriculture goes through these ports of entry.

So, imagine shutting all - all of that down. And just the threat of it, Chris, has already started slowing down. In fact, you know, there are students here in El Paso from the University of Texas at - at El Paso, who live on the other side.

Many people here reporting times and - and having to spend much longer amount of time on these bridges, trying to get back and forth, because of just the threat here this week.

CUOMO: Really, you know, what we're hearing from people here is if the President wants to show strength, he should take it to Congress, and start making them work on this.

[21:20:00] They should be debating what to do here. They should be making their arguments. And they should be taking action or justifying why they're not.

Ed, thank you so much for getting the perspective on now versus then with the Border, and what could still come to pass if the Border is shut down. Ed Lavandera, thank you from El Paso.

So, listen, I'm telling you, we haven't seen people on the Border, CBP, DHS, asking for help like they are now, and they've been doing it for months. The question is not just what is Congress going to do, but why are they doing nothing?

We're going to get after that question. It's time to speak truth to power, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You know, in the commercial break, I often check social media and Twitter, and I see how you guys are having your eyes opened by this that you didn't know it was every day, you didn't know CBP were the ones asking for help.

That's just a little taste of the reality that they deal with every day.

Here's the real problem. I know it's new to you. It's not new to our leadership. The Administration knows. Congress knows. Why isn't anything being done?

We have a special guest tonight, Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat. He is a former undocumented immigrant himself.

He is an American success story. Forget about your Left, Right, or reasonable partisan stripe. For someone to come from where he was, to be where he is now, is what this country is about at its best in the promise of opportunity.

So, it is good to have you, Congressman. It's always a pleasure to see you. I'm not misstating the facts here, right?

ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, (D) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR NEW YORK'S 13TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS WHIP: You're correct.

CUOMO: You guys in Congress know what is going on, and you know what they've been asking for, for months. Fair point?

ESPAILLAT: That's correct, Chris.

And we were there yesterday in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. We were there the day before in El Salvador to speak to the leadership there, the law enforcement agents that are working there in El Salvador.

And this is a humanitarian crisis that for far too long has cried out for help, not only just the Border Patrol, not just the Chief that you - I saw you speak to who spoke from his heart, but the children, the women that are crossing the Border that - that need an answer, and Congress has been for far too long silent and complacent about this.

[21:25:00] CUOMO: Now, Congressman, the reason I asked you to come on tonight is you are not the problem here, OK? Obviously, this is very close to your heart. It was your past, and you see it as the present, and obviously going to be the future.

But your party and the other side have done nothing. I looked at the schedule for hearings this week, all kinds of hearings, dozens of hearings, not one on the situation here.

Why? Why is nothing even being discussed let alone done?

ESPAILLAT: We should have full hearings about this. We've - we - we got to find out the root cause of this migration crisis. We were down, as I said earlier, in - in El Salvador, spoke to President Bukele Nayib (ph), 38-year old President.

We're seeing a drop in homicides in El Salvador. We met with law enforcement agents, U.S. law enforcement agents, and everybody is upset at the potential that the funding will be cut.

They've made some progress. A good number of the folks going back are no longer from El Salvador. They're now from Honduras and Guatemala. They're no longer - less than 12 percent are from Mexico.

So, we got to see the root--

CUOMO: Right.

ESPAILLAT: --of these problems in - in - in Guatemala and Honduras, and we've got to bring resources to the Border for these Border Patrol agents and all the folks there.

CUOMO: Yes. But it's not happening.

You got these new members of the Left filled with vim and vigor, and they're passionate, and they're up against Trump, and no wall. Nancy Pelosi says the wall is immoral. They fight and they shout.

But now, the real need, Judges, more resources. Thinking about these rules that allow people to jump the line when they claim asylum, even if they enter illegally without demonstrating cause, and there's nothing.

There's silence. Even when they were separating the kids, as you saw back in 2014, at least you guys came. I know you came. I'm not blaming you for this.

But your party, where is everybody? There's opportunity, if nothing else, for your party in this.

ESPAILLAT: Well--

CUOMO: They know there's inaction on the Right. They know that party won't move without the President. Where is everybody?

ESPAILLAT: You're right, Chris. We went down there when Jakelin Caal lost her life there. She was ill. The Border Patrol were not equipped to handle that health crisis.

When we went yesterday to El Paso, we saw that there's now some evidence that there's medical services being provided there. We - it shouldn't take someone crossing the Border months and months and months to establish that there's a - a critical fear for going back to his or her country.

I think that the resources need to be put right there in place to ensure that that happens rapidly, in a - in a relatively fast period of time. That's not happening right now.

And that's why the - the crisis, if the Border is closed, if the funding is - is cut for the Triangle countries, is going to go on steroids. This is a - a crisis that we have not yet seen, the magnitude of it, if this happens.

If the Border is shut down, if funding is - is - is cut from the Triangle countries, if the resources don't get to the Border as quickly as possible, it will go on steroids.

CUOMO: Listen, my question to you is how do you shake up your own party? How do you get some people to start arguing about what should happen, debating the rules, debating the resources, debating what's going on?

That little girl losing her life was horrible. Nobody wants to see it. I don't know how we don't see more of it. God forbid, I hope I'm wrong. But I don't know how you don't see more.

They're stretched so thin. There's so many people coming in. It's so overwhelmed, and nothing's happening. Not even a single hearing this week.

ESPAILLAT: We should--

CUOMO: I just don't get it. What can you do?

ESPAILLAT: We should have - we should have hearings immediately about the conditions in the Border, full-blown hearings with all the ramifications, not just listening from one side, but listening from law enforcement, listening from advocates for immigrants, listening to people on the ground that have to face this on a daily basis.

When the budget process begins, we have to consider funding to ensure that the resources get there, that people don't have to wait months and months and months to establish a critical fear of going back to their country, that children that get sick are attended by physicians.

This - this is the kind of efforts that we have to bring forward. We got to do it rapidly.

CUOMO: Right. ESPAILLAT: We got to do it now

CUOMO: Now, I want your take on something. Please, feel free. I know we're on live television. But you tell me if you think I'm off. We've known each other a long time.

I have a cynical suspicion. I think that the Democrats are quiet because you think, not you so much. Again, I asked you to come on because I don't see you as a bad guy. You've been fighting for this your whole life.

But your party, I think they think Trump's who (ph) owns this, and they want to be quiet. And they want to watch it fester, and they want to say, "This is on him. A fence didn't get it done. Look at all these kids. He owns this," and that's why they're so quiet because otherwise it doesn't make sense.

You got these young women and men who just got elected, mostly women, into the Congress, they want to fight about everything. They want to fight the big fights. They're full of passion.

But not this. On this, they're quiet.

[21:30:00] Do you want to call the wall immoral? Fine! Nancy Pelosi did that. Doing nothing about this is immoral. And I don't understand why the party is quiet when there's so much opportunity and so much need.

I don't get why they're quiet. Help me understand if it's not the cynical explanation that I have.

ESPAILLAT: Well like there's this (ph) trepidation on both sides.

On the one hand, the - the White House and Republicans want to fan the - the - the flames of fear. On the other hand, the - our side of the - the political spectrum may - may think that perhaps this is something that doesn't poll well.

Well, you know what? It's a crisis. We're a government. We should address it. I think that we - we need to do comprehensive immigration reform. Nobody is talking about that. I know that DREAMers and TPS recipients are important.

CUOMO: You - you can't get it done.

ESPAILLAT: Well we - we got to get it done. Otherwise, this crisis will continue to fester.

CUOMO: You can't even get this done.

ESPAILLAT: Well--

CUOMO: You know, you - you got the men and women who are keeping us safe, they're screaming out to you guys, "Help us! Help us! Help us!" McAleenan, the CBP guy, Kirstjen Nielsen, the DHS, they go up there, they say, "Help us! Help us! Help us!" and nothing happens. Now, you're going to do comprehensive reform. I just--

ESPAILLAT: Well--

CUOMO: --I don't see how if you can't address something so obvious, how are you going to attack something so complex and subtle?

ESPAILLAT: Well we need to do the little things first, you're right, Chris. You know, we saw. We met with the FBI, with law enforcement in El Salvador. They're doing great things there. They don't want that funding cut.

We got to make sure that the Border Patrol gets the resources. They need to treat these folks humanely, not under a bridge as some of them were - were housed there for several days. We went to see that location.

We need to do these--

CUOMO: Yes.

ESPAILLAT: --fundamental things. But ultimately, we need to get to the root causes in Honduras and Guatemala. Ultimately, we need to do immigration reform.

CUOMO: There's no worse message that America could send than if people start getting hurt and abused on our watch this way. And it's only because we failed to act.

And again, I want the audience to know, Adriano Espaillat has been living this problem. He's been advocating for it. I have no problem speaking truth to power. I've no problem going after people about this.

But I brought you on, Congressman, not to blame you.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you.

CUOMO: But to literally beg you to talk to your party about seeing the situation for what it is, and I'll say the same thing to the other side. Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.

ESPAILLAT: Well - well thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: I appreciate your ear.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you for shedding light on this at the Border.

You got to go down there to really see what's going on. And I think that your reporting will shed some light that many people are - are not aware of what's going on down there.

CUOMO: All right, that's the job. Congressman, thank you very much. We'll follow up with you.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you. CUOMO: All right, so look, part of the mystery here, I - I really I just I don't get it. I - you heard my cynical suspicion about why the Democrats would watch this. I'm not saying they own it. You got to get out of that mindset, all right?

Who do we blame? Who's right? You've got to fix this. It's got to take both sides. It can be done. That's the shame in it is that this isn't a hard one. This isn't something where there isn't a solution. So, that is the big problem, why is nothing being done?

Here's the other part. Why is this happening now? OK. It's not even the high season for migrants. So, what's going on right now? What's the catalyst?

We got some of the best answers to that question, not from experts. Well they are experts, the migrants themselves.

We met a young dad with a nine-year-old son. Why is he here? Why is he here with his son? What was he told about what would happen when he got here? It's really instructive. We're going to take that on, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Sister Norma is who you're going to about to meet. She's with Catholic Charities. And she is overwhelmed. Too many people, too many kids, and now with the government, turning kids and families free, they have to.

They're over capacity. The law doesn't let them keep them any longer. And they have nowhere to put them. 2,000 were released in this area already because there's nowhere else for them to be.

So, now, Sister Norma's shelter - shelter is bursting. I want you to hear what she thinks about this, and what's going on. And I want you to hear from the people inside that shelter. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Why do you think more are coming now? First of all, do you believe that more are coming?

Do you believe that these big Caravans that are being organized and all of the kids that we're seeing right now, the numbers they've giving, do you believe it that there are more kids and bigger groups than you've seen?

SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY: I see that there's a lot of people arriving every single day today. Yes, I see them, right. They're here. Why? I don't understand.

Well how come so many people, all of a sudden, just couple of weeks, all of a sudden, they almost all started coming, you know, it's never happened before. And that--

CUOMO: And you don't know why. What did they tell you? Did they tell you why now?

PIMENTEL: No, they - they don't say very much. They only say that that they're here because situations are very difficult in their country. But, you know, it's almost as if they were encouraged to come, you know.

CUOMO: Is he here to work or is he here for asylum?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: He wants to work.

FLORES: All right. He wants to work. But if he gets asylum, he says he's willing to ask for asylum.

CUOMO: Why did he take his kid with him to come here if it's just to work?

FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

FLORES: It's what you and I were talking about. He says that if he comes here with his son, then he's allowed to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: He thinks.

FLORES: Otherwise - he thinks he's allowed to stay.

CUOMO: He thinks he's allowed.

FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: Who told him that?

FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: Says it's word of mouth.

FLORES: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) smugglers, word of mouth.

CUOMO: That the smugglers are telling them you bring your kid, you can get in.

The kids are the hardest part because they don't understand the situation they are in.

PIMENTEL: Right.

CUOMO: They don't understand what they mean to some people on one side and others on another side. They're just kids.

PIMENTEL: They're just kids. And they're suffering, yes. And they've gone through so much. And so, we must bring that smile back to their faces and to their hearts, so that they can have a right to be safe.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: Being on TV like every other kid.

RUTH, IMMIGRANT CHILD: Ruth.

PIMENTEL: Ruth? It is Ruth. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

RUTH: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

RUTH: Sofia (ph).

PIMENTEL: Sofia (ph)? Hola, Sofia (ph).

CUOMO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

RUTH: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: Two years?

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) he says.

RUTH: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). CUOMO: Wow. Six and two. Boy oh boy! Mine were that size like yesterday.

Now, have you been having trouble in here, rival gang factions who want to fight?

PIMENTEL: Not at all.

CUOMO: People stealing, people hurting?

PIMENTEL: You know, we've - we've been here for five years. And of the 150,000-plus, if not almost 200,000 people that have come through our doors, not once have we called the cops to say as we can't handle it.

[21:40:00] There's so - there's something going on between them or disrespect, never.

CUOMO: Because nuns are so tough.

PIMENTEL: Well, I believe I - I--

CUOMO: And as a Catholic boy myself--

PIMENTEL: I truly believe that they--

CUOMO: --I never feared the police. I always feared the nuns.

PIMENTEL: Yes, right?

CUOMO: Sister, are you worried that the government is overwhelmed? They don't have what they need to deal with the flow. Thank God for you, but there's not enough Sister Normas.

If he closes the Border, if the President says, "We have to stop it right now. There's too much, we can't handle this," are you worried about what that would mean?

PIMENTEL: Of course. We are a - a community right here next to Mexico. We live together.

You can't close the Border because you close the Border, so many things stop, and it - it - it - and it affects the Commerce, it affects (ph) the economy, everybody, you know, and it just doesn't make sense.

We have families in both sides of the Border. People are saying, "What do you mean we're not going to be able to go back and forth?" You know, it - it - it - it disrupts totally our - our society and how we live here.

CUOMO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Chris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mijel (ph).

PIMENTEL: Mijel (ph) Guatemala.

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

CUOMO: Hey, hey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Guatemala.

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Guatemala.

CUOMO: Hey, hey.

How long have they been here?

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

PIMENTEL: Yesterday. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

PIMENTEL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). OK. Yes. His - his ticket to leave is tomorrow morning, so he'll be here until tomorrow.

CUOMO: One of the difficult things here is you enter illegally, but you are not an illegal thing, you know, that's one of the things we're struggling with.

PIMENTEL: That's important to know that, right?

CUOMO: Well like many people do not agree with what I just said, Sister. But I think--

PIMENTEL: But it's true. A human person cannot be illegal, you know. You enter because you obviously want to be able to have an opportunity to find protection.

CUOMO: Right.

PIMENTEL: So, you're asking to enter through the - through the points of entry, and they don't seem to allow you to enter at the point of entry. So, you want to ask for - for an opportunity to be safe. And so, that's what most of these families are here for.

CUOMO: What is your hope for all these people?

PIMENTEL: That - that they are safe and that people treat them with respect in the process of determining why they're here and whether they should be here or not.

CUOMO: Well, you know what the argument is. You've heard it, you know, all your years doing this, is that "You want to come, come the legal way, come the right way. You did this. You put your kids in this situation. You put yourself in this situation." What do you say?

PIMENTEL: Well if we want them to come the legal way--

CUOMO: They just won Texas Tech.

PIMENTEL: If we want them to come the legal way, we must build capacity at the points of entry--

CUOMO: Right.

PIMENTEL: --so people can actually come in through there because if you go to the Border to the - the bridge, you'll see many families waiting to try to cross over and ask for asylum the legal way.

CUOMO: Yes.

PIMENTEL: And they're - and they're waiting for weeks, if not months already on the other side. So, we're not really providing them that option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting. Even Sister Norma will say - she's not saying everybody's got to come in. There's law and there has to be a right way and a wrong way. The system's broken right now.

You saw that man. I can't tell you how many people say, "I want to work. But if I can't, I want asylum." That allows you to jump the line right now.

You can enter illegally. You ask for asylum, you wind up ahead of all these people who've been waiting, who've gone the legal process of asylum. Doesn't make sense! Congress knows this. They're doing nothing.

Now, you saw somebody who was instrumental in helping us understand what's going on here today. You saw our Rosa Flores in there. Now, not only she know this area, she grew up near here. Her family understands the connection to Mexico.

And we got to see something together that you won't get to see, a place nicknamed the Icebox. And Rosa's going to tell you what it's like in there for the people who are detained, and the people who have to watch them. You have never seen anything like it.

Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, so we're here in Hidalgo, Texas. You got me, Chris Cuomo, and Rosa Flores, you know her from CNN.

So, we were together today at Catholic Charities. And Rosa and I met this young father who was here with his son. Now, he brought his son because he had been told by somebody, as Rosa and I both learned, that if you come with your kid, you'll get in.

They're gaming the system. And very often, it winds up being a faster pack. But he told us about him being in a place that was so cold, and how he was treated, and how tough it is there.

So, we asked the authorities to let us, if we could go in McAllen, Texas, and see it. They let us in. No cameras because of privacy concerns. But it was a place that it's probably better people don't see it, because it would be tough to accept it as a reality.

FLORES: It really would be. And we've seen photos of this because some photos have been leaked in the past because of the surge of migrants in - in 2014.

CUOMO: Yes, I think we have some. You can put them up.

FLORES: We probably do. They look like kennels, in essence, people being held in kennels. You could see women and children with bloodshot eyes. I'm sure you noticed the children that were crying that had tears rolling down their faces.

A lot of the children and women that you and I noticed were closer to the - the heater.

CUOMO: Yes.

FLORES: Because it's--

CUOMO: One heater.

FLORES: One heater because it's very cold in there.

CUOMO: Yes.

FLORES: There were men holding, you know, young infants, wrapped in blankets, and you could see the pain in not only the migrants, but also the Border patrolmen, and which is one of the things that you and I had been talking about because, in this case, it's not just the migrants that are suffering.

It's also the Border Patrol agents because they have been--

CUOMO: They are hurting.

FLORES: --asking for help and have not got it (ph).

CUOMO: Right. And they get villainized. You know, you see the Pens, I mean what comes to your mind? They want to keep them like this. They want to demoralize them.

Then you listen to the rhetoric of the President, and it starts to fit together, you know, "Treat them harshly. Disrespect them. They won't come back."

But, you talk to the men and women, they don't want to keep people like this.

FLORES: They don't.

CUOMO: They don't like having to do it. It hurts them. Many people have a similar experience. You know, you're a professional journalist. You grew up in this area. You're born in Mexico. Your family knows both realities.

You know, you look at those people, you understand so much more about them than just a name and a face. Those men and women feel like that too, and they're literally begging for help. I'm talking about the authorities.

FLORES: The authorities, right, right, right.

CUOMO: Not just the people. The people are begging for help, of course.

FLORES: And what - and - and what's so frustrating, and you know this because you've been covering this for so long, we see the politicians get the photo ops.

Just pull up the photo ops of every politician who's come to this Border and it's very easy to see who's been here, and who says that they know the problem at the Border. If they know the problem at the Border, why don't they do something?

And aside from that, the U.S. government has been tracking this for years. We've been covering it. They've been tracking it. We get the stats from CBP, from the federal government. And these officers have been asking the federal government to do something.

What did the Chief tell us today? He said, we need, first of all, resources so that we can deal with the issue now and then a change in policies so--

CUOMO: Think about the rules.

FLORES: --to make sure - to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

[21:50:00] CUOMO: Who gets in and how they get in, I'll tell you what. I've never seen anything like it. I mean I've seen much worse than this, thank God.

But where this is headed, I've never seen the people in charge, an extension of our government, looking back towards their leadership and saying, "You got to help us out."

And where are all they? Where are all the people on the Left who want to be loud and proud and fight the fight against Trump? This is your opportunity. And where are the people on the Right who say they care about this, compassionate Conservatives?

The President is offering up strength as a solution. I don't know how much more strength can get you. It's time for some tenderness, and it's time for some thinking about better solutions.

But what we saw today of those people being held, my fear is people will not stay like that for long. Now, they're letting them go, which is a whole other problem, but we're going to see bad situations.

Kids are going to be sick, people are going to be angry, and they're going to turn on the people who are keeping them there, and then what are we going to do?

FLORES: And the thing is it's not just a failure on the - the immigrants. It's a failure on the U.S. citizens, the hardworking men and women of DHS, who are working day in and day out, you saw them a lot--

CUOMO: Six days a week.

FLORES: One of them - some of them getting, you know, teary-eyed talking about working and - and trying to help these migrants. It's a failure on U.S. citizens. It's not just a failure on the migrant - migrants.

CUOMO: A 100 percent. Rosa, thank you for helping me today.

FLORES: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: I literally would not have understood what was going on if I weren't there--

FLORES: No, I don't believe that.

CUOMO: --if I weren't there with you. It matters. And hopefully--

FLORES: Yes. It does.

CUOMO: --people are getting the message tonight. Thank you, my friend.

FLORES: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: All right, so I don't need to do a closing argument tonight because there is no argument here.

There should be no sides. It demands both sides, right? As Dora the Explorer taught us, you know, (FOREIGN LANGUAGE), you got to work together in a situation like this, and it's not happening.

I'm going to lay out what should now be painfully obvious to all of you. Then comes the really disturbing part. Everything that we showed you tonight, the Administration and Congress, they've known it all for months. They've seen it all.

So, what I hope is our collective closing for those in power, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I thought it was an April Fool's joke when I first looked at the schedule for hearings in Congress today. There is nothing listed for the entire week that deals with what's happening here, what you've seen for yourself, all week.

Why is there no urgency? 2014, Obama Administration. They had the unaccompanied minors, you remember those pictures, right? People panicked seeing them in Pens, overcrowded, politicians flocked. No lessons were learned.

Then came kids in cages, family separation, the pictures shook us, the stories haunted us, rightly so, if you have warm blood pumping through your veins.

People in power said "No more." Well what about now? This is worse.

More people, more challenges, more danger, more distress. And yet, all the shows aren't here. This isn't flooded with media. This isn't flooded with politicians, pumping their fists, demanding to do something, where are they?

They care, right, the compassionate Conservatives, the new Left who rail against demonizing what this President describes as the Brown Menace, in my opinion? What are you? Why are you so quiet? Where are you now?

A nun, a Border Chief, a mother and a child, all have the same message for you. "Do something."

If it's about more fencing, loud voices, debate, forced action, an emergency declaration, the President is on scene. The same men and women who were with him then are literally begging for action, begging for attention now.

And they're not asking for like bigger guns. They're asking for help to treat these poor people with care and compassion, so they can have a decent place to keep them, to give them medical care, and the people to process them. Do not think for a second that the people protecting us on the Border like to abuse migrants. I have never seen anyone get an ounce of joy out of doing the job they're forced to do right now.

Their main job of weeding out the bad guys and the drugs, and they are here. They're not what the President told you. That's not the main threat, drugs and terror walking across the Border. It's kids and families.

These men and women have to do both. They have to protect against both, and they're equipped for neither adequately. OK. So, they can't do their job, they're begging you for help, the politicians are doing nothing. It makes no sense.

For the Democrats, there's opportunity here. If you want to oppose Trump, and show you have a better way to deal with this, then do it, and do it now. You don't even have a hearing scheduled.

You want to call building walls immoral? What about doing nothing in a situation like this? What do you call that?

And for people on the Right, I get it. I get it. Once you start talking about fencing, once you stop talking about that, you don't want to talk about anything with this. You think you're going to get in the President's way.

I know you fear what he can do to you in a primary. But what can people who see situations like this and see that you do nothing, what can they do to you in a primary? Think about that.

Now, the men and women that we met down here, I say, "Man, this is so hard, it's tearing you up so much. What keeps you doing the job?" They say, "I love my brothers and sisters. I care about these people. And I took an oath."

But didn't all of you in Congress take an oath? Didn't the President, those in the White House, aren't you supposed to serve our interests? Didn't you take an oath to something bigger than yourself?

How do you explain not doing anything about what is so painfully obvious? Not a single hearing on the calendar this week?

You could pass new rules, you can pass temporary rules, you could avert another layer to this crisis. Coming illegally then claiming asylum allows you to jump the line for people who wait the right way, and you think they're going to keep doing that?

What's wrong with keeping families together longer than 20 days if you have the right places to keep them? Debate it. Make an argument.

Our Army Corps of Engineers, they can build up tent cities. I've seen them do it all over the world in squalor. They do it in days. They're not here. They're not doing it. Why not? Debate it.

Why isn't the emergency declaration that the President insisted on, legal or not, why isn't it being used to marshal assets for the wall? It is. Why isn't it being used to marshal assets for this? It isn't. Why?

I don't see how tragedy is averted here. I don't see how we don't start hearing about God forbids. I hope I'm wrong. I take no pleasure in that kind of outcome. But this isn't a natural disaster. It's manmade.

Closing the Border, other flourishes of strength belie a fundamental weakness of devising an actual solution for the needs of the people coming across, the needs of the people meeting them at the Border as well.

If you don't want this many people coming in, do something. If you want people to be treated better, for kids not to be traumatized, and worse, do something. If you respect our law enforcement and the rule of law, do something.

There is so much need, so many gaps you almost can't go wrong politically. There's nothing but opportunity for a politician looking to show they can identify the right thing and act on it. The only mistake is the decision to do nothing. And that is a mistake that too many in power are making tonight.

Thanks for being with us down here in Texas. Unfortunately, I think you're going to see a lot more people covering this situation because it's not getting any better.

CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON starts right now.

END