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Stage Set for Mass Deportations; Trump's New Travel Ban; Angry Hometown Voters; Sanford/Paul Obamacare Replacement; Pipeline Protesters Mandatory Evacuation. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 22, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:09] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Bottom of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the week off. So glad you're with us.

This morning, a new reality is facing roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The Trump administration issuing these new guidelines cracking down on illegal immigration. Part of the plan, hiring thousands of additional border and ICE agents, giving them more power to decide who will be deported and when.

Let's talk about all of this with the former acting director of ICE, John Sandweg. He served under the Obama administration.

It's nice to have you with us.


HARLOW: You make the argument - you don't love what you see in this order and you make the argument that it is designed so that you believe the administration can say, look how many criminals we've deported. Why do you think that's the case?

SANDWEG: Well, my concerns are based on - I think it's going to reduce public safety in the United States. It's not so much about how many criminals we deported, but how many people we deported. And the guidelines, despite all the political rhetoric, the guidelines that were provided to the agents clearly tell the agents to focus on, you know, populations that can be quickly deported and where the key - the - you know, the emphasis is on efficiency, not on criminality. And as a result, public safety, I think, is going to suffer.

HARLOW: So the administration would take issue with that. They say they're going mainly after criminals. You used to run the agency. You know how it works. And I want to get to the implementation in a moment.

But just look at these numbers because this compares how many people - undocumented immigrants were deported under President Obama, over 3 million, and about a million fewer were deported under former President Bush. I mean La Raza, a Hispanic rights and Latino activist group, called President Obama, as you know, deporter-in-chief. And I think a lot of people don't realize those numbers when they look at this argument. What does that tell you?

SANDWEG: Well, two things, very quickly. One is, those numbers include people apprehended at the border. And the administration, we were always very clear, we had a zero tolerance policy at the border. Border security is critical. And so when you combine - those numbers are not just ICE removals of the people in the interior of the United States.

Secondly, very quickly, people forgot that the Bush administration really did something similar to Trump in terms of plus-ing (ph) up the size of ICE. So when we walk into DHS on day one, we inherited a much larger apparatus than had existed at any time prior in the United States history.

HARLOW: You ran this agency. Is a wall going to help?

SANDWEG: No. I mean a wall's not going to help. Listen, it's not easy to cross the board right now. And the reality though is, and I think people forget this, is that the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States has not grown since 2009. It's been - you know, just as many people have been removed as arrived and the border patrol does an incredibly effective job at sealing - you know, stopping people from migrating in. Always there are going to be some exceptions, but the reality is, is we are not growing - the undocumented population is not growing in this country.

HARLOW: So - and part of the reason -

SANDWEG: It's been flat.

HARLOW: Part of the reason you have net fewer people coming in than leaving the United States from Mexico is because the economy's gotten better in Mexico. They have more opportunity. Would you be one in the camp that argues that the stronger the Mexican economy can get, the better chance we're going to have at having fewer undocumented workers come into this country looking for opportunity? Meaning, do you think that that's going to be more helpful than a wall?

SANDWEG: Oh, absolutely. I mean absolutely. Listen, it's - there's a direct correlation between the opportunity in Mexico and migration to the United States. It's no coincidence that the Mexican migration has dropped like a rock over the last few years as opportunities increased in Mexico itself.

HARLOW: But listen to this. When it comes to just the bigger issue of this travel ban - of the travel ban, we're expecting a new one from the administration this week, and also this issue of border security and the wall, here's what both FBI director James Comey and the former director of national intelligence said in 2015 about their concerns about the overall vetting process, especially when it comes to Syrian refugees and people from those seven Muslim majority countries. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: If we don't know much about somebody, there won't be anything in our data. I can't sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there's no risk associated with this.

[09:35:05] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees. So that is a huge concern of ours.


HARLOW: So as someone - so as someone who used to run ICE, you didn't just deal with immigration over the Mexico/U.S. border, you also dealt with immigration that they're talking about. Do you believe that they have a point, because this is what the administration is using as justification for a travel ban that is needed? Meaning, is there something better that is need?

SANDWEG: No. Listen, there is always going to be a little bit of risk. But let me tell you, there is - first of all, the refugee screening process, there is no more intense vetting than the refugee screening process. This isn't Europe. We don't have hordes of people running over our borders into our country getting processed only after they're here. This is a very deliberative, slow process that requires background check after background check, not only biographically of people's names, but biometrically as well.

And then as it relates to just regular migration from these other countries that are impacted by the ban, I mean try to get a visa if you're from Yemen. You have no idea how difficult that is. Only the most - you know, in the rarest of cases can anybody from a Yemen or a Somalia even obtain a visa, and that's only after the most intensive review.

So, look, you know, there's been no threat from individuals of these countries. I think the biggest threat we face, and I think Director Comey would tell you the same thing, is homegrown extremism, people who are radicalized inside the United States. That's where all the concern has been. The majority of the attacks, from the Boston bombing to San Bernardino have come from. That's where the focus should remain and this is just a distraction.

HARLOW: John Sandweg, appreciate having you on. Thank you.

SANDWEG: Thank you.

HARLOW: Still to come for us, blistering chants and jeers at GOP lawmakers facing backlash back at home this week. While most Republicans are defending President Trump, a few not afraid to speak their mind. Representative Mark Sanford is one of them. He will join me live after this break.


[09:41:21] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Same on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Angry chants. This as Senator Joni Ernst came face-to-face with outraged constituents in her home state of Iowa. She was not alone this week. Nationwide, voters are packing these town halls, outraged over some of the president's first moves in his first month in office.

While Republican lawmakers, many of them, are defending the president, my next guest is not on many issues. Joining me now, South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford.

It's nice to have you on.


HARLOW: So you took a different approach in your - in your town hall with constituents this week. You did it with Senator Tim Scott from your home state. And you also partnered with the Charleston Chapter of Indivisible. This is a group that is dedicated to fighting the president's agenda. You seem to welcome the jeers and the outcry of those that don't agree with you and your Republican colleagues rather than fight it. Why that tactic?

SANFORD: Well, it's not a tactic. I mean it's just what I've consistently done during my time in office. I mean back when I was governor, I held open door after four office hours and anybody from anywhere in the state could show up and they got their five minute allotment. And I thought I owed that time to them given the fact that I work for them.

And so I could give you a lot of other examples of things we've done over the years. But the bottom line is, people want to be heard and you learn a lot more from a dissenting viewpoint than one that oftentimes agrees with your own.

HARLOW: Look, that's a good point. And these are the folks that are paying your salary and the salaries of everyone in Congress. Are your fellow Republicans wrong, then, who are skipping these town halls, not showing up?

SANFORD: No, I would never speak for another member of Congress. Everyone knows the complexion of their own district. But what I would say is, you know, for a long history now, I've had something of a - you know, an open book. At times that's been good. At times it's been bad.

But with regard to me and issues and receptivity to other people's points of view, and I just think that that give and take - I mean I went to business school at the University of Virginia and they believed there in this case study methodology, which was the idea of arguing something back and forth, back and forth, to the point that hopefully the truth fell out at the bottom.

HARLOW: Well, there you go. SANFORD: And I think that there is a value to the spirit of these, you know, dissenting viewpoints that, by the end of the three and a half hour town hall meeting, we were having a - I think a very meaningful conversation on some issues that were awfully important to the folks that had gathered.

HARLOW: So perhaps one of the loudest cries are coming becoming of Obamacare. In your home state, you know that the premium for Obamacare this year has gone up 29 percent. You have come out with a plan to replace Obamacare with your fellow Republican, Senator Rand Paul, but can you guarantee, congressman, in that plan, if that were instituted and adopted, would every single person, between the 17 and 20 million Americans that are covered right now under Obamacare, would every single person be covered and be covered to the extent that they are right now? Can you guarantee that?

SANFORD: Again, anybody who make as guarantee along those lines, I don't think is telling the truth. There are no guarantees in policy. But what you can lay out are a general set of ideas and ideals that you believe would make for a better result than what we have right now. As you correctly point out, premiums went up by 29 percent last year. We're down to just one carrier with regard to the Affordable Care Act. And what we're trying to do in this plan is to say, how do we offer more in the way of choice, how do we offer more in the way of access and ultimately impact the cost curve. So it's my belief -

HARLOW: So that might help - I hear you on that might help a lot of -

SANFORD: But give people a guarantee, I think unrealistic.

[09:45:01] HARLOW: But here's the thing, I hear you on that might help a lot of people who simply can't afford health care right now or it is pushing their family to the limit. But the other argument can be made that is more expensive health care better than no health care at all? I know you can't guarantee anything until it's implemented, but are you doing everything in your power to make sure that a lot of folks don't lose coverage totally?

SANFORD: Absolutely. And our plan would not entail loss of coverage. I mean I've said to the group that was gathered on Saturday, I think to a degree you guys already won. I mean I think baked into the cake of any reform that come out of the Republican side will be, for instance, a young person staying on their parents' plan until the age of 26. I think baked into the cake is this notion of dealing with pre-existing conditions in ways that they weren't dealt with prior to the Affordable Care Act. I mean I think that, you know, what you're ultimately going to see is this idea makes its way through the legislative process is a melding of some of what was good about Affordable Care Act and a whole lot of reform to make it sustainable because in its presence course it's not sustainable in financial terms.

HARLOW: Congressman, you've been very critical of the president. You've said that facts don't matter to him. You've said he is the antithesis or the undoing of everything I thought I knew about politics and preparation for life. You haven't held back when it comes to criticizing things about the president you don't agree with. But here is what Senator Rand Paul, who you've come up with this Obamacare replacement plan with, here's what he said about Republicans criticizing and investigating other Republicans. Watch.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY (voice-over): I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We'll never even get started with doing the things that we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.


HARLOW: Do you agree with him on that? Does that help the American people or is he wrong, that Republicans should investigate other Republicans just as vigorously as they would Democrats, if need?

SANFORD: I think it ought to be equal opportunity. I think that ultimately what's relevant is that, you know, folks on the Senate intel disagree with him. I mean that's over on the Senate side. Senate intel, through Richard Burr, is moving forward with the investigation of the hypothetical or possible ties with Russia and what happened in the campaign. I mean that's going to be more thoroughly vetted and there's bipartisan accord over on the Senate side to do so.

HARLOW: All right, final question, got to get you on the record quickly on this. There's been a lot of buzz about you potentially running against your good friend Senator Lindsey Graham for that Senate seat in 2020. He's not only your good friend, he's the godfather of one of your sons. Are you considering that run?

SANFORD: No, I'm trying to be the best congressman I can be. I've made that clear for quite some time now. You know, I've got a job ahead of me in terms of trying to be, I think, a good House member and ably representing the 750,000 people that make up the First Congressional District of South Carolina.

HARLOW: All right, so that's a no for now. We will watch.

Congressman Mark Sanford, it's nice to have you on. Thank you.

SANFORD: My pleasure.

HARLOW: All right, coming up, Standing Rock protesters standing their ground. Pipeline activists who have been camped out at this site for months now face a deadline of just hours to leave. A mandatory evacuation in place for them. Many of them say they're not going anywhere. We'll have a live report, next.


[09:52:43] HARLOW: In just a few hours, the remaining pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota have to evacuate the site so the construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota access pipeline can proceed. Now, North Dakota's governor signed this emergency evacuation order of the campsite. They have to leave by today. Protesters have been there for months. They've been opposing the pipeline that they say threatens their drinking water supply and puts their communities at risk if there's a possible spill.

Our Sara Sidner has been following this story from the beginning.

Truly you have been there for months on end reporting this out. So what happens today at 2:00 if they don't leave?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The evacuation order stands. We have noticed a large contingent of law enforcement that is prepared. We also know that there are quite a few campers there who have told us just yesterday, before this evacuation, that they were planning to stay, but stay prayerfully and peacefully, but they were not necessarily just going to the walk out.

We have just gotten some more information. There is a representative from the governor's office here. There's a representative from the National Guard here. There's also representatives from the law enforcement. And we've got one of those representatives here, Lieutenant Tom Iverson from the North Dakota State Patrol is here.

I have one important question that I think all the campers want to know and the people here want to know, and that is, is law enforcement prepared to forcibly removed people from this camp today?

LT. TOM IVERSON, NORTH DAKOTA STATE PATROL: Well, first of all, it's unfortunate that we have people that are willing - willing to stay. They're under evacuation order. The deadline is 2:00 p.m. today. So anybody that is remaining after 2:00 p.m. is going to be subject to arrest and fines.

SIDNER: Does that mean that law enforcement will go into the camp? And this will be kind of the first time that you all have decided to go in.

IVERSON: Well, first of all, this morning what's going to be offered - there was some negotiations regarding cleanup crews. And what's going to be offered is an amnesty bus that will come in and allow people to freely leave. It would be great if everybody got on that bus. You get a free ride out of here, a bus ticket, a wellness check. And that will be - that will be something that will be offered where we are going above and beyond, trying to facilitate people leaving the area so cleanup crews can come in.

But as far as any law enforcement operations that will be conducted, that has yet to be seen. And that be - that would remain a law enforcement operation that I wouldn't be at liberty to discuss the exact specifics of.

[09:55:13] SIDNER: We did, though, notice there are many more members of the law enforcement who have come together from all over, correct, the state?

IVERSON: Yes, absolutely. We do - we do have a large number of law enforcement involved. We need to make sure that we have adequate resources to not only keep our officers safe, but to keep all the other onlookers safe, protesters safe, and everybody involved in this safe. That's what this is all about is public safety.

SIDNER: Lieutenant Tom Iverson, you heard there, not giving us details on exactly what police might do. We certainly know that the campers here and the people who call themselves water protectors here, some of them are willing to stay and see what happens, not necessarily leave when that amnesty bus shows up.


HARLOW: Sara Sidner reporting for us in North Dakota. Thank you very much, Sara.

We're going to take a quick break. Much more news straight ahead.


[10:00:11] HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow.