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Candidates "Unchain" The Ugliness; Campaigns Trade Insults; Wildfires Rage Across West; Southern California Brush Fire Burns 125 Acres; Deadly Home Explosion; Plane Pileup; Applying For Hope; Fewer Affordable Homes; Interview with Representative Luis Gutierrez; Olympic Boxer Punches Way To Gold

Aired August 15, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Down and dirty. The vice president sparks what might be the nastiest attacks yet in the race for the White House.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A huge blast in Damascus. An explosion detonated just outside a hotel housing U.N. monitors in Syria.

SAMBOLIN: Pileup at the airport. Two planes left -- we'd call this an awkward spot after a collision on the runway. I want to tell you everybody onboard is OK. We're going to explain this to you.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. We're really happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. It is 6:00 a.m. on the east coast. And if you prefer your politics on the nasty side, then you are loving, loving the 2012 presidential race right now, because it took another ugly turn. Mitt Romney now claiming President Obama is angry and desperate, intellectually exhausted, and a disgrace.

Those are among the nice things he said. The White House firing back suggesting the former Massachusetts governor is coming unhinged. It was Vice President Joe Biden who lit this fuse. Listen to what he said about Romney in Southern Virginia yesterday. And keep in mind, hundreds of African-Americans were in this crowd.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He said in the first 100 days, he'll let the big banks write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They are going to put you all back in chains.


BERMAN: Well, that comment sure got Romney and the Republicans all riled up and Biden jumped right back in. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another outrageous charge. This came a few hours ago in Virginia and the White House sinks a little bit lower. His campaign and surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office the presidency.

BIDEN: If you want to know what's outrageous, it's their policies and the effects of their policies on middle class America. That's what's outrageous.


BERMAN: CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser join us live now from Washington. Paul, you know, some of this is theatre, some of this is overly dramatic and some is politics, but it does seem that these campaigns are getting under each other's skin.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: No doubt it. You know, John, we talked about the naming of Paul Ryan as the running mate for Mitt Romney and how that kind of transformed this campaign from a referendum on Barack Obama to a true choice campaign.

But one thing has not changed the nastiness. It was there last week. It was there last month. As you just played, it's there right now. The comments from Vice President Biden seem to be the most egregious, but both sides guilty yesterday of that trash talking.

Here's how the night ended. Mitt Romney in Ohio, as you mentioned he went on to say, Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago. And the campaign from Barack Obama in Chicago responded pretty quickly saying Governor Romney's comments tonight seem unhinged and particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false.

You know, John, we did a poll last week, CNN/ORC national survey. We asked is one side, one campaign more negative than the other doing more tax unfairly and the Americans seem to be divided on that issue.

BERMAN: Paul, you know, one of things that did come up on the trail yesterday, even the dogs, Shamus, the famous Romney family dog, President Obama surprisingly perhaps talking about it on the campaign trail in Iowa.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: During a speech a few months ago, Governor Romney even explained his energy policy. This is what he said. He said you can't drive a car with a windmill on it. That's what he said about wind power, you can't drive a car with a wind mill on it. I mean, maybe he's tried it, he's put other things on the roof.


BERMAN: All right, Paul, that surprised you?

STEINHAUSER: A little surprising there. The president is trying to point out his differences on renewable energy, especially in Iowa, a big topic. But he went there and what we're talking about Shamus the dog. This is a story that's been around for a long time.

The Romney family was taking a trip many years ago, putting the dog on the crate and putting the crate on the roof of the car. His detractors in the last presidential election used it against it and it came up in the primaries again this time.

The president using that line three times, John, yesterday in Ohio, not once but three times. You know, this campaign is supposed to be about big issues, but it seems both campaigns are pretty comfortable playing small ball. What's your take on all of this?

BERMAN: I think, Paul, I think a little bit of the outrage is staged and overly theatrical, Mitt Romney as well as anyone knows how to run campaigns and sometimes they can be bruising battles.

He's run negative campaigns in almost every campaign he's ever run. So he's familiar with this. I do think, however that the Obama team has found a way to irritate Mitt Romney.

And I think Mitt Romney's response is strong and genuine to a certain extent, but he's clearly irritated. I think as long as the Obama team can pull Mitt Romney off his jobs message, the Obama people are probably happy with it.

STEINHAUSER: Two and a half months to go. We'll see if that continues, John.

BERMAN: All right, Paul Steinhauser in Washington, thanks very much.

You know, social media is blowing up all over the Joe Biden comments today and back and forth. We want to hear what you think about this. You can tweet us at earlystartcnn or on Facebook at earlystartcnn also. Look at the pictures on top there.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that would be the two of us. I'm having this conversation also on Facebook because that chains comment. I really want to know how people were feeling about it. I was shocked he did it with an audience with so many African-Americans in it. So specifically I want to know how they felt about that comment.

All right, President Obama and the first lady will speak at two campaign stops in Iowa today before they return to the White House. Vice President Biden attends a rally at Virginia Tech.

And Romney spends the day fundraising in North Carolina and in Alabama. Paul Ryan heads to Ohio for a campaign rally at Miami University, his alma mater, right?

BERMAN: Absolutely. And the west, out west, big really, really upsetting pictures out there. It's on fire. A pair of fires in Lake County north of San Francisco already torched 7,000 acres. Three buildings have been destroyed or damage and nearly 500 homes now are threatened.

In Washington State, the National Guard has been activated. More than 60 homes burned and at least 900 people have been forced to evacuate because of a fire in the central part of the state, which has now charred 28,000 acres and counting.

This morning, there are 62 mostly uncontained fires raging in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington State and California and Idaho, a firefighter has been killed.

SAMBOLIN: Let's go right to Rob Marciano for a weather update. You feel just terrible for these folks. A firefighter dead now. Any reprieve?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not really, not immediately at least. As you mentioned, nearly 60 uncontained large wildfires out there and we've got some red flag warnings that are posted for parts of Western Oregon and also other parts of the intermountain west.

Dry conditions obviously and low snow pack from the previous winter and also the heat that's been building, especially across parts of the California and the desert southwest. Needles California 117, Phoenix 113 yesterday, another record high and Redding, California seeing 112 as well.

So we're going to see more in the way of heat here. We did have fires across the northwest, Northern California, but also Southern California. This video out of Sage, just outside of Riverside where a fire was burning there and it destroyed a couple of structures as well.

Firefighters having a hard time getting a handle on that with the excessive heat there. If you go along the immediate shoreline it's cool, but in the inland valleys, that's where the heat is building and will stay there for the next couple of days.

Heat watches, excessive heat watches up for the Pacific Northwest, Seattle back to Eugene. Temperatures tomorrow could reach 100 degrees in some spots.

Today, thunderstorm could be severe from Omaha to Minneapolis and also across the immediate shorelines of the east coast. Thunderstorms that are pretty rough right now moving through Connecticut and Eastern Massachusetts. Guys, back up to you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much, Rob.

BERMAN: All right, 6 minutes after the hour right now. No end to the violence in Syria. Syrian state TV reporting an explosive device on a diesel tanker detonated behind a hotel housing U.N. monitors in Damascus. Three people were reportedly injured. State media reporting the monitors, however, are safe. SAMBOLIN: Authorities on New York's Long Island are investigating an explosion that destroyed a home, killing an 18-month- old boy and sending at least 14 others to the hospital.

Police and firefighters have been sifting through that, all of that rubble. It was once a two-story house. They believe the explosion may be gas related.

Two, 200-pound propane tanks were found near the rubble. Seven people were inside when it blew up, including that little toddler.

BERMAN: So take a look at this, it looks like a plane pileup at Nashville International Airport. Two private jets collided on a ramp. One ended up on top of the other.

No one was on board either aircraft however. This is how it happened. We're curious how this could happen. One plane was being towed when it broke loose and rolled into a second park plane.

I guess it's good news there was no one board. Bad news for the plane and the owners, but good news for everyone else.

SAMBOLIN: And perhaps even a pilot on board. Nobody was on board either one.

BERMAN: No one on board either plane.

SAMBOLIN: All right, well, that is good news then. Feeling lucky? How about it? You might want to buy a Powerball ticket. The multistate Powerball jackpot just keeps on growing.

It now stands at $320 million and of course, could very keep climbing if folks keep on buying tickets. The big drawing happens tonight. You're feeling lucky, aren't you?

BERMAN: I'm getting out there.

SAMBOLIN: All right, so border war is brewing between the U.S. and Canada with a big box store caught right in the middle. That story is coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 12 minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: That is a nice welcome back. Thank you. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are very happy to have you with us this morning. So you might say it is D-day for young illegal immigrants seeking to avoid deportation.

Let's take a look at the scene outside the Mexican Consulate in Houston. We're inside now where people had been lining up. Today they can begin applying for a deportation deferral and also a two-year work permit. The Obama administration program puts into effect elements of the so-called Dream Act even though Congress you very well know failed to pass it.

CNN's Rafael Romo is following all of the developments for us. He is live in Atlanta. Rafael, unlike the Dream Act, this program does not offer a permanent path to citizenship.

Though many people are applying today, you've talked to some people who are not so enthusiastic about this opportunity. What are they saying to you?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, Zoraida, the bottom line is that this is not a permanent fix. It's only going to suspend deportations for these young immigrants for two years and nobody really knows what happens after that.

And nobody really knows what's going to happen if there's a change in the administration after the elections in November. I had an opportunity to talk to several kids who may qualify and there this so-called deferred action.

An initiative by the Obama administration and they are certainly nervous about that and also about many questions regarding the application, the fees, and the kinds of documents that they must submit.

So one of them said that even though it's something that has many questions -- that she has many questions about, it's the only hope. Let's take a listen.


ROMO: How do you feel about the fact that yes, they are giving you an opportunity, but it's only for two years and nobody really knows what's going to happen after that?

ANA LAURA RAMIREZ, IMMIGRANT: I'm nervous. I'm really nervous that it's not going to be what I expect it to be. So I'm scared to get my hopes up, hoping that there's a big thing that's going to happen.

And then feel like it's here one minute and the next minute it's gone. At the same time, I want to take the chance while I have it then let it slip by.


ROMO: And of course, Zoraida, the Dream Act has failed multiple times in Congress, in the House, in the Senate and like she said, right now this is all they have.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, but it is a risky move, Rafael. The government says that information and these requests could be referred to ICE or other agencies. They are saying for the purposes other than removal. I have the document here. It's a five-page document and then there are an additional six pages to explain to these kids how to fill this out. If they do not qualify, could they be deported?

ROMO: The short answer is yes, although immigration officials will tell you that they don't really have the resources or manpower to go after 1.8 million young immigrants who may qualify under this deferred action. That's what they've been saying all along, that they concentrate, they focus on criminals and they focus on those who have evaded authorities for whatever reason.

I had an opportunity to talk to immigration attorney about this point exactly and this is what he told me.


CHARLES KUCK, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Nobody is going to get a green card out of this or nobody is going to get anything more than a promise over the next two years, we won't deport you. But it gives hopes to kids and you see great benefits in community.


ROMO: Now, the positive thing about this is that those who qualify and go through the process in maybe three to four months are going to get a work permit, which would allow them to get a driver's license in most of the United States. This is definitely a great, great benefit for these kids.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, for those who qualify, certainly there are a lot of good benefits. But I would caution them to read the fine print.

Rafael Romo, live for us in Atlanta -- thank you for that.

BERMAN: Big, big day here. It is 16 minutes after the hour. I want to give you the headlines right now.

Presidential politics is taking a decidedly nasty turn. It started yesterday with Vice President Biden saying Republicans would unchain Wall Street and put voters back in chains. He said this in front of a largely African-American crowd.

Mitt Romney called that remark outrageous and disgrace to the Office of the Presidency. Biden returned fire saying what's really outrageous is Romney's policies.

President Obama buying a round. The president campaigning at the Iowa state fair after he checked what he had in his wallet, he bought a few beers for the crowd. Well, everyone but one person.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For more beers!


OBAMA: Here's what I'm going to do, except for the person with the Romney sign -- I'm teasing.

I'm going to buy 10 beers. Who wants one?


SAMBOLIN: He bought them the beer.

According to the "USA Today", the owner of the famous Bud tent he may have lost 25 grand in business because of the security surrounding the president's visit. But he did appreciate the historical significance of it.

And the president buying around the beer.

BERMAN: A beer with the president. (INAUDIBLE)

Steve Jobs homes in Palo Alto has been burglarized and the suspect is in custody. Police say 35-year-old Kareem McFarland (ph) entered the home of the late Apple founder last month while it was being renovated.

This guy allegedly took $60,000 worth of computers and personal items, including iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mac, even Jobs wallet. The suspect was caught when he tried to use Jobs gadget to connect to the Internet and Apple investigators tracked him down this way.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible. All right. Attention Canadian shoppers: get out.

That is a message from locals in Bellingham Washington, upset at the number of Canadians coming across the border in search of bargains at the local Costco. They say it's making it harder for taxpaying Americans to park and shop.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Canadian, Canadian, Canadian plates. Costco is a nightmare, even on like a Tuesday afternoon when -- don't these people work?


SAMBOLIN: Oh, boy. All right. The anti-Canadian campaign spawned a Facebook page suggesting American only shopping times and describing those border crossing Canadian bargain hunters as obnoxious and rude.

BERMAN: No respect for Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, like all these famous Canadians out there? We've got to respect their contributions to our society.

SAMBOLIN: They are spending money.

BERMAN: If you are looking to buy a house at the bargain price, shuffle off to Buffalo. It turns out, that's one of the most affordable cities for home buyers but it's not number one. We'll tell you what is number one, coming up.

And you can always get an expanded look all of our top stories, head to our blog,


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-two minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

Stocks are going to be under some pressure, Wall Street is waiting on earnings from Target and Staples. Meantime, expect a lower open.

BERMAN: Now, it's getting harder for Americans to afford a new home, but believe or not, that could be good news for the housing market.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is here to explain how that can possibly be the case.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's because home prices are going up and that shows us this market is recovering. So, that's the upside. This study came out from the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo.

They put it out every quarter and what they found in the second quarter, 74 percent of homes sold in the U.S. were affordable. That's actually down a little bit from the record high of 77.5 percent. They use median household income of $65,000 annually as a gauge.

The good news the reason this is happening is because home prices are going up. This is what we've been waiting so long for, for the recovery to really take place. Whether we've hit bottom in housing, I'm not going to be the one to call that. We need to see for a long time home prices go up. But they are inching higher across the board and that's why homes are becoming less affordable.

We're still near the record high affordable.

SAMBOLIN: And which cities are the most affordable?

HARLOW: So, the most affordable city is Youngstown, Ohio. This is the city that's gone through a hard time, steel city. They are coming back because of energy production, fracking there. But Dayton, Ohio, Buffalo and New York, Indianapolis, Indiana, all in the most affordable list, Modesto, California, the thought there is because of the high unemployment rate at 16 percent.

Talk about least affordable -- I mean, no shocker, we live here. Hello, New York City.

BERMAN: Shocking.

HARLOW: Median household cost of a home, $430,000, compared to $80,000 in Youngstown, Ohio. And you've got San Francisco, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Santa Ana, California, and Los Angeles.

BERMAN: Almost better living in Youngstown and commuting to New York.

HARLOW: I think so. It's an hour and a half flight, not bad.

But, folks, one thing you need to know has to do with housing and your money. If you're thinking about buying a home, it is still a very good time. During the housing boom in 2006, only 40 percent of homes on the market were considered affordable. So, today at 74 percent, it's still a very high number.

Remember, mortgage rates near record lows. You may have to put more money down and have a higher credit score but a good time to buy a house.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to be the Debbie Downer because I've been going through this and it is next to near impossible to buy a home. They make it very hard.

HARLOW: Very, very hard.


BERMAN: Poppy Harlow, thanks anyway.

SAMBOLIN: Good news/bad news.

Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Mosquitoes carrying a deadly disease caused a state of emergency in Texas. That story is coming up.


SAMBOLIN: The Powerball jackpot growing every minute, $320 million and counting.

BERMAN: Millions.

The final chapter in the Exxon Valdez saga, the infamous oil tanker from the '80s meets its end.

SAMBOLIN: Golden gloves -- the first American woman to win gold in Olympic boxing, Clarissa Shields, is joining us live.

I was hoping she's in the studio and you could spar with her. But sadly, that's not going to happen.

BERMAN: That would go really well.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's 29 minutes after the hour right now.

And tonight's Powerball jackpot is swelling to $320 million, which is a lot of money. This is stoking player's wildest fantasy about what they'll do with all that money, including Jason Carroll. He is asking buyers what they are going to do with it.

And, Jason, what are they saying?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, they're saying a lot of things -- everything from buying yachts to new apartments. Still trying to figure out what I would do.

What would you do? What would you do if you won $320 million? It's mind boggling to think about it. There's a guy behind me buying a Powerball ticket. Yesterday throughout the city folks were showing up at places buying Powerball tickets, talking about what they would do, you know, how they would cash in on their dreams.

Listen to what some of them had to say.


EDIE JENNINGS, POWERBAL CUSTOMER: I probably would buy a giant parcel of land and start an animal rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would buy a racehorse.

REPORTER: That's the most extravagant?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And an apartment on Fifth Avenue. RICHARD VALENTINE, POWERBALL CUSTOMER: I guess I would pay off all my bills, big bills, buy a house and invest. You know, and my family, go back home for a while, the islands. And then charity, I like stuff like that.


CARROLL: I'm going to buy mine right now just in case, I'll take three. Thank you. So I'm going to cash in on my dream as well.

And look, even though, John, the odds are clearly not in your favor -- thank you very much, hope I win. The odds may not be in your favor but it can happen, because check this out, one of my friends actually won mega millions. She won $266 million.


CARROLL: She was the sole winner. So it can happen.

She's still a friend. Absolutely, it can happen.

BERMAN: First of all, I don't know why she's not paying for you to go on vacation right now. I don't know what you're doing here, if she's a friend.

Second of all, though, the odds are really, really low, Jason. Level with us, what are the odds?

CARROLL: Well, look, it's about 175 million to 1. But if you don't play, you can't win.

SAMBOLIN: Exactly.

CARROLL: Don't think about the odds, just dream about what would happen if you did win. That's probably --

BERMAN: But the jackpot right now, $320 million. But by the end of day, this could be a lot higher, right?

CARROLL: Oh, you know, absolutely. Officials are saying if there is no winner tonight, based upon how many people have actually played, it would be tough to guesstimate at this point. But absolutely, no winner tonight, you can imagine the pot is just going to keep going up and up.

BERMAN: All right. Jason Carroll, good luck with those tickets. I hope it works out for you, pal.

SAMBOLIN: I'm assuming those are our tickets he was purchasing. So those tickets back in the studio.

BERMAN: We've been talking about what you would do with $320 million. Well, the question of what could you do -- well, you could pay for an entire high school graduating class to go to space on a commercial flight. That runs about $200,000 a piece. For that matter, you could take 16 trips to the international space station, $20 million a piece.

You could buy 3.2 of the most expensive apartments here. They are $100 million. You could buy 3.2 of them. I like that.

Or you could buy 16 million shares of Facebook stock. Unbelievably, that's about half of what Mark Zuckerberg sold initially.

Or my personal favorite, you could buy 320 million four-piece chicken McNugget off the dollar menu at McDonalds, which equals 1.3 billion McNugget overall. It would be like McNugget heaven.

It's true. And so, we want to hear what would you do with this money. Would you leave your job? Would you keep your job? I'm keeping mine. I just started this and I'm liking it so far.

But tell us what you're going to do. Tweet us @EarlyStartCNN. You can get in touch on Facebook @EarlyStartCNN. We're dying to know what you think.

SAMBOLIN: What would you do?

BERMAN: College, mortgage, things like that, family and then charity and lots of vacations.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I think I would do about the same thing. I don't know about in that order. I may start with the vacations -- dream on, folks. Dream on.

Thirty-three minutes past the hour.

The race for the White House getting nastier. Mitt Romney is calling President Obama angry and desperate and a disgrace. The White House firing back, suggesting the former Massachusetts governor is becoming unhinged.

Vice President Biden ignited the latest firestorm. Listen to what he said about Romney and the Republicans in southern Virginia yesterday, followed by Romney's response here. >>


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put y'all back in chains.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another outrageous charge just came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower.

His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency.


SAMBOLIN: President Obama speaks at two campaign stops in Iowa today. Vice President Biden attends a rally at Virginia Tech. Mitt Romney spends the day fund raising in North Carolina and Alabama and Paul Ryan heads to Ohio for campaign rally at Miami University.

BERMAN: A state of emergency after the nation's worst outbreak of West Nile virus. This is a growing source of concern here. Sixty people have died in Texas and nearly 200 have been infected with West Nile. Health officials say an unusually warm winter and rainy spring in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area have made it an idea breeding ground for mosquitoes.

SAMBOLIN: Terrible. Very scary.

So, may be a fitting end for a ship responsible for one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. The Exxon Valdez is being dismantled. It is being sold for scrap.

Back in 1989, the tanker spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. The ship actually ended its seafaring days carrying ore under the name Oriental Nicety.

So, they are already waiting in line. Take a look. We have some young people waiting for a chance to stave off deportation thanks to a new immigration rule going into effect today. We're going to get info on that with our next guest, Congressman Gutierrez, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, my beautiful hometown of Chicago. It is 69 degrees right now. A little bit later, it's going to be 86 degrees and partly cloudy and we're there for good reason.

In Chicago, thousands of young people, many who have been living in the United States illegally since they were children are lining up across the country now to apply for what's known as deferred action.

This program goes into effect today, giving nearly 2 million illegal immigrants a chance to avoid deportation for two years. They will be able to obtain worker permits and Social Security numbers and even apply for financial aid for college.

The program was announced by President Obama back in June after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a path to citizenship or a permanent fix. This is a temporary stop-gap measure that let's us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented-driven, patriotic young people.


SAMBOLIN: The president used his authority to change the Department Homeland Security's policy, a move that was criticized as giving amnesty to illegal immigrants without the approval of Congress.

So, we are joined by Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, the Democrat chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, that is why we are in Chicago this morning.

Good morning to you, Congressman. It's very nice to see you.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Good morning, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I know you worked tirelessly on the DREAM Act and championing the rights of these young people in particular. In today, you have a forum designed to have these kids come forth and potentially pill out this paperwork.

Some people are saying that this going to create a database available to the federal government of undocumented kids. Why would you say this is such a good idea?

GUTIERREZ: Because we fought for it, because it was our demand, because our community matured to the point where those young people are going to be in line today.

Zoraida, what we're attempting to do is take about 2 million young people and try to make some symmetry between -- they are really no -- they are really much more American than they are immigrant. And today, we're going to begin the process where their status, their immigration status and reality of their American life and their American being, that there's symmetry and parity between the two.

Look, this has happened before through temporary protection status when there was the earthquake in Haiti. There were thousands of Haitians that applied for temporary protective status. It's happened before.

These programs work. They're not perfect. But young people are brave and by showing up in line, they are changing and making the process irreversible.

There is no one that is going to take away those work permits, those Social Security cards, those driver's license and their future of being an American for them once they step forward.

SAMBOLIN: But, Congressman, there is no guarantee, right? Somebody could take it away.

I want to play something that Mitt Romney said about this very specifically and then I want to talk about it.


ROMNEY: Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive order. The answer is that I will put in place my own long- term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure. As president, I won't settle for stop-gap measures. I'll work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long- term solution.


SAMBOLIN: So, Congressman, the deferrals expire after two years and we have the general election in November. If Mitt Romney gets into office and he decides, hey, I don't really like this program, I'm going to remove it until I come up with my own plan, then what happens to these kids now that there's a database to them? Should they be fearful?

GUITERREZ: No, they shouldn't be fearful because they are not. The reason we're at where we're at today because they showed no fear.

Though, here's what we learned, Zoraida, that by staying in the shadows, by staying in on obscurity, not telling our story, what we last in the last three and a half years is massive deportations, millions of families divided and separated. By coming forward and challenging and letting America know who we are and telling our story.

And I only hope that you and other members of the media go out there and talk to these wonderful young people across this country because as they tell their story, these compelling stories, these American stories, look, America will not tolerate --

SAMBOLIN: Congressman, I want to interrupt you for a moment.

GUTIERREZ: I would like to see someone do that.

SAMBOLIN: I just want to interrupt her for a moment, because there have been a record amount of deportations in the Obama administration and you have championed these efforts. Don't you feel he is simply not doing enough and this was a last minute tactic? As his critics have said, in order to get that Latino vote in the general election?

GUTIERREZ: Zoraida, our community said, Mr. President in the absence of action in the United States, I was there, you reported on it. The House of Representative passed the DREAM Act, 216 to 208, a majority. We went to the Senate with 55 senators saying we want to pass the DREAM Act. But they demanded cloture, 60 minutes.

Already, the Senate and the House have spoken and the country has spoken. So, what the president has done is said, in the absence of action, and political lack of action of the Congress of the United States, I'm going to set aside 1.7 million young people who are American in everything but the piece of paper and say, I'm going to put my enforcement.

I applaud this president. I'm excited and happy. And across this country today, there is great enthusiasm. You will see the lines of young beautiful people. And America will be better because of it. So, I applaud the president's action.

Look, the Congress of the United States failed to act, even though there was a majority of both members of the Senate and the House. Shame on us for not having acted.

SAMBOLIN: Well, the president had an opportunity. You know, he's been four years in office. He had an opportunity to do something earlier. So, I just wanted to point that out, because that is the criticism here in the 11th hour.


SAMBOLIN: I know you have. I know you have, congressman. And I really appreciate your time today. Thank you very much and good luck to you.

GUTIERREZ: Been wonderful. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Representative Luis Gutierrez, Democrat from Illinois.

And today, on "Starting Point," the other side of the debate. Soledad will talk to Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which is against this new policy -- John.

BERMAN: It's about 46 minutes after the hour right now. We want to give you the other headlines this morning.


BERMAN (voice-over): Presidential politics taking an ugly turn. It started yesterday with Vice President Biden saying Republicans would unchain Wall Street and put voters back in chain. And he said this in front of a largely African-American crowd. Mitt Romney called that remark outrageous and a disgrace to the presidency. Biden returning fire saying what's really outrageous is Romney's policies.

There are now 62 uncontained fires raging this morning, an Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington State, and California. A pair of fires in Lake County, which is north of San Francisco have already torched 7,000 acres. Three buildings have been destroyed and damaged. Nearly 500 homes currently threatened.

In Washington State, the National Guard has been activated. More than 60 homes have burned, at least 900 people have been forced to evacuate because of a fire in the central part of that state.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): A blast absolutely rocking Damascus. Syrian state TV reporting an explosive device on a diesel tanker detonated behind a hotel house in U.N. monitors in Damascus. Three people were reportedly injured. Take a look at those black fumes. State media reporting the monitors are safe.

We'll switch gears here. Are you feeling lucky? You might want to buy a powerball ticket. The multistate powerball jackpot keeps on growing. It now stands at $320 million and could very well keep climbing. The big drawings -- drawing happens tonight.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to win that so badly.

BERMAN (on-camera): Soledad O'Brien, of course, you already have your tickets which is why you're --


O'BRIEN: I need to go and get tickets. I think I could win. I do. Every time it's big, I start thinking I could win. Anyway, here's what's ahead at the top of the hour on "Starting Point," we're going to talk a little bit more about this already divisive presidential race now taking an even uglier tone.

Mitt Romney lashing out it. President Obama telling to take his, quote, "hate" back to Chicago. Obama camp saying Romney is unhinged. Both sides doing battle this morning. From the team Obama, we're going to be talking to Connecticut's governor, Dannell Malloy. On Mitt Romney's side, we're going to be talking to former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty.

Both of them will be joining us live this morning to talk about both the tone and the substance of the campaigns.

Also, the new movie, "Lawless," kind of violent, but it looks really good. The actor, Dane DeHaan, is with us this morning. We're going to talk about the role and the (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Very cool.

O'BRIEN: All that and much more ahead right at the top of the hour. We'll see you then.

BERMAN: We're looking forward to meeting him.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. How about this? Golden gloves, the first American woman to win gold in the ring at the Olympics coming home to a hero's welcome. Claressa Shields, she joins us here live. It's awesome. See you in a second, Claressa. She joins us next.


BERMAN: So, this is about as cool as it gets. Seventeen-year- old U.S. boxer, Claressa Shields, scored a triple knockout at the Olympics. She's the first American woman to win an Olympic gold in boxing. She won the first ever women's boxing middleweight competition, and she was also the only American boxer, man or woman, to win a gold at all in London. And she's the second youngest boxer ever to win gold.


BERMAN: She's pretty much just awesome. All right. Accept it. She got a hero's welcome when she got home to her hometown of Flint, Michigan, the city where it all began. Obviously, very, very emotional. Take a look at that. She's joins us now live from Flint. First of all, congratulations. You're looking at the pictures too. Pretty cool, right?


BERMAN: So, let me ask you. Claressa, you know, a lot of people said you were too young. You're just 17. A lot of people have said for a long time, women shouldn't even be boxing. Your own father tried to keep you out of the ring initially. How does it feel to prove them all wrong?

SHIELDS: It felt good. I mean, it felt even better because it was my dream. So, you know, proving them wrong was good too, but then, just accomplishing my dream was -- it meant a lot to me.

BERMAN: So, you have an interesting style in the ring. And by that, I mean, I thought it was interesting when you stuck your tongue out of your opponent in the Olympics. Explain what's going through your head when you're in the ring there.

SHIELDS: That match, I was thinking like that was the gold medal match. I haven't been under control my first match and my second match. So, to be in the finals, I was going to be just as comfortable as I could be. And I stuck my tongue out, that was not on purpose. It wasn't on purpose, it just happened.

BERMAN: So, you're just trying to do that in every fight from now on. It will be your thing, sticking your tongue out. I also understand, you know, you're pretty tough in the ring. You hit pretty hard, but you also wear Betty Boop socks? Explain that to me. SHIELDS: No. I wear the Betty Boop socks in remembrance of my granny. My granny was a big fan of Betty Boop. She had Betty Boop dolls, candy, covers, I mean, everything. And I happen to buy me a quilt when -- bring me a quilt to London and I slept with it every night. And it's just something to remember my granny by, because she's always in my spirit.

BERMAN: So -- that's really nice, actually. You're 17. You have a gold medal. So, what do you do now? You have to go back to school. You have to go back to your senior year, right?


BERMAN: And after that, are you going to keep boxing?

SHIELDS: Yes. Of course, I'm going to keep boxing. I'm not going to quit. I don't know what I would do without boxing. That's something that makes me feel not stressed out, keeps me fit. I love boxing, being around certain people. But just going back to school and take it a day at a time and see how everything goes.

I don't know what to think, because how (ph) the airport was, is school going to be like that, I'd rather be home schooled.

BERMAN: Got you. Well, of course, you make us all feel great watching you. Congratulations. We hope you keep that, and we look forward to seeing you at Rio. Claressa Shields, Olympic gold medalist, thanks very much for joining us.

SAMBOLIN: Boxing is not for girls, huh? I guess, she proved that wrong.

BERMAN: Yes, she did. She sure did.

SAMBOLIN: That is fantastic.

Fifty-five minutes past the hour. Today's "Best Advice" from one of the key players in President Obama's re-election campaign, and that's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: We wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

BERMAN: And today, we have some quick words of wisdom from Stephanie Cutter who is the deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign.


STEPHANIE CUTTER, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Work hard but don't take yourself too seriously.


BERMAN: We said it was quick. Don't take yourself too seriously. Important when you're in the trenches, I think, probably every day in the campaign like she is.

SAMBOLIN: I think those are words that you live by, actually.

BERMAN: Don't take myself too seriously?


BERMAN: Well --

SAMBOLIN: Self-deprecating humor. This guy is definitely that.

BERMAN: We've tried.

That is all for EARLY START this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad that you are with us this morning. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.