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President Obama to Implement Immigration Reforms; Bodies of Israeli Teens Found

Aired June 30, 2014 - 15:00   ET


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I have tried. I have not gotten anywhere. House Speaker John Boehner has just told me that the House has no intention of taking up immigration reform. We have a crisis at the border. Here's what I'm going to do about it. Here's what Congress needs to do about it, and just talk to the American public directly about it, because I think the administration believes that the American public is on their side when it comes to fixing what's going on at the border and commonsense immigration reform.

So, again, this is another issue, I think, that the White House is willing, you know, to take directly to the public.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And what makes this even more, frankly, appealing, I think, for the president to talk about is that there already is a bill passed by the Senate with enormous bipartisan support, with Republicans like Marco Rubio and John McCain among the authors.

BORGER: Right.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And if the House would simply vote on it, it would probably pass.

But -- well, there are a lot of reasons for that, I mean, why the House won't.

TOOBIN: Right.

TAPPER: And we just got one of them a few weeks ago, when the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, was defeated in a Republican primary, and one of the issues in that race was the idea that Eric Cantor wanted immigration reform to pass, although he certainly was not perceived by President Obama to be an ally of immigration reform.

But he was suspect by many Tea Party conservatives. And Eric Cantor was defeated, stunningly, perhaps whatever -- there was already so much cold water thrown on the prospects of immigration reform. But this certainly didn't help.

BORGER: Well, you know, but Lindsey Graham, who's also for immigration reform, managed to win in his primary...

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: ... in South Carolina, because he came out and he said, this is what I am for. One of the problems with Eric Cantor was that people thought he was trying to be on both sides of the issue.

With Lindsey Graham, he came out and said, this is what I want to do. We need commonsense immigration reform, and we need to secure the border first.

And what you see at the border now is a real problem. It may give some Republicans more ammunition to use against the president. The president, however, is saying, look, you have to help me fix this problem. You just cannot stand aside while this occurs.

TAPPER: Right. I think there are a lot of Republicans -- I think there are a lot of Republicans who view the border issue as a separate issue, that that should be secure, and that should be -- that this should not be a problem right now anyway, they believe.


TAPPER: And we're expecting President Obama to come out in just a few seconds.

Jeffrey Toobin, I just wonder, if you think that there is a -- an added spring in the president's step in the fact he's making this announcement, as you say, like right after the Supreme Court has told him that he overreached both when it came to recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, or when it came to Obamacare.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, this is becoming a defining controversy of the Obama presidency.

The Democrats and the people in the White House say, look at the kind of obstinacy we are dealing with in the Congress. The Republicans won't even allow things to come up for a vote. We have to. And Republicans are saying, you know, don't listen to us. Listen to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court, including the president's own appointees, are rejecting his legal position in several major cases.

So, again, as usual, it depends on which perspective you're looking at it from. But the issue of executive action and executive power and an imperial or embattled presidency is a key issue for the press.

BORGER: And it's always an issue. You know, the Congress is always saying that the president is using too many executive actions, and that he's not deferring enough, you know, to the Congress.

This is going to be a huge issue in the upcoming midterm elections. And it is about the question of presidential overreach, whether you believe Obamacare was overreach, whether you believe he's done too much on energy through executive action, whether you believe he's doing too much on immigration.


TAPPER: Not because -- not because it's widely unpopular among the American people...


TAPPER: ... but because of the voters who are going to turn out for the midterm elections. They care about it.

BORGER: They care about it.

TAPPER: One way or the other.

BORGER: Particularly -- particularly very appealing to the Republican base, and also, by the way, to some -- to some independent voters.

What the court said last week on recess appointments, effectively, to the president was, just because you have a political problem with Congress and you have a policy problem with Congress doesn't necessarily mean you have a good constitutional point to make.

And they were saying, when it came to recess appointments, sure, we know you have got problems. But, constitutionally, that's not enough.

TAPPER: We're at 3:04. We're expecting President Obama to come out any minute now to talk about immigration reform. He's expected to talk about both $2 billion he needs in emergency funding, so as to shore up the border.

And here is President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden right now. Let's take a listen to what they have to say.


One year ago this month, senators of both parties, with support from the business community, labor, law enforcement, faith communities, came together to pass a commonsense immigration bill. Independent experts said that bill would strengthen our borders, grow our economy, shrink our deficits.

As we speak, there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today. I would sign it into law today. And Washington would solve a problem in a bipartisan way.

But, for more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system. And I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board.

Meanwhile, here's what a year of obstruction has meant. It's meant fewer resources to strengthen our borders. It's meant more businesses free to game the system by hiring undocumented workers, which punishes businesses that play by the rules and drives down wages for hardworking Americans.

It's meant lost talent, when the best and brightest from around the world come to study here, but are forced to leave and then compete against our businesses and our workers. It's meant no chance for 11 million immigrants to come out of the shadows and earn their citizenship, if they pay a penalty and pass a background check, pay their fair share of taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line.

It's meant the heartbreak of separated families. That's what this obstruction has meant over the past year. That's what the Senate bill would fix, if the House allowed it to go to a vote. Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill, or, for that matter, any bill. They would be following the will of the majority of the American people, who support reform.

And, instead, they have proven again and again that they're unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party in order to do what's best for the country. And the worst part about it is, a bunch of them know better.

We now have an actual humanitarian crisis on the border that only underscores the need to drop the politics and fix our immigration system once and for all. In recent weeks, we have seen a surge of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, brought here and to other countries by smugglers and traffickers.

The journey is unbelievably dangerous for these kids. The children who are fortunate enough to survive it will be taken care of while they go through the legal process, but, in most cases, that process will lead to them being sent back home.

I have sent a clear message to parents in these countries not to put their kids through this. I recently sent Vice President Biden to meet with Central American leaders and find ways to address the root causes of this crisis. Secretary Kerry will also be meeting with those leaders again tomorrow.

With our international partners, we're taking new steps to go after the dangerous smugglers who are putting thousands of children's lives at risk. Today, I sent a letter to congressional leaders asking that they work with me to address the urgent humanitarian challenge on the border and support the immigration and Border Patrol agents who already apprehend and deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants every year.

And understand, by the way, for the most part, this is not a situation where these children are slipping through. They're being apprehended. But the problem is, our system is so broken, so unclear that folks don't know what the rules are.

Now, understand, there are a number of Republicans who have been willing to work with us to pass real commonsense immigration reform. And I want to thank them for their efforts. There are a number of Republican leaders in the Senate who did excellent work and deserve our thanks.

And, less visibly, there have been folks in the House who have been trying to work to get this done. And, quietly, because it doesn't always help me to praise them, I have expressed to them how much I appreciate the efforts that they have made.

I believe Speaker Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill. I think he genuinely wants to get something done. But last week, he informed me that Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform, at least for the remainder of this year.

Some in the House Republican Caucus are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing. I want everybody to think about that. Their argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn't make an effort to fix it.

It makes no sense. It's not on the level. It's just politics, plain and simple. Now, there are others in the Republican Caucus in the House who had are arguing that they can't act because they're mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly.

This also makes no sense. I don't prefer taking administrative action. I would rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly, that's true on immigration. I have made that clear multiple times. I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk, so I can sign it.

That's true about immigration. That's true about the minimum wage. That's true about equal pay. There are a whole bunch of things where I would greatly prefer Congress actually do something.

I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And, in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darned bill is bad for our security, it's bad for our economy, and it's bad for our future.

So, while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act, and I hope their constituents will too, America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that's why, today, I'm beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.

As a first step, I'm directing the secretary of homeland security and the attorney general to move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border. Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority, but we are going to focus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure.

I have also directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can. If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours.

I expect the recommendations before the end of the summer. And I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay. Of course, even with aggressive steps on my part, administrative action alone will not adequately address the problem.

The reforms that will do the most to strengthen our businesses, our workers and our entire economy will still require an act of Congress. And I repeat, these are reforms that already enjoy the wide support of the American people.

It's very rare where you get labor, business, evangelicals, law enforcement all agreeing on what needs to be done. And, at some point, that should be enough. Normally, that is enough. The point of public service is to solve public problems, and those of us who have the privilege to serve have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep Americans safe and to keep the doors of opportunity open.

And, if we do, then one year from now, not only would our economy and our security be stronger, but maybe the best and the brightest from around the world who come to study here would stay and create jobs here.

Maybe companies that play by the rules will no longer be undercut by companies that don't. Maybe more families who have been living here for years, whose children are often U.S. citizens, who are our neighbors and our friends, and whose children are our kids' friends and go to school with them and play on ball teams with them, maybe those families will get to stay together.

But much of this only happens if Americans continue to push Congress to get this done. So I have told Speaker Boehner that, even as I take those steps that I can within my existing legal authorities to make the immigration system work better, I'm going to continue to reach out to House Republicans, in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill.

Maybe it will be after the midterms, when they're less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year. Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner. I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don't consider perfect.

And the Senate bill was a good example of the capacity to compromise and get this done. The only thing I can't do is stand by and do nothing, while waiting for them to get their act together.

And I want to repeat what I said earlier. If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills. Pass a bill. Solve a problem. Don't just say no on something that everybody agrees needs to be done, because, if we pass a bill, that will supplant whatever I have done administratively.

We will have a structure there that works. And it will be permanent. And people can make plans and businesses can make plans based on the law. And there will be clarity, both here inside this country and outside it.

Let me just close by saying, Friday is the Fourth of July. It's the day we celebrate our independence and all the things that make this country so great. And each year, Michelle and I host a few hundred service members and wounded warriors and their families right here on the lawn for a barbecue and fireworks on the Mall.

And some of the service members coming this year are unique, because they signed up to serve, to sacrifice, potentially to give their lives for the security of this country, even though they weren't yet Americans. That's how much they love this country. They were prepared to fight and die for an America they did not yet fully belong to.

I think they have earned their stripes in more ways than one. And that's why, on Friday morning, we're going to naturalize them in a ceremony right here at the White House. This Independence Day will be their first day as American citizens.

And one of the things we celebrate on Friday, one of the things that makes this country great is that we are a nation of immigrants. Our people come from every corner of the globe. That's what makes us special. That's what makes us unique. And throughout our history, we have come here in wave after wave from -- from everywhere, understanding that there was something about this place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that all of the different cultures and ideas and energy would come together and create something new.

We won this country's freedom together. We built this country together. We defended this country together. It makes us special. It makes us strong. It makes us Americans. That's worth celebrating.

And that's what I want, not just House Republicans, but all of us as Americans to remember.

Thanks very much.

TAPPER: A very frustrated President Obama speaking in the Rose Garden about immigration reform and the failure of the House of Representatives, which is under Republican control, to pass the bill passed by the Senate a year ago this month, I believe, President Obama saying that he wished they would pass the -- quote -- "darn bill," and then saying directly to Congress, pass a bill, pass a bill. He said, don't just say no, President Obama also announcing $2 billion in funding he wants to send to the border to help with the influx of illegal immigration, many of them children from Central America.

I'm joined here in the studio by Jeffrey Toobin and Gloria Borger.

Jeffrey, President Obama explaining all the executive actions he has been taking, saying he would prefer not to, but he does it when Congress doesn't act.

TOOBIN: Right.

And, in fact, one of the lines that sort of jumped out at me, he said -- and I'm paraphrasing, but a close paraphrase -- I take these executive actions when we have a problem and Congress refuses to act.

Well, that's not necessarily the way the Constitution set it up. He can only act when Article 2 of the Constitution says the president has the authority. He can't allocate money. He can't -- he can allocate money that's already been appropriated by Congress, but he can't appropriate money himself.

TAPPER: Right. TOOBIN: So -- but he is trying, potentially, on treacherous legal

grounds here. And one -- he did say, for example, I'm telling the Department of Homeland Security to move resources from the center of the country to the border. Clearly, that's within his power.

TAPPER: Sure. That's in the executive authority.

TOOBIN: There's no doubt about that. But once you start new initiatives, it gets a little more dicey legally.

TAPPER: And, Gloria, President Obama giving a summer homework assignment to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder, saying they have until the end of the summer, which is September 22, to come up with ways that he can fix the immigration reform problem in this country, as much as he is legally allowed to.


BORGER: Right, as much as he can do through these executive actions.

I mean, what we saw was a president just kind of throwing up his hands. He is saying, OK, the Senate passed this bill a year ago. The House is not going to act. I understand the reality. So I'm just throwing up my hands, and I'm going to try and do what I can do. Obviously, the Supreme Court may feel differently about it.

But he's saying, I'm going to do what I can do, because that's what you pay me for, which is to solve problems.

TAPPER: To solve problems.

BORGER: And, by the way, the American people agree with me, he said. A majority of them do not agree with you Republicans.

But, again, now, you have set up this constitutional fight between the Congress and the president playing out in the Supreme Court, and it's going to play out in the fall elections.

TAPPER: Let's go to Polo Sandoval, who has done a lot of reporting on the border about the crisis on the border.

President Obama, Polo, is announcing that they want to shift resources from the center of the country when it comes to homeland security to the border with Mexico.


As recently as a couple of weeks ago, we spent some time on the border, and really those frustrations have reached the tipping point. And not only are we seeing this humanitarian side of things, these families that are torn apart and, as we learned today, even some of those deadly consequences.

This has really become a logistical nightmare for law enforcement on the ground. We know there is at least one 55,000-square foot warehouse that's actually in the process right now of being reconfigurated and modified so it accommodates -- so that it can accommodate not only the families, but also some of these unaccompanied children.

So the president's executive order here just a few moments ago to -- quote -- "move appropriate resources from the interior to the border," I can tell you that's obviously something that's going to be welcomed by law enforcement there, because a lot of this burden has also shifted to the locals. The smallest police departments in the whole country have to operate 24 hours a day in the Rio Grande Valley, which is that region just four hours south of San Antonio that is now considered the epicenter of this immigration crisis -- Jake.

TAPPER: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

President Obama expressing some serious federations with Congress, talking about immigration reform.

I'm going to toss now back to my friend Brooke Baldwin -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Definite frustration, sitting here watching all of that with you. I will know you will have much more on "THE LEAD" at the top of the hour. Mr. Tapper, thank you so much.

TAPPER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We need to move along and get to this breaking news here at the moment, the first here. The bodies of those three missing Israeli teens have been found amid accusations the militant group Hamas kidnapped them, and just moments ago Israel says Hamas will pay, and I'm quoting them, in cold blood.

Hamas now responding, says any Israeli attack will open the gates of hell. We will take you live to the West Bank.

Plus, General Motors just announcing another recall, eight million vehicles, and they're linked to crashes and deaths. Stay right here.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: You're watching CNN.

Got some breaking news for you on this Monday afternoon, an update for you. Israel says the bodies of those three missing Israeli teenagers have been found more than two weeks after they vanished. They were on their way home from school in the West Bank.

Israel has been basically in the first 24 hours of their disappearance accusing the militant group Hamas of kidnapping these teens.

We have our senior international correspondent on the phone with me from the West Bank, Ben Wedeman, and also joining me, CNN Mideast analyst Michael Oren. He's a former Israeli ambassador to the United States. But, Ben Wedeman, first to you in the West Bank. Let's just back up.

Before we get to a reaction from this IDF news conference, where were these three teenage bodies found and how?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand they were found northwest of Halhul, which is a city here in the West Bank, not far from where the three teenagers disappeared on the evening of the 12th of June.

We understand from the Israeli military that they received a tipoff to go search in a field where they had previously searched as part of this massive hunt that's been going on for 18 days here, and under a pile of rocks, they said they found these three bodies, which, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all indications point to the fact that those are the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers.

Now, he is in the middle of an emergency security Cabinet meeting. But at the beginning of that meeting, he said that those who murdered these three boys in cold blood are animals. He expressed the sympathy of all Israelis to the families of the three teenagers, and he went on to say that Israel will avenge their blood.

He said that Hamas is responsible for their murder, and that Hamas will pay the price for it.

BALDWIN: OK, Ben Wedeman, strong words, both from Israel and then reaction from Hamas as well.

Mr. Ambassador, just your reaction to hearing the news and these strong statements from this Israeli Defense Forces news conference in the wake of this tragic discovery.

MICHAEL OREN, CNN MIDEAST ANALYST: Brooke, good afternoon. It's a sad and tragic day for the people of Israel.