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THE SITUATION ROOM
Arizona's New Immigration Law; Disaster in the Gulf
Aired April 23, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, it has been called the toughest crackdown of its kind in America. Arizona statute targeting illegal immigrants just signed into law amid massive protests. This hour, the debate over safety versus racial profiling.
Also, a health insurance giant accused of dropping customers with breast cancer, as soon as they're diagnosed. We look at the loophole that may get them -- let them get away with it.
Plus, a proposed super-weapon, capable of striking anywhere on the planet, with pinpoint accuracy in under an hour. Could it make nuclear weapons obsolete?
Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Well, it is one of the most sweeping measures targeting illegal immigrants in decades, and it is now law in Arizona. Thousands of protesters are rallying against the bill. Governor Jan Brewer signed it just 90 minutes ago. The most controversial provision requires police to question the immigration status of somebody who they suspect may be in the United States illegally. Now, critics say that could lead to racial profiling. Brewer says Arizona's rising crime rate was key in her decision to sign this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: There's no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona.
We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life. We cannot delay while the disruption happening south of our border, our international border, creeps its way north. We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act, but decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama calls this move misguided.
Our CNN senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is traveling with the president in North Carolina. And, Ed, I noticed the governor of Arizona, she threw it right back at the president and said, you know what, it's the federal immigration policy that's misguided.
How is the White House responding?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you're absolutely right.
You know, the president here for a little bit of R&R with the first lady for a short weekend in Asheville. But, before he left, he was in the Rose Garden for that sort of naturalization ceremony, U.S. service members who have become U.S. citizens. And he really lashed out at this new law, clearly, the president frustrated about what's happening in Arizona, and saying that this is a wakeup call, that there needs to be new federal legislation because of what's happening in the states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, White House aides say that they think there could be some consensus building on Capitol Hill, especially in the wake of this controversy, to get moving on federal immigration reform.
As my colleague Dana Bash reported earlier, it's looking less and less likely that there will be a vote on energy legislation this year on Capitol Hill. That was supposed to be the next big issue really the president was going to be tackling nationally after Wall Street reform.
They're hoping that's going to be done soon. This now, with the energy reform developments, could open the way for a big new push, especially with what's going on for -- in Arizona, for the White House to really focus in on that federal immigration reform.
There's some bipartisan bills on the Hill, but, as you know, still far from consensus right now, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK, Ed Henry -- thanks, Ed.
Later this hour, a debate about the new law with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Arizona State Senator Frank Antenori.
There are some major new developments during -- involving the Securities and Exchange Commission's fraud charges against Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. Some Republican lawmakers believe the charges were timed to influence the push for financial reform in Congress. And the SEC inspector general has agreed to investigate. Our CNN's Mary Snow, she's working this story for us.
Mary, obviously, a lot of questions about the timing of this. What do we know today?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this comes just one week after the SEC announced it was bringing fraud charges against Goldman Sachs.
Now, the SEC's inspector general said this afternoon he's going to investigate the timing of that announcement. This comes at the request of eight House Republicans. Those Republicans were led by Congressman Darrell Issa. He's the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
And the group of Republicans wrote to the SEC's inspector general, raising questions about the timing of the SEC lawsuit, and their question, whether it was done to influence the debate over financial regulatory reform legislation currently pending in the Senate.
As -- and many people already know, Republicans have been strongly opposed to that legislation. Now, the SEC has insisted it had no contact with the administration before the charges were announced, that it's an independent agency. And also this week, in an interview, President Obama reiterated that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I gave a speech about financial regulatory reform in 2007, before our current crisis, in 2008, before we fully knew what this crisis was going to be.
We have released financial reform as a package over a year ago. And so we're not Johnny-come-latelies to this thing. We have been pushing this hard throughout. And the SEC is an entirely independent agency that we have no day-to-day control over. And they have never discussed with us anything with respect to the charge that will be brought.
So, this notion that somehow there would be any attempt to interfere in an independent agency is completely false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: And, you know, Suzanne, the president also said that he first learned about that lawsuit watching cable TV.
Also, a spokesman for the SEC says that the vote to decide whether to file charges against Goldman Sachs, that was on the calendar one month in advance, and that is done so that SEC commissioners can become familiar with the cases that they're going to hear and eventually vote on -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Mary. Well, a major health insurance company is coming under some scrutiny in the wake of charges now that it is looking for reasons to drop especially vulnerable policyholders.
Joining me now is CNN's Lisa Sylvester.
And obviously there are a lot of allegations now against WellPoint. And this is surprising, considering the Obama administration's health care policies, saying, hey, the insurance companies aren't allowed to do this kind of thing. What are they being charged with?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
Suzanne, you know, WellPoint is a giant in the insurance market, and its subsidiaries have more policyholders than any other health insurance company in the United States. Now they're accused of targeting breast cancer patients and leaving them without coverage just when they need it most.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The secretary of the department of Health and Human Services calls the practice deplorable. Breast cancer patients are accusing insurance company WellPoint and its subsidiaries of dropping their insurance coverage soon after they're diagnosed, among them, Louisville, Kentucky, resident Patricia Reilling. Reilling paid her premiums on time for more than 20 years before she received a letter dropping her coverage, leaving her unable to afford continued treatment.
She testified before a congressional committee last year.
PATRICIA REILLING, BREAST CANCER PATIENT: The longer I go not being able to have a surgery that's supposed to help get rid of that, the longer I'm at risk of it going ahead and just munching its way through my insides. And it's very frightening, not to mention the fact that I can't do anything.
SYLVESTER: Once a successful businesswoman, Reilling is now relying on food stamps and Medicaid.
The insurance practice of dropping patients, known as recisions, remains a worry for federal regulators. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to WellPoint after a report by the Reuters News Agency detailing how WellPoint has been using computer software to deliberately target patients with certain conditions, including breast cancer, then reviewing their files and looking for an excuse to drop them.
JENNY BACKUS, HHS ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY: People who have paid their bills on time, followed all the rules, they have lost care. I mean, that's just -- it's unconscionable. And so what we have been trying to do at HHS and what we're trying to do in concert with the states is to -- to send a strong message to companies like WellPoint, and others, to say the days of dropping people randomly for coverage are over.
SYLVESTER: WellPoint denies the accusations, saying -- quote -- "WellPoint does not single out women with breast cancer for recision," period.
The company says computer software only screens to find preexisting conditions that weren't reported at the time consumers applied for coverage, and it says last year they rescinded coverage of less than one-tenth-of-1-percent of policyholders.
SYLVESTER: Under the federal health care bill, dropping coverage for preexisting conditions will be illegal, but that measure doesn't take effect until September of this year.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is asking WellPoint to voluntarily stop the practice of recisions immediately. WellPoint has not said that it will do that. Instead, in a letter to Sebelius, the company highlights some of its efforts to promote early detection of breast cancer.
So, they just sort of ignored...
MALVEAUX: So, there's a loophole right there.
SYLVESTER: Well, and we have to wait until September for the law to actually take effect, for this provision of the law.
MALVEAUX: Right. Right. OK. Thank you, Lisa.
A new report says about 21 million Americans will be uninsured when health care reforms go into full effect in 2016. Now, about four million of them would be subjected to fines for failing to buy insurance. The report says that those penalties will bring in more than $4 billion a year for the government.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the large majority of uninsured Americans will not have to pay fines because either their incomes are too low or because of their religious beliefs or they're illegal immigrants.
It has the potential to be an environmental disaster. We're going to get the latest on that oil rig that sank in the Gulf of Mexico. And what set it apart from the other rigs?
Also, the super weapon that could change the way the U.S. wages war and hunts down terrorists. There are fascinating details of what it might do.
Plus, it's the barbecue that is so delicious, even the president of the United States, well, he's got to take a number.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: How are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, the Democrats ain't getting it done. One top Democratic official says the party is not giving its base enough of a reason to vote for them in the upcoming midterm elections.
Pennsylvania Governor and former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Ed Rendell says that everybody is giving a little too much credit to the independents. Rendell says, yes, the Democrats want the independent vote, but, ultimately, he says, a lot will depend on turning out the Democratic Party's base.
Quoting here: "We have to give our base a reason to get out there, a reason to feel proud of who we are and what we stood for as a party. And I don't think up to now we have done a very effective job" -- unquote.
Ed Rendell has a point. The polls show that Republicans are much more fired up about voting in the midterms. One survey taken after health care reform passed showed that 55 percent of Republicans are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in November. And that compares to only 36 percent of Democrats who feel the same way.
In theory, health care, a major Obama campaign promise, should get the base going, but a lot of liberals were disappointed that it didn't go far enough and include a public option. Also, the Democrats risk alienating more of their base with reports circulating this week that they plan to undertake immigration before climate change.
Although immigration reform, which is a long shot at best, could help with the Hispanic vote, a lot of liberal believe that now's the best time in years to pass a bill on global warming. And still other Democrats are waiting for the party to address other issues, like gays in the military.
So, here's the question this hour. Have the Democrats done enough for their base to win in November?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.
We have just learned that the Coast Guard is now suspending the search for the 11 people who are missing since the dramatic explosion of an oil rig that sank yesterday. Officials are now saying at this point there's no reasonable expectation that they survived. Our CNN's Brian Todd, he has more on this situation out of the Gulf of Mexico and why this just wasn't any oil rig -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the Coast Guard is gearing up to deal with a potentially major oil spill from this disaster, but at the moment, there's no immediate evidence of a massive crude oil leak.
We want to talk about the potential for a leak and about this remarkable rig that was lost.
We're joined by Bud Danenberger. He has just retired as the head of offshore safety operations for the Minerals Management Service. That's the agency that regulates the oil industry in federal waters.
Bud, thanks very much for joining us.
If there was going to be any kind of a leak from this rise or this essential pipeline that connects the rig to the seafloor, where would it come?
BUD DANENBERGER, MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE: It would come from the top of the riser, where it's disconnected from the rig, or possibly from an opening at the base of the riser, right above the blowout preventer stack.
TODD: OK. So, how would they cap that or how would they head it off somehow?
DANENBERGER: They would try to actuate one of the blowout preventer ram in this blowout preventer stack and shut in the well that way.
We're going to talk about the potential damage from this when we talk about this and the slick that has been created by this. What is the potential for this reaching the shores of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi?
DANENBERGER: Well, that's being monitored very closely. And I think it would be unlikely, given the distance and the currents and such.
Oil tends to break up and disperse naturally pretty well and also evaporate. If it was coming close to shore, they would spray dispersements to try to disperse it into the water column.
And we're going to look at a map here of the Gulf region, and all the massive oil rigs that are offshore. You are looking at about 4,000 of them. And talk about this, and just these are mostly on the eastern quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Louisiana. What is the potential here for other spills or disasters of this kind?
DANENBERGER: Well, the record has been very good. There hasn't been a major explosion, fire incident like this since 1989, where a number of workers were killed. So, the record is good.
TODD: We're going to take a look at some of the features of this rig that has just sank, the Deepwater Horizon, a massive facility, about as big as two football fields. It's capable of drilling about 30,000 feet down.
Talk about -- I mean, that's five-and-a-half miles below the surface of the sea. Talk about that and just the capabilities of this thing.
DANENBERGER: Yes, it's enormous challenge. You're drilling deep into the earth's surface all the time. You're floating in a mile of water. You stay precisely on location with thrusters that are located on the pontoons, and controlled with computer systems that are tied to beacons on the seafloor.
TODD: So, there's no real tether. There's something illustrated here, but there's no real tether holding this rig to the seafloor?
DANENBERGER: That's right. Only the riser connects the wellhead and blowout preventer on the seafloor back to the rig.
TODD: How does this compare to the fixed rigs that clearly cannot go quite as far down?
DANENBERGER: Yes, the deepest water depth for a fixed production platform like this is 1,350 feet. And most of them are 200 feet or less.
TODD: The Deepwater Horizon obviously sank. And so it's down about, what, 5,000 feet from surface to floor.
TODD: Anything salvageable from that rig?
DANENBERGER: Probably not. It will probably be left on the seafloor.
TODD: So, as almost an artificial reef.
DANENBERGER: Probably, yes. It won't interfere with much out there, except for some possible oil and gas activity.
TODD: All right. Well, Bud, thank you very much. We appreciate your expertise.
Now, crews had recovered nearly 200 barrels of the oil-and-water mixture by midday today, but a Coast Guard official told CNN that about 200 barrels worth were yet to be picked up. So, that's an ongoing operation, Suzanne. They are going to be monitoring the oil flow very closely.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brian. 9 Well, oil spills, pollution, greenhouse gases, what effect are we having on the earth? Anderson Cooper and chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigate on "Planet in Peril" this Saturday night at 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN.
Iceland's volcanic sparked -- volcano, rather, sparked travel chaos across Europe and today that volcano is shooting ash into the air again. We have got the latest.
Plus, a dog on a mission, apparently summoning help in a crisis -- his heroic actions caught all on tape.
MALVEAUX: Well, the question, is it racial profiling or protection for U.S. citizens? A big decision by Arizona's governor is causing an uproar across the country. The latest on this breaking story up ahead.
Plus, new information on a plot to blow up New York's subways -- the terrorists' connection to al Qaeda ahead.
And, later, a spike in illegal immigration from Canada, and it's related to the Haitian earthquake.
MALVEAUX: We are following the breaking news this hour: Arizona's sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration now signed into law.
Its most controversial provision requires police to question the immigration status of someone they suspect may be in the U.S. illegally. Now, critics say that this could lead to racial profiling and civil rights violations. Arizona's governor says the law is needed to protect Arizona from rising crime.
Well, here to debate the measure, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Arizona State Senator Frank Antenori.
Thank you so much for joining us here.
I want to start off first, Governor Richardson, you know, you obviously deal with this in your own state. Take a look at the Arizona law. Is this racist?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, it's a terrible piece of legislation. It's against the democratic ideals of this country. It's a step backwards. It's impractical. If I were the administration, I would look at the legality of this bill. Now, I'm very fond of the governor of Arizona. I have toured the border with her. We have a problem on both our borders.
But I believe that this bill is going to complicate a lot of issues. It's going to mean, I believe, potentially racial profiling. It's going to mean massive, I think, problems with our neighbor in Mexico. They're going to react to this.
But it's also not going to protect border safety. What we need is comprehensive immigration reform. What it does show is the frustration of a lot of Arizonans that recognize that we do need comprehensive immigration reform, more border enforcement, more National Guard, more Border Patrol, earned legalization. Make those citizens, those Americans that are here, be protected.
RICHARDSON: ... security-wise.
But, also, my last point is there has to be an earned legalization, but there has to be accountability of those 11 million. They have to earn their way into this country, with learning English and having background checks.
MALVEAUX: Senator, why did you support this bill?
FRANK ANTENORI (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Well, two -- well, I will give you -- the biggest reason was because a rancher in one of the counties that I represent was murdered in cold blood, along with his dog, by someone who crossed the border illegally and who had crossed numerous times.
They just released a person of interest statement. This guy is a numerous offender, a criminal numerous times. He's been back and forth across our border.
We had a Phoenix police officer, Officer Shane Figueroa was killed by an illegal alien. And as his body -- and as he was dying on the side of the road, the illegal alien, instead of getting out to render aid to him, walked off the side of the road to urinate and watch the guy die.
We just had a criminal sentenced 169 years in jail for child rape who had been deported three times, had numerous contacts with law enforcement officers. And the citizens of this state are tired of the catch-and-release that is going on by the federal government, where they grab people, they process them, and they take them back, and drop them back on the other side of the border. They just come back.
And we have no border security down here.
ANTENORI: People can literally walk across with guns and drugs and -- and kill people and go back across the border without any impunity.
MALVEAUX: Clearly, those are tragic situations that you're talking about.
How do you respond, though, however, to the concern here, that many people say police officers are now going to be able to pull people over they suspect are illegal immigrants, and even the governor herself, when she was asked, what is an illegal immigrant look like, she said she doesn't know what an illegal immigrant looks like. Could this open up the possibility for racial profiling, just pulling people over because they believe they're illegal?
ANTENORI: No, Ms. Malveaux, the law clearly states and there is Supreme Court precedents, and the officers are trained. There are two requirements in order to ascertain immigration status. Before they get to that point, they have to have first a lawful encounter. In other words, they just can't pull somebody over. They have to be pulled over for violating traffic laws. They have to be called to investigate a crime or something along those lines to create the lawful contact. And then they have to have reasonable suspicion.
So, if they start questioning the person, and the person cannot produce identification, does not -- or can't explain where they're at or why they're in the country, then he's got now reasonable suspicion to go to the next level, which is then to ascertain the immigration status of that individual. The law also prohibits --
MALVEAUX: Do you think that's enough, governor? Do you think that's enough protection?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: First of all what the -- and I respect the fact that the senator lost a constituent. This -- this rancher was very close to New Mexico. It's on our border. Now, what I did was I ordered more national guard. We beefed up border security, but this is a federal responsibility. You can't have local law enforcement take over what the border patrol and the federal government should be doing. So, the ultimate answer is immigration reform, and the congress has failed to act.
The president has, I believe, a sensible plan that says there has to be an earned legalization, accountability of the 11 million that are here, increased border enforcement, and then lastly, certification of work permits by individuals. In other words, businesses have certified workers. That's what we need.
MALVEAUX: Well, governor, the governor of Arizona said she asked the president, she asked the federal government for funding for 250 national guard to help protect the border. She said this is a failure on the federal government's part as well as Congress. I mean, where does the responsibility lie here? Is the Obama administration partly responsible?
RICHARDSON: It lies with the congress that has failed to act for years and years under Republican and Democratic administrations. President Bush proposed a plan. President Obama has a plan. He's trying to deal with the problem. The issue is the Congress' failing to act, and I, you know, respect my neighbors in Arizona that have a serious problem, but you don't sort of just take the law into your own hands and -- and give -- give the right to -- you mentioned this -- racially profile somebody.
Somebody that looks suspicious, what does that mean? Somebody that looks Hispanish -- looks Hispanic who might be a legal resident, a citizen, and doesn't have their paperwork now is going to be pulled over? I mean, this is an impractical law that I think usurps federal authority. The best answer is, I believe, full immigration reform and --
MALVEAUX: Senator? I want to add real quick here, I mean, what do you do next here? Obviously, there are a lot of people who are very angry, they're very upset and, quite frankly, they're afraid if they drive into the state of Arizona that they're going to be pulled over, that they're going to be racially profiled, they're going to be thrown into jail or whatever. How do you convince the people that we're seeing outside there protesting the thousands and those across the country who are very worried about this? What do you do?
ANTENORI: Ms. Malveaux, what about my constituents that are afraid to leave their homes that when they come home their home has been ransacked? What about the ranchers when they're out patrolling their fence line? They're being shot at. Their cattle are being slaughtered. There's millions of dollars of economic damage. What about them? What about their civil rights? I agree with the governor, by the way. He is right. There's been a monumental failure at the federal level, and all Republican and democratic administrations have been responsible.
This is the 1986 immigration reform and control act. All we need to do is follow this law, and we can solve this problem. And it clearly states that if you enter this country without legal permission, you're breaking the law. And if you hire someone that is here illegally, you're breaking the law. But the federal government is not enforcing this, and now Arizona has been forced to do so, for the protection of our own citizens.
MALVEAUX: We're going to have to leave it there. Senator Antenori, thank you very much. Governor Richardson, appreciate your time. Thank you. Obviously, this debate will continue.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: The proposed weapon that is so fast and so powerful, it could end the U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons.
MALVEAUX: Lisa Sylvester's monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming into SITUATION ROOM right now. Hey, Lisa, what are you following?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne, it was a bloody day in Iraq. At least 61 are dead and more than 100 are wounded in a way of bombings in Baghdad and west of the city in Al Anbar Province. In all, 15 bombs were involved, several detonating outside Shiite mosques as prayers finished. Some observers say the political vacuum created while a new government just form could spark an increase in sectarian violence.
A New York taxi driver today pleaded guilty to being involved in a plot to set off bombs in crowded subway trains. Zarein Ahmedzay admitted to meeting with two al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan who ordered him and a friend to return to New York to carry out suicide bombings. Prosecutors say the two al Qaeda leaders have since been killed in drone attacks. Ahmedzay is scheduled to be sentenced in July and be could served life in prison -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Lisa.
According to new report, the Obama administration is weighing the development of a new class of ultrahigh speed missiles. Now, these missiles would be capable of reaching anywhere on earth in under an hour. They could be used to respond to time-sensitive intelligence, enabling the Pentagon to quickly hit a terrorist leader like Osama Bin Laden if his hiding place were discovered or perhaps take out a nuclear missile being transported to a launch pad in a country like North Korea or Iran.
Joining me now to discuss this proposed superweapon is CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. Fran, you know, it's something like sounds like science fiction, but it's actually real. It's called the prompt global strike missile. How does it work, what does it do?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: You know, what makes it different is both its speed and its accuracy. You're talking about a warhead that potentially travels several times faster than the speed of sound. It's hard for people to imagine this missile traveling and say somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000 miles an hour and getting up to incredible, incredible speeds. Why is that important?
Well, you realize, Richard Clarke has given interviews, after the East Africa embassy bombing, we launched tomahawk missile strikes during the Clinton administration at training camps in Afghanistan, and, of course, the frustration was several hours just before those missiles landed, Bin Laden had moved, and so he was missed in that strike. This gives you the sort of capability. If you had location information, the president would have the capability to launch a conventional weapon and have it on target in an hour. Unbelievable. And with the pre -- with the kind of precision they're talking about, it also reduces the likelihood of collateral damage.
MALVEAUX: Now, Fran, you were in the Bush administration, this was something that came up during that time when I was covering the Bush administration as well, but it was -- it was rejected. It was put aside because of a concern that other countries, it would -- it would actually escalate the potential of a nuclear war.
TOWNSEND: You know, it's interesting, Suzanne, because there was tremendous interest during the Bush administration in developing just such a capability. President Bush understood very well the need for speed and accuracy. But there were concerns in the bilateral relationship with Russia. The Russians were -- were -- had these concerns that how would they know whether this was a conventional warhead on the missile or a nuclear weapon? And the concern there was, would it escalate and cause a nuclear war. You know, I do think that there are ways of managing those concerns.
I think the Obama administration, while I disagree with some pieces of the nuclear posture review and the reduction, there are ways to massage (ph) those concerns of the Russians. I think you need both, frankly. I think you need to maintain the nuclear capability, but this is exactly the sort of precision weapon that you need.
MALVEAUX: All right, Fran Townsend, thank you so much, appreciate it.
There's been a recent wave of arrests of people illegally trying to cross into the United States, but not along the border that you're probably thinking. We're going to tell you about it.
MALVEAUX: It's a spike in illegal immigration, but far from the U.S./Mexico border, and it was borne out of one of the worst disasters in years. Our CNN's Mary Snow, she's in New York with the story. Mary, tell us what's happening here?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, what we're seeing is an unintended consequence of the federal policy that was aimed at helping Haitians after their country was leveled in January. But what's happening is that there's been a dramatic increase of arrests of Haitians crossing the border into the U.S., but not from where you might think.
SNOW (voice-over): Three months since the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti killing more than 200,000 people, its ripple effects stretch far beyond the Caribbean nation. So, the stretch of woods nearly 2,000 miles away from Haiti may seem like an unlikely refuge for Haitians. Yet in the past couple of months, more than 100 have been arrested crossing the border from Canada, and at some point, it's as easy as taking a step over a fence like this.
Border patrol agents in Vermont have arrested 140 Haitians walking into the U.S. since late January, up from six such arrests during the same period last year. Many had gone to Canada well before the earthquake seeking asylum and thought they could take advantage of a relaxed U.S. policy on deporting Haitians.
In order to communicate with those arrested, authorities turned to recent college graduate, Chrissy Etienne, a native of Haiti who speaks Creole who is now working as an interpreter.
What did they tell you about why they decided to come here?
CHRISSY ETIENNE, COURT INTERPRETER: Their family.
SNOW: Etienne says many are shocked that they're behind bars.
ETIENNE: Many that wish for a system that was more personal. Couldn't I just explain this to a judge, to someone, that I'm not a criminal, that I have no his -- you know, no background, no criminal background, that I'm just trying to get to my family. Isn't there someone who's going to believe that story?
SNOW: U.S. officials halted deportations of Haitians who were in the U.S. the day of the earthquake, granting temporary protected status or TPS. The policy allows Haitians to stay in the U.S. for 18 months regardless of whether they were in the U.S. legally. But that policy does not protect Haitians illegally entering the country now.
DAVID AGUILAR, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: We are going to apprehend them. Remember, that these are people that TPS does not apply to. These are people that should not have come into this country and applied for a program that they do not benefit from.
SNOW: A 37-year-old Arry Seguin learned that in March when he was arrested crossing the Canadian/Vermont border. Seguin's wife and two children live in Florida. He left them in 2008 to seek asylum in Canada after losing appeals to stay in the U.S. His wife, Louizette who's a naturalized citizen tells us she's struggling and since the earthquake relatives from Haiti are desperate for help. It's the reason she believes her husband tried to return to Florida last month.
LOUIZETTE MONTOBAN, WIFE OF ARRY SEGUIN: But now everything is bad without him. Nothing is working. We are without him.
SNOW: During our visit, Louizette got a call from her husband's lawyer.
MONTOBAN: OK. That sounds good.
SNOW: Because her husband has no criminal record, his lawyer was able to reach a settlement with prosecutors. For now, Seguin will be eligible to stay in the U.S. under supervised release, checking in with immigration authorities.
DAVID WATTS, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: So, he will be -- have achieved his goal, but for the fact that he spent an awful lot of time in jail, and it would have been better, given what actually happened, if he had been able to come back and help sooner.
SNOW (on-camera): Eventually, Arry Seguin will be deported. And with the situation in Haiti still unsettled, it's not clear when the Haitians have been arrested may actually be deported since there's no timeline in place -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Very complicated situation. Thank you, Mary.
Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail. Plus, government workers viewing pornography on the job, not just once or twice, but thousands of times.
MALVEAUX: Government workers accused of viewing pornography on the job. Our CNN congressional correspondent, Brianna Kielar, joins us live for details of this scandal that seems to be growing -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And some of these details, you won't even believe them. But this is an investigation that was done over the course of five years. We're talking about 33 SEC employees who were involved in this. And a lot of this -- these are not misguided entry level folks, a lot of them are career professionals, some of them, most of them, in fact, making over $100,000 a year, some of them over $200,000 a year and a lot of this behavior was concentrated over the last couple of years.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the U.S. financial system teetered on the brink of collapse almost two years ago at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency that's supposed to keep an eye on Wall Street, some top employees were very busy looking at porn. One staff accountant had nearly 600 pornographic images on her work computer, and investigators found that agency's computer network denied her access to porn sites 1,800 times in just two weeks.
Another staff accountant was denied access to sexually explicit sites a whopping 16,000 times over a month. And the senior attorney at the SEC sometimes spent eight hours a day looking at online porn. His hard drive run out of space from all the images he downloaded, so he saved pornographic content to CDs or DVDs, enough to fill multiple boxes in his office. These details from an investigation by the SEC's inspector general, the agency's watch dog were requested and made public this week by Republican senator, Charles Grassley of Iowa.
As Democrats push legislation to get top on Wall Street, some GOP lawmakers like California's Darrell Issa says this scandal raises questions about giving greater authority to government regulators like the SEC.
VOICE OF REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: They had all the authority in the world to go after Bernie Madoff or Allen Sanford and didn't because they said they didn't have the resources, but it's very obvious that they have resources they're misusing or not using including these highly paid individuals who if they're surfing porn sites, let's be very clear, they probably are also doing their bill paying online, looking for their vacation get away.
KEILAR (on-camera): Now, Senator Grassley's office says the timing of this information release has nothing to do with trying to sway this debate about Wall Street reform that is going on right now. His spokeswoman told me that this has everything to do with talking about why it's so important that there's oversight of agencies like this. She says it's unrelated.
MALVEAUX: So, Brianna, how's the SEC responding to this?
KEILAR: They're saying this is -- to focus on the fact that this is the behavior of some misbehaving few, I guess, you could say, and that there are thousands of dedicated employees at the SEC that they also say they are disciplining a lot of these people and some of them have been fired.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Brianna.
Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Hey, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is have the Democrats done enough for their base in order to win in this midterm elections come November?
Dee writes, we need jobs. When the Democrats get the economy up and running again, when everybody who desperately wants to work has a job, then I'll say they've done enough. Their base is largely working class America and working class America wants to work.
Cheryl in South Carolina, I'm part of that base and I say yes, we may not have gotten enough change or the change we thought we were getting, but the country is recovering from the Bush years. The economy is improving. We're one giant step closer to universal health care, and it looks like Congress is going to pass financial reform. The question is will enough Democrats go to the polls?
Donald in California writes, no, the Democrats act as though they're afraid of the Republicans. The republicans bully them around, and they cower in the corner. They have a history of not standing up for the folks who put them in office. They act as though they are afraid to fight for the issues that Obama campaigned on.
Jim writes no, they have done almost irreparable damage to this country. The result will be majority of Democrats supporting Obama's radical policies will be voted out of office.
Carl writes, the answer is a plain no. Having said that, the Republicans are just about as useless as the Democrats and come November, it will be just another lose-lose situation for the U.S.
And finally, Pete writes, probably not quite enough. Let's see there are still a few out there who pay a few dollars in taxes, work a few hours a month and pay a few pennies for their own daily survival, but not to worry, soon old Uncle Sam will have it all covered from the cradle to the grave.
Do you want to read more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Jack. When the president of the United States wants barbecue, chances, he's going to get it, but the Obamas found out at one Asheville joint, everybody's got to wait in line to be served.
MALVEAUX: There's a rib shack in Ashville, North Carolina called 12 bones where everybody takes a number, including the president and first lady of the United States. That's right. The Obamas made an unannounced visit to the restaurant as they kicked off their weekend get away. They posed for pictures and chatted with surprised customers before placing the order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to get the beef plate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did you want fries with that or not?
OBAMA: Yes, fries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Anything else?
OBAMA: That's going to be it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
OBAMA: How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good. How about you?
OBAMA: What's your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name's Courtney.
OBAMA: Hi, Courtney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you.
OBAMA: Nice to meet you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Even the Obamas had to wait in line. They return to Washington on Sunday.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux in the SITUATION ROOM. "John King USA" starts right now.