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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Interview with Sen. Kamala Harris; Discussion of Immigration Policy; Interview with Kellyanne Conway. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired June 18, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Thank you, Anderson.
I am Chris Cuomo. And welcome to PRIME TIME.
Children are crying at the border warehouse, afraid and waiting. We're going to play you reported sounds of life inside the Trump detention centers.
The administration doubling down, of course, on the virtue of prosecuting illegal entrants and claiming the law mandates tearing kids from their parents at the border. This is not true, and we will show you that.
The president could stop this policy today because he started it. He has the power but why doesn't he want to do that? We're going to ask one of his top aides.
Kellyanne Conway is here to address the uproar and to talk opioid breakthroughs. We're also going to talk to the Democrat leading the charge in calling for the secretary of homeland security to resign. Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat, here to make the case for change. But are the votes there in Congress, or kids going just to keep crying in record numbers?
Secretary Nielsen of Homeland Security denies that what you're going to hear is child abuse. Doctors may have criticized the conditions, but she insists the kids are very well taken care of. But wait until you hear this new audio. It tells a very different story.
This matters. Let's get after it.
CUOMO: I want to play you something now. It doesn't come from my reporting or CNN's. It was a secretly recorded audio tape published by "ProPublica" reportedly from inside one of the Trump detention facilities. On the tape are apparently the sounds of some of these kids who are no longer with their parents, wailing and doing what kids do, begging for help.
It's a little disturbing, but it's also the reality. You need to hear it because something has to be done about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Mommy!
BORDER PATROL AGENT: Well, we have an orchestra here, right?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Dad!
CONSULAR WORKER: I'm going to take you to speak to the person from your consulate, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come --
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house.
BORDER PATROL AGENT: She'll help you call your aunt, if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I have her number.
BORDER PATROL AGENT: OK, so she'll help you right now so you can talk to her.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Daddy! Daddy!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Look, there are a lot of kids that are in that situation. The Trump administration says it's about the law. Their hands are tied. The president says he doesn't like this.
Then why doesn't he do something about it?
Let's get the White House reaction to that gut-wrenching tape. Kellyanne Conway, counsel to the president.
Thanks for being on the show.
Nobody wants to hear kids cry. I get that. You get that. We're both parents, and we got warm blood pumping through our hearts.
The president could stop the policy tonight. But he won't. Why?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Christopher, allow me to repeat myself. Thanks for giving me the White House a platform tonight from yesterday, since people have amnesia.
I said yesterday, I'll say to you tonight -- I'm a mother, I'm a Catholic, I'm a person with a conscience. I agree with everyone, including the president, the first lady and everyone who has said that they don't want children to be separated from their parents unduly.
Do you know there are three conditions by which minors and adults are separated in these circumstances? Two of the three are to protect the children, and somehow all of you are glossing past that, so let's review the facts.
The first is, if you cannot establish a familiar or custodial relationship between the adult and the minor, we have a 315 percent increase in the last few months alone in fraudulent cases, children being smuggled, presenting as a family. You've got to care about these children also.
The second reason you would separate a minor from an adult is if you feel like that child could be harmed. You see, sometimes these children clearly don't want to be with the adult man they're presenting with, and you need to find out why that is.
Can you -- and the third reason is that if the adult has broken the law in entering the United States and now will be prosecuted, you can get to a port of entry and present for a credible fear asylum case, and the secretary of homeland security is reminding everyone today to do that, go to one of the ports of entry and present a credible fear case.
I only wish that you would play the audiotape, the videotape, that CNN would do a surround sound program of the hundreds of thousands of Central American minors who have come into the border into this nation over the last several years. We don't know where they are, do you? Does CNN know that those girls haven't been drug trafficked, sex trafficked? Do you know that they're with adult family members, people who love them? Do you know they're alive?
So, you can play all the audiotape, videotape that you want, you show me what happened in each and everyone of those girls. Why were the girls the ages of your teenage daughter and my teenage daughter, excuse me, getting birth control injections because they face almost certain rape?
CUOMO: Listen, Kellyanne --
CONWAY: So, if we want to talk about children, we need to talk about all children at all times.
CUOMO: I know, but, Kellyanne, there is no reason for us to go down any avenues of speculation.
CONWAY: No, you get to choose what you want to --
CUOMO: Hold on, I don't think tonight is the night to fight. I think this is black and white. The only thing that changed here --
CONWAY: You heard me talk about the compassion part. So did the first lady. Everyone has.
CUOMO: You're glossing over things because you have to because the administration created this situation.
CONWAY: No, I'm not glossing over anything. Where were you in 2014?
CUOMO: I was on it.
CONWAY: Where were you in 2014?
CUOMO: I was on it. It was wrong them.
CONWAY: Were you? So, again, go ahead, roll those tapes. Let's see, you're calling the Trump detention centers.
CUOMO: Yes, well, they are.
CONWAY: Isn't that clever branding? And the Obama detention centers had what in them? Families.
CUOMO: He changed the policy. The reason --
CUOMO: I'll let you speak. You want to talk facts, let's do it. It's really all I have in this situation, because obviously the emotion isn't enough, right?
CONWAY: So, you don't care about the Central American minors. You don't know where they are.
CUOMO: You knew this was going to happen. You knew when they increased enforcement and you didn't expand your capacity to deal with people. You knew it would make this moment. You knew it would come. What I'm saying is --
CONWAY: So, do you know how the capacity gets expanded? Do you know the answer to that? Congress has to fund the expansion.
Tell them to work more than two and two and a half days a week --
CUOMO: First of all, Homeland Security gets a ton of money right now, you could have allocated it differently, and even if Congress would act, they should act. I want people to start the hashtag #doyourjob and have them find common ground and act on it. They're certainly part of this problem.
CONWAY: Yes, the president has called for that.
CUOMO: But the president has called for something else as well, a new harshness. We will prosecute all cases. The law did not change, you know that, Kellyanne. It hasn't changed in two administrations. What has changed is the politics.
Catch and release, bad, weak, they don't show up for their hearings. We're strong. Jeff Sessions will prosecute every case. That's why we have the kids crying. It's a fact.
CONWAY: If you want to interview me, then ask me a question, because I'll give you an answer now without any question.
CUOMO: Why did you change this policy when you knew it would lead to these kids being separated this way?
CONWAY: Excuse me. Christopher, it's very simple. We have a law in this country, OK, and I've already talked about my capacity for compassion --
CUOMO: Does not mandate separating kids and family.
CONWAY: Hold on, Christopher, nobody said it did. Let me finish.
CUOMO: That's a problem.
CONWAY: Congress passed a law a very long time ago that it is a crime to enter the country illegally. If they don't like it, if you don't like it, they should rescind the law or change the law. In fact, if I were a Democrat right now, I would say, you know what, I just want open borders. I want to own it. Let's see what happens.
Why don't they have the courage to do that? Why?
CUOMO: No need to that.
CUOMO: Because it doesn't have to be all or none. This is a misdemeanor. Why don't you go out and catch scofflaws, jaywalkers? They make my life miserable. They're a big problem for me than illegal entrants are. Round them all up and figure out what to do with them.
CONWAY: Christopher, that is such a callous way of not answering my original question, my original challenge with tell me for certainty, tell everyone tonight on your show that you know what happened to those Central Americans.
CUOMO: Of course, I don't know where, all of anything, I don't know where all my kids are on a regular basis.
CONWAY: Now, who cares? Oh my god, that is the most elitist arrogance --
CUOMO: But you don't know where the kids are that were separated from families.
CUOMO: Kellyanne, you don't have the high moral ground on this. You changed a policy to impress your base. You got a pop in the polls with them and you're OK with destruction and harshness. Just own it.
CONWAY: How dare you. How dare you. If you want to live in a nation, a sovereign nation that doesn't have borders, you go for it.
CUOMO: Nobody is asking for that. CONWAY: You and the people from your party, excuse me, say, we want open borders, just do it.
CUOMO: Nobody is asking you for that.
CONWAY: Let me tell you something, if you --
CUOMO: They're saying don't take kids from parents when you don't have to, the way Bush chose not to, the way Obama chose not to, Kellyanne. You know the play here. It's an ugly play.
CONWAY: No, listen to me. I have said to you what the president said steps behind me on a different network, or actually to the press gaggle, where there are CNN reporters, three short days ago. We've all said it. Nobody likes it.
However, nobody also likes people coming and smuggling children. It is a huge enterprise. Why aren't you at the border screaming every day to stop this half a trillion-dollar enterprise in child smuggling.
CUOMO: First of all, I've actually covered human trafficking.
CONWAY: Right. Do it again.
CUOMO: I've actually what happens on the border.
CONWAY: Do it again and again.
CUOMO: By the way, this administration hasn't been a big fan of doing something about it. What you want to do is arrest people for crossing illegally which is a misdemeanor.
CONWAY: That is not true. No, no.
CUOMO: That's what you're doing there.
CONWAY: Those people -- if all you've done -- if all you've done is broken the law by crossing illegally, you will get a very swift adjudication. And you see Senator Cruz's bill tonight doing very close to what the president called for last October, where is Congress eight months ago, Christopher? He asked them to double the number on immigration judges.
CUOMO: But why didn't he build more facilities? He loves to build. But why would he start prosecuting cases where he knew he would separate families and not have anywhere to put them?
CONWAY: Excuse me. If all you did was not come through a port of entry, if you went between the ports of entry and the only law you had broken was crossing over illegally and you will be and you agree to that, you pleaded that, you will be adjudicated and you'll have time served and that's normally it. If you've broken another law --
CUOMO: So, you're saying, none of the 2,000 kids that were separated from their parents just came across the border illegally. Every one of those cases had something else, to turn the question on you. You know about that for a fact, Kellyanne?
CONWAY: But you know that several hundred thousand Central American boys and girls are living safe and happy lives in America, right, Chris? No, because everybody turns their back on it when it doesn't fit their political narrative.
I'm sick to my stomach that we are still talking about common sense immigration reform when this president right behind me in January invited Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate into the cabinet room, CNN covered all 55 minutes of it live.
What -- name for me the Democrat who said, Mr. President, you weren't here in 2014, but we were, because God knows we were here too long forever. We were here in 2014. Sir, we want to tell you it was a very bad summer, we had an explosion, a surge over the border of Central Americans, and we don't know what happened to the minors. We want to work with you to make sure that never happens again.
Who said that in that room? Tell me. Put them on your show. They all want TV time. Who said it?
CUOMO: Why is it an alternative waiting for Congress to put into practice, prosecute all illegal entrants and balloon the population of families that you have to separate? Why was that an answer?
CONWAY: Probably on an audiotape crying somewhere that you don't wish to find or to play or maybe a video --
CUOMO: What are you talking about? You wouldn't let me in the facilities. I would go right now if I could get in.
CONWAY: No, no, I'm talking about the girls and the boys who came over from Central America over the last four years. None of these (INAUDIBLE) fixed that.
CUOMO: So, your argument is, we already had a problem, so what's wrong with handling it this way?
CONWAY: No, I'm saying --
CUOMO: You're making it worse, that's the problem.
CONWAY: No, you act like it got invented last week. And this is everybody's problem, but everybody, Christopher, has to be part of the solution --
CUOMO: But you changed the policy. This is why they did catch and release. This is why operation streamline under Bush was not made manifest.
CONWAY: OK, let me ask you a question --
CUOMO: It's too harsh, it's too complicated and they chose compassion. You didn't.
CONWAY: You think it was compassionate? These family detention centers looked compassionate to you?
CUOMO: No, I think what you're doing right now lacks compassion.
CONWAY: I've been reading articles all weekend. I told you already, and I'll repeat it so that those who are trying to cherry-pick this interview get it right for once, that I'm a Catholic, I'm a mother, I have a conscience.
I stand with the president, the first lady and everyone else who has said many different ways, Christopher, that nobody likes this result. At the same time, you have to -- you have to recognize what the secretary of homeland security said today. We have a 1,700 percent increase in asylum claims.
Christopher, we need the people who have credible fear presenting asylum.
CUOMO: Over many, many years it's up 1,700. But how is this is a deterrent? You've got rising numbers coming across the border, so certainly it's not the scare factor that you want it to be. If you have such a conscience, why don't you tell the president, stop this policy?
CONWAY: Nobody tried to make it a scare factor. The president is going to Congress tomorrow. Let's see who shows up. Because so far every time your party has come to the White House and anywhere else --
CUOMO: What do you mean, my party? I don't have a party. I look at all these people the same way. They're people not getting things done for the American people. That's how I look at Congress right now, writ large.
But General John Kelly said when he was at the Department of Homeland Security, we believe this will have a deterrent effect. He used the language because that's what you want to send as a message. Own it.
CONWAY: That was over a year ago and the Department of Homeland Security did not say that today. So Christopher --
CUOMO: I know, today she said something that didn't make any sense. At least he was being honest. The only thing that changed is your policy and now you have this spin for the White House that the law is the problem. The law hasn't changed. CONWAY: You're spinning because you won't admit that -- you're
spinning it because you won't admit that immigration in this country and border security has been a vexing problem for many years.
CUOMO: It's easy to admit that.
CONWAY: The president has said, give me money for the wall and this catch and release into the interior, secure our borders with different technologies but also with visible barriers --
CUOMO: Your problem is, is that you want to pick that like we have, like this is "Game of Thrones" and we have like the wildings coming across the border and they're infesting our country and they're such a virus.
CONWAY: No, Christopher, let me tell you something.
CUOMO: They don't pose the criminal threat that you say. You won't go after the employers that draw them into this country.
CONWAY: That's not true.
CUOMO: No, no, those are big donors and Republicans, we're not going to go after them, which you will demonize the little people coming over.
CONWAY: How dare you and how --
CONWAY: I'm sorry, how did he verify work exactly well when President Obama was in office?
CUOMO: Where in your 70-point plan is to try to go after the employers.
CONWAY: How dare you -- how dare you try to say that about donors.
CUOMO: How dare I was? To say facts? It's a fact.
CONWAY: That's not a fact. That's your opinion.
CUOMO: You're not going to shame me. When you're separating kids on the border, Kellyanne, you're not going to shame me. Not tonight.
CONWAY: Every time you back yourself into a corner, like a nonsense argument about donors, then you're going to go to back to separating kids at the border.
CUOMO: Who are big corporate donors? They donate to both parties and that's why they get protection, and that's why the family that comes across the border, they're a threat, probably MS-13. And if not, certainly up to no good.
CONWAY: Are you laughing about that?
CUOMO: But the corporations --
CONWAY: Hey, Christopher, are you laughing about MS-13? Because I want you to go tell that to Juan Pena.
CUOMO: You want to paint everyone who comes across the border as a drug dealer, a smuggler, or a gang banger.
CONWAY: When you're done talking, I'm sure this will really help. Listen, if you want to go tell Juan Pena, if you want to tell those parents who were the first lady's guests at the State of the Union this year, whose teenage daughters --
CONWAY: Yes, uh-huh. Whose teenage daughters were savagely murdered, MS-13 gangs' motto is rape, kill and control.
CUOMO: So fight the gangs. We like you did that here on Long Island.
CONWAY: And you're laughing about it? You think it's nothing? You think it's nothing they've overtaken the middle schools.
CUOMO: No, you're putting words in my mouth because you're in a bad spot, and I get it, but I just don't get why you don't fix it. Why doesn't the president say --
CONWAY: Because I'm not on the side of child smugglers, I'm not on the side of MS-13 gangs. This president wants to end that. And you know what?
CUOMO: Nobody would come after you for getting gang members?
CONWAY: A permanent separation -- the permanent separation between the children --
CUOMO: The problem is you're separating families as a funnel of enforcement.
CONWAY: -- between Laura Wilkerson and her child, between Jamel Schultz Sr. (ph) and his son. All these people who have been killed on the hands --
CUOMO: And they all matter, but your solution doesn't address their problem. (CROSSTALK)
CONWAY: Have you gone and listened -- are you playing an audiotape of them weeping at night missing their children? They're permanently separated from their children.
CUOMO: Are the kids who are crying on the tape --
CONWAY: How dare you decide --
CUOMO: Are they the ones that caused your problem?
CONWAY: How's there -- I don't have a problem.
CUOMO: You've got a big problem with this policy. This is a big problem. You've got two out of three people in the country against you on this policy. Two out of three.
CONWAY: Just cut it out and try to unpack this intelligently. I have already told you on the compassion side how we all feel. Then I tried to bring up the facts --
CUOMO: No, but that compassion side is just words because the president created the situation, Kellyanne, so he doesn't get compassion points. You don't get compassion points when you change the policy to separate families. No compassion points.
CONWAY: Yes, he deserves compassion points. You know what? When you have Senator Kamala Harris on in a little, I would like you to ask her, that as attorney general of California, she prosecuted, what, a million felons at different times? How many people that she prosecuted that she knows were prosecuted? How many of the people actually went to jail were separated -- excuse me -- were separated from their children?
CUOMO: It's a different. It's not a good analogy.
CONWAY: If I commit a crime and I go to jail, I'm separated from my four children.
CUOMO: It's not a good analogy.
CONWAY: Christopher, it's one of the many reasons I won't do it.
CUOMO: These people are felons that you're talking about with her when she prosecutes them. This is a misdemeanor that you want to make something violent.
CONWAY: It doesn't sound like you want to help. It doesn't sound like you want to help.
CUOMO: But, listen, I hear about that issue --
CONWAY: No, no, no, these are people who are committing other crimes.
CUOMO: I want to give you a chance to talk opioid. I want to keep my word. Tell my audience what has changed and what it means, please.
CONWAY: Sure. But remember, border security also has to do with keeping the drugs out of the country.
CONWAY: So much of it comes through the southern border. So much of it comes through our mail. This president has a three-front war against opioid crisis and drug demand overall.
First, prevention and education, so that we are teaching our youth, be a somebody, don't be a statistic. We are trying to reduce the stigma and silence that attaches to chemical dependency and drug use.
CONWAY: Opioid is tricky, Christopher, it starts in the medicine cabinet.
CONWAY: That tiny little bottle, bears the family doctor, local pharmacy, familiar things, it's legally prescribed. But if you misuse someone else's prescription, it's not good.
CONWAY: And we had 64,000 Americans died in 2016 from drug overdose, including opioids.
Also prescriber education. The president has called for a 30 percent across the board reduction in new prescriptions over the next three years. He's already bending the curve in the right direction. We see a lot of support from the pharmacists, from the physicians, actually from legislators, right, front and center, which is great.
Number two, treatment and recovery. I think expanding access to EMT, these medication assistant therapies, that we know work. Having that rules change, having CMS, Medicare and Medicaid granting waivers so that we don't have empty hospital beds. There's some 40-year ban on the 115 --
CUOMO: Good move.
CONWAY: -- waivers, OK?
I'm going very quickly here.
CUOMO: Thank you.
CONWAY: The third one is interdiction and law enforcement. Do you know every single week in the news, except not on the news unfortunately, there is a new seizure of fentanyl? That shows it could have killed millions and millions of people. In Nebraska three weeks ago, they seized enough fentanyl to kill 26 million people. What is fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is 50 times as
strong as heroin, 100 times as strong as morphine. It's an instant killer for people. It's being laced into marijuana, laced into street drugs, laced into others.
And we want to raise awareness. We have new ads out. They started running on broadcasts including, I believe, your network today, and on Facebook and Google and elsewhere. We teamed up with the Truth Initiative which has a trust relationship with 18 to 24 years old, the Halo (ph) audiences between 15 and 30 years old. They have combated tobacco use in this country, and we teamed up with the Ad Council, 75 years in history of being involved and major public service announcements.
We have to find the solution together. We call this the crisis next door. This president, this first lady very involved.
CONWAY: The entire administration, whole of government approach. I don't think he talked about it enough. So thank you, CNN tonight at least giving us two minutes' time on it.
CUOMO: Listen, I appreciate it. Every time you have an advancement there, you can come on here and you can talk about it.
CONWAY: Thank you.
CUOMO: We have open arms for that. It's a huge scourge in our society, everybody should know about it.
CONWAY: And we should agree with the first lady -- pass all the laws, adhere to all the laws and show heart. We got to be able to do both as a nation. Thank you.
CUOMO: It's a phone call away from keeping those kids from crying. Let's see what happens.
Kellyanne, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.
CONWAY: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Kellyanne Conway making the case for the president.
Now, you hear, the president wants you to say, listen, hey, he's got a big heart. It's Congress, it's this law, they've just got him over a barrel. He's forced to prosecute cases this way.
It's not true. And a reminder: Republicans control both chambers. If they really wanted to change this, they could. Two Republicans are going to join us for a great debate on the firestorm. Why two from the same position? Because they need both seats on this tonight, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to CUOMO PRIME TIME.
Rick Santorum and Steve Cortes are here for our great debate.
I'm giving you both chairs because I think you need it on this issue, Cortes and Santorum.
So, we talked to Kellyanne, one of the president's best defenders. We got to give her that.
Steve, I'll start with you on this. The idea of we have to do this because we're enforcing the law, that's not the way law enforcement works. We all know that. You make a choice about it.
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
CUOMO: And in fact, the proof is in the government's response to the ACLU suit in May. They said: Don't talk to us about the law because this is an independent immigration policy choice. So, it's not about the law. This suit is meritless. They admit it's their choice.
CORTES: Chris, very fair point. And, by the way, I totally concede on that. This is new policy by the Trump administration. I think it's excellent new policy. I really do. When I say excellent, I will be --
CUOMO: Children crying on the border being taken from their family is an excellent policy?
CORTES: No. Hold on, what's excellent is the idea that we have a sovereign right to control who enters our country.
CORTES: And that is not cruel, it's not racist, American citizens have the right.
And by the way, there is no compassion in saying that if you show up with a child, we're going to allow you in, because what do we do then? We incentivize people to show up with children as almost tickets for entry, which almost guarantees that there was going to be more pain for children, more smuggling of children, more abuse of children.
So, the actual compassionate thing to do is to say, you cannot come into this country illegally, period, and if you do so with a child, just as if you commit any other crime with a child, you will be separated from that child.
(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: But there is no other crime, where you commit a misdemeanor and you get separated this way and prosecuted this way. You got to remember that, it's a misdemeanor.
CORTES: But that's for Americans, Chris. Chris, that's for Americans. These are not Americans.
CUOMO: Listen, human beings are human beings.
CORTES: These are people breaking and entering into our home, the American home. They're breaking and entering.
CUOMO: Hold on a second, I don't think that somebody's kid matters more or less if they're American. I don't see it that way. I would take care of kids first as a priority.
CUOMO: Let me get Rick in on this, as much as he's enjoying watching you on this.
So, Rick, let me bring you in on this. The idea of the compassion here -- I don't see how you can have high ground on this.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
CUOMO: Separating these kids, you knew this was going to happen, you didn't have the capacity. You knew that when you increased enforcement.
SANTORUM: I think -- you know what, the Trump administration is saying is that the law that prevents them from doing what they want to do, which is what Steve just said, what the president said, what everybody said. They want to enforce the law. What they mean is that if you cross illegally, then we are going to go through the process of deportation.
The law that blocks -- that creates this problem is a law that says that you can't keep minors together with their parents and detain them jointly and remove them jointly.
SANTORUM: You can't do that. Because of this --
CUOMO: You can't keep minors in the condition you can keep adults.
SANTORUM: Right. Well, and you can't --
CUOMO: And you can't keep them as long.
SANTORUM: Well, but, you also, because of this law they passed several years ago to protect children who were being smuggled, they can't be -- a family unit can't be kept together and deported together. That's the problem.
CUOMO: No, no, that's not what the Flores agreement says. And there is no law that mandates you do what you're doing right now. In fact --
SANTORUM: No, I agree with that. The difference is that --
CUOMO: The conditions may have sucked, but at least they got to stay together. You could keep these families together, or you could do catch and release and you could do it a different way. This is why Bush and Obama did it this way.
SANTORUM: You can't process them the same way. You have to -- there has to be a separation, that's the problem. And the reality is the big change, and this is what Steve is saying, is that they are enforcing the law about removing adults who come here illegally. That's the big change.
And you're right, they should have done a better job in preparing for this. Ted Cruz's bill which I know has been talked about, you know, a lot today, and the president suggested this a while ago about increasing the number of judges, increasing the number of detention facilities --
SANTORUM: But the changing the law has to be about keeping families together and putting them on the same path as a family which they can't do today.
CUOMO: So, if you had compassion, Steve, you would have done that first.
CORTES: The best way --
CUOMO: See, catch and release wasn't just about being soft. You had Bush who did operation streamline, and you had Obama, and why did they both wind up doing it basically the same way? Overcapacity.
CORTES: Well, and, Chris, how was border in both those presidents, by the way? The border was porous and dangerous, full of human smuggling.
CUOMO: Your numbers right now are nothing to brag about, my friend. You got single entries across 325 percent, you're up year over year, 435 percent year over year families are up.
CORTES: But are we going to brag about the condition of the border under the last two presidents, both Bush and Obama?
CUOMO: But I'm saying you're deterrent, your harshness isn't working.
CORTES: The border -- let's give it some time.
The border has been ignored as an issue for the American people for decades in this country. Why? Because it served the interest of elites who wanted cheap labor and the Democrats quite frankly wanted votes.
CUOMO: Why don't you go after them, Steve? Why don't you go after them?
CORTES: I am. And, you know, I believe in all the above.
CUOMO: Where is that in 70-point plan going after the big employers?
CORTES: This president is finally saying, look, we as a sovereign nation have every right to control our borders. That's not xenophobic, it's not racist --
CUOMO: When has he said he's going after the employers? The reason people come here, unless they're seeking asylum, unless they're fleeing for persecution or domestic violence, which you guys don't think counts, unless it's one of those categories, they're coming here for a job. They're mostly hired by big businesses. They're not just rich people's maids, OK?
CORTES: Oh, agreed. Agreed.
CUOMO: So, you don't go after them. But it's not in a plan. Why isn't it in the plan?
CORTES: It has been good for corporate America and terrible for American workers. And, by the way, that's the part two that's never talked about in this.
It's not that it's dangerous to have a porous border, it is. But it's even more to the point I think for every day working Americans tolerating millions of illegal workers into this country every year has been wage depressing and so horrible for average American workers, many of whom, by the way, are Hispanic and black. Many of whom are Hispanic. That's the situation.
CUOMO: But, Rick Santorum, you know that's a loaded statistic. It has not depressed wages for the jobs that Americans are doing. That's how this whole labor base came into being, because you can underpay them, because you don't have to protect them, because you can demonize them. And they'll do things that Americans won't do because of their desperation.
But they haven't changed the American wage situation, you know that, Rick. You know that that's a cherry-picked stat.
SANTORUM: No, no, I think Steve has a -- look, there are jobs that illegal immigrants do that Americans, you know, are not doing. But if you look at all the wage categories, I think there's some 400-some --
CORTES: But they're not doing them with these wages. That's so insulting to Americans.
SANTORUM: Let me finish my point.
HAYES: But then go after the people who underpay them, Steve. You won't do that because you want to hang out with them when you're raising money for your candidates.
CORTES: Agree. Agree. Yes, I sure will. I sure will.
SANTORUM: If I can finish my point --
CORTES: To say Americans won't do those jobs is insulting to Americans.
CUOMO: You guys say that, but then you know what? They wouldn't have the labor supply then, if there was no demand, you'd have no supply.
SANTORUM: Gentlemen, if I can for a moment --
CUOMO: If Americans were doing them -- go ahead, Rick.
SANTORUM: Throw little facts in here, Chris.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
SANTORUM: The fact is of the 400-some-odd categories in the Labor Department, there are five of which the majority of which are immigrants, illegal and otherwise, who are the majority of workers in those areas. And they're primarily in the agricultural area.
And there -- I would agree with you. I think we need a much more aggressive program to allow people to come into this country legally and do work in the agriculture area. That's a given.
But the vast amount of the jobs that illegals do take are jobs that actually Americans are willing to do. Construction jobs, landscaping jobs, other jobs that are actually most -- that are very heavily populated with illegal immigrants and Americans. So, there is a wage depressing impact of illegall immigrations on a lot of those jobs.
CUOMO: So, instead of doing what you're doing on the border, fellows, go after these employers that have these jobs --
SANTORUM: I agree, 100 percent.
CUOMO: -- jobs that Americans want --
(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: -- that they can have bigger margins. It's nowhere in your plan, nobody said a word about that today, and the president has never said it.
CORTES: Chris, get rid of H-1B visas, first of all, OK? Let's talk about the hiring.
CUOMO: -- high skilled laborers that Trump and other people want to bring more of them into the country until he became president, he was asking for more foreign labor for his hotels.
CORTES: Well, then, he's wrong on that. Get rid of H-1B visas, control the border, protect America, protect our sovereignty and our security.
CUOMO: But he's not wrong to separate the kids from their parents.
CORTES: Look, he didn't separate them. The parents separated themselves from the children when they made the willful decision to illegally cross our border.
CUOMO: -- you had done it the way it was done, your numbers aren't better, they are worse. You're right. We'll see what happens with time.
CORTES: They chose to cross our border illegally.
CUOMO: That's true.
CORTES: They chose that.
CUOMO: They broke the law. It is a misdemeanor. I don't see you guys going on a jihad about rounding up everybody who does a DUI. Those are felonies, right?
SANTORUM: So, what you're saying is we shouldn't enforce the border. We should let anybody come in. It's only a misdemeanor.
CUOMO: No, I'm saying how we enforce the law matters. And the reason Bush and Obama were more selective in their enforcement was twofold. One, they didn't want to get in a pinch of overcapacity and get hit with a stick of harshness that you are in now.
And the second one was, it didn't work for them politically, right? Bush was compassionate conservatism. Obama was just straight up compassion in terms of what it means --
CORTES: Or they were both in the bag of business. How about that? They were both in the bag of Davos globalists which we rejected in 2016. CUOMO: Not more than Trump, right? That's why people elected him, is like they thought he understood those people better.
CUOMO: Trump wants to sell a message to his people.
CORTES: And that's why we're enforcing border laws.
CUOMO: Here's my contention, and it's working -- 58 percent of Republicans agree with this policy. The problem is two out of three Americans don't. This is a message of harshness and strength, and it resonates with some -- with some -- but I don't know how you guys grow the tent with this kind of policy.
Steve, last word to you and then bounce it to Rick.
CORTES: I will say this. The American worker has been ignored for so long. This is part of protecting the rights of the American worker, the American citizen.
It's heartbreaking, of course, it is.
CUOMO: Then don't do it.
CORTES: That children are wanting for their parents. Just as it is -- no, but just as it is in our country when parents make terrible choices and commit a crime. The point is, don't come across our border illegally. If you're seeking asylum legitimately, come to the port of entry, do it the right way and you won't be separated from your children.
That is the way to actually protect children, not just the ones who are already here but the ones who are possibly en route.
CUOMO: All right. I'm out of time. Rick, I take your nod as assent to what Steve just said.
SANTORUM: I have more to say, but I guess I'm out of time to say it. OK.
CUOMO: You all -- both are always welcome to be on our show.
SANTORUM: Thank you.
CUOMO: Although, Cortes, I don't think they're going to take those words that you just said and put them on the bag (ph) of the Statue of Liberty any time soon.
Gentlemen, thank you for making the case. Rick Santorum, Steve Cortes.
All right. So, the president is not going to stop this policy. Why? Because he started the policy. He likes the politics of it, he likes -- I know that people are saying he doesn't like it, it hurts his heart. I'm not seeing proof of that. What will Congress do? Senator Kamala Harris is leading the charge.
A Democrat makes her case on PRIME TIME, next.
CUOMO: All right. So, here's the reality. Despite all the talk, the op-eds, the condemnation which are all due what's happening on the border, the government is actively separating kids from their families and it's going to continue.
So, if the president who started it won't undo it, then where does that leave us? That leaves us with Congress.
The Homeland Security secretary put this in the lap of Congress as well this morning. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it. It's clearly within their power to make the laws and change the laws. This is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action.
We are trying to protect the children, which is why I'm asking Congress to act. It's a law passed by the United States Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Joining me now is, Democratic Senator from California, Kamala Harris.
Senator, thank you for being with us.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: It's great to be with you, Chris. Thank you.
CUOMO: So you called, today, for the DHS Secretary Neilson to resign. Why?
HARRIS: I did.
She is, I think, incapable of running the agency in a way that reflects Americans values. She is leading an agency and a -- and a policy that is separating children from their parents, children, as young as 1-years-old, 4-years-old, and for no reason.
And it is, I think, unconscionable, I think it is immoral, and it is unnecessary and wrong, and it's got to stop. And clearly, she does not see the need for it to stop, so she should go.
CUOMO: She's doing what's she told, right, and what she was told was that, AG Sessions changed how they're going to prosecute under the applicable laws, that they're going to prosecute all the cases.
Why aren't you calling for him to resign? HARRIS: Well, she is not -- she does not work the attorney general.
HARRIS: And she does not work, at his discretion.
And I -- listen, I sat in conformation hearings and where she talked about, how she would run the agency according to what, she believed, is the right thing to do.
She has an independent responsibility to the American public, and she, and I know this is a career prosecutor, she's running a law enforcement agency, and every head of a law enforcement agency has discretion, to make decisions about where they will put their limited resources. She has chosen, as a leader of that agency, to put incredible resources into separating babies from their parents, and it's got to stop.
CUOMO: They had to know --
HARRIS: I'm not going to absolve her, and I don't think anyone should absolve her of her responsibilities.
No, I get it. I'm just saying that she's one link in a chain. They had to know that when they changed the policy, to prosecute all illegal entries into the county, they were going to wind up here, right? I mean, there was only one scenario. If you increase the prosecutions and you don't expand your resources for how to detain and deal with them, didn't they know we would wind up here?
HARRIS: Well, I think, more than, didn't they know it, they knew it, and they planned on it. I -- back -- I've been on the committee, the Homeland Security Committee, in the United States Senate for almost 18 months. I've been asking them since, as early, as March of last year, about this policy. We've been hearing about it.
I asked, for example, Elaine Duke, who was acting secretary, for a while, it's on record, asked her, what's going on with this. Well, yes, there have been conversations, she said, about a policy, separating the children from their parents, for the purposes of deterrence, of immigration.
So, this not something that just happened to them, this has been a plan. And they're implementing the plan, they're enforcing the plan, and it's wrong. And we're now seeing vivid images of babies, children being put in cages, Chris, put in cages.
And this is of their own making. This is of their own making.
I agree with you. There's a nexus between this and the attorney general's policy around -- basically prosecuting every case that comes to the border, without the exercise and clearly, any discretion. There's no tolerance policy. But the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security runs an agency of tens of thousands of people and has in her discretion and power to stop this thing, this unconscionable thing from happening, but she refuses to do it. She should leave.
CUOMO: Well, the president could, also do it with a phone call, and he's not.
HARRIS: You're exactly right.
CUOMO: Maybe, they do like the message of strength, even if it plays, as harshness. Maybe, he does like it as a deterrent effect. He says he doesn't like children being separated from their families. But if that were true, couldn't he make it stop, right away?
HARRIS: You're absolutely correct. Of course, he could make it stop. One phone call and its done. So, yes, that is exactly right.
And you know, listen, let's just think about this. There is -- there is -- listen, we all want to protect the border from any threats to our national security. You don't have to snatch children from their parents, in order to protect the border or achieve border security, that's just a false, false choice, and misleading --
HARRIS: -- to the American public.
CUOMO: So here's the other part of the equation. You guys, down there, in D.C. The president has put it on you by saying, change the laws, give me a better law, make it easier to do. And there doesn't seem to be any urgency in Washington D.C.
I saw the bills that came up, nobody put up a bill that deals with justice. Now, there are rumors that maybe be slipped into an appropriations bill. Why is there not more urgency on the part of Congress?
HARRIS: Well, respectfully, I disagree. The Feinstein bill that I worked with her on deals with this directly, which is creating rules for the Department of Homeland Security, when they undertake to separate, and in many cases, forcefully separate children from their families.
But there is no law, Chris, that requires the separation of these children from their families. So, it's a red herring.
HARRIS: It's a red herring for this administration to suggest that Congress needs to act in order for them to stop this unconscionable practice. That is just absolutely not true.
To your point, one phone call the president can make. One decision the secretary of DHS can make and it would stop. CUOMO: Here's what I'm saying, I accept your argument, it's a good one. I started with it. But what I'm saying is, we know that's not going to happen, all right. By all appearances at this moment, the president likes what's happening right now.
CUOMO: This is the deterrent. This is the strength. This is what he's about.
He's stronger than Obama. He's smarter than Bush and that's why people voted for him. That's his argument.
So, it really is going to be up to you guys to make it stop. So, what are you -- are you seeing any kind of percolation? I know about the Feinstein bill obviously, and I know about the other ones.
CUOMO: None of them will get the kind of majority you need to show that you have a veto-proof majority, so it doesn't matter what the president says, this stop and it stops as soon as we vote.
CUOMO: Why not? Why not try to rally the troops down there and look at your Republican counterparts and say, brothers and sisters, if we can get on the same board about this, we should all be thrown out?
HARRIS: You're right. You're right. You are right.
You know, I would like to think that at some point, everyone has a code or, you know, a line where they draw and then they say, you know what, this has gone too far, I'm not going any further with this. I agree with you.
This has to be -- if this isn't it, I don't know what it is, in saying that we people who care about keeping families together, if in fact we do, if we agree that the United States government shouldn't be in the business of tearing families apart, we should be in the business of keeping families together. It would seem to me that folks would see that this shouldn't be a bipartisan issue.
This should be a nonpartisan issue. We should draw the line and say on this, not going to play politics. It's just wrong.
If we care about families --
HARRIS: -- then we got to say, it's just morally wrong to take a child from their mother, from their father.
CUOMO: Listen --
HARRIS: We have cases where breastfeeding mothers have been -- their children have been taken from them.
HARRIS: The case of the father who was so traumatized, he committed suicide. The American Medical Association --
HARRIS: -- and Pediatrics Association have said on this very issue --
HARRIS: -- this is resulting in traumas that may be lifelong trauma.
And why is this necessary? Why is this necessary? And these are innocent children.
CUOMO: There's no question about it. I mean, some of them are teenagers and there are always going to be circumstances where people can pick out what they want to see in this population.
But here's my concern: everybody says they're concerned about the kids, yet the kids are still crying. They're still getting separated. They're still sitting in those hot boxes. That's where they're going to be for the foreseeable future.
My concern in telescoping this out is, this is going to hurt you guys down there, because if you can't rise to a challenge like this and if it stays mired in the four pillars of immigration and what will you do with chains, and the visa lottery, and how much money for the wall -- if you guys can't get together and act when children are crying and it's all about the politics --
HARRIS: That's right.
CUOMO: -- and the Democrats say, well, this will help us in the midterms because there are bad people doing this, and the Republicans are saying, this will help us in the midterms because we're strong, I think you're all in trouble.
HARRIS: So, let me just say, I believe very strongly, this should not be the subject of political gamesmanship. It should not be -- how can it be? How can it be?
And again, let's just go back to the earlier point, at some point, people have to draw a line and say, you know, on certain things, we just cannot, should not, will not play politics.
CUOMO: Well, this is got to be it, Senator, because you know what happens next.
HARRIS: I agree. Listen, I agree with you.
CUOMO: What happens next is that God forbid, Senator --
(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: No, look, I know you do, I'm just trying to push --
HARRIS: I agree.
CUOMO: -- I'm pushing for action on common ground because you're one of those people who could be a catalyzed and I'm telling you, what happens next --
CUOMO: -- I've covered these stories. What happens next is that God forbid, the kid they can't find, the kid who gets sick, that God forbid that happens that didn't have to happen, and then what? Then it's too late.
HARRIS: You're exactly right. And I -- you know, also, listen, I'm having the conversation -- I think many of us are having a conversation --
CUOMO: And it wasn't not easy to get people, Senator. Point to your favor, wasn't easy to even get Democrats tonight to talk about this. Why?
HARRIS: I don't know. I don't know. And I -- listen, when it comes to it, each of us is going to have to look in the mirror and, you know, speak to our minds, and our hearts, to our God to, you know, whatever is that touchstone about, you know, what is the right thing to do.
But this has got to be one of those moments where people really take a cold, hard look at themselves and ask themselves what is the right thing to do here and do the right thing and have the courage to do it. I believe that courage will be rewarded in every way, including politically. I believe that.
CUOMO: This has reached the tipping point in terms of media interests.
CUOMO: That means the American voters are listening and we'll see who does what, when and how.
HARRIS: That's right.
CUOMO: But I'll tell you, Senator Harris, it wasn't easy to even get Democrats on tonight to talk about this. I'm not sure why.
You took the opportunity. Thank you for doing so. We'll be watching.
HARRIS: Appreciate you. It's time to speak the truth, all of us. Thank you. Thank you.
CUOMO: You're welcome. HARRIS: Thank you.
CUOMO: Speaking the truth is important, doing something about the truth is more than important in a situation like this.
Don Lemon is standing by. He's got a preview of "CNN TONIGHT" which is just minutes away.
I'm not kidding. It wasn't -- you know, it wasn't hyperbole. It was hard to get people on the show tonight to talk about this.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": I can only imagine. We have two guests that I think you're going to find fascinating. But, Chris, I mean, I think about, I even thought about you today as you were doing the story, you were interviewing Kelly Conway. Yes, she's a mother and I get it, you know, she has a heart and all that, and you as well.
And it's tough because it's one of those thing where you don't want to make it personal. But then you listen to that audio, and you -- how can you not make it personal, especially if you're a parent, if you're a human being. So, speaking of that audio, these are the two guests, we're going to have the lawyer who is the source of that audio for "ProPublica".
LEMON: And then the reporter who followed up on this story. There have been a lot of people out there saying, well, should this have been related, should it not? But it shows just how horrifying this is. So, we'll be talking to them tonight in just a bit.
CUOMO: Look, you know the old expression, right? They remember how you make them feel. Politics is about emotion and mobilizing people's feelings as much as anything. I will look forward to seeing those interviews, my friend. Check with you in a second.
LEMON: See you soon.
CUOMO: The children are crying, that's a fact. Another fact is that in the most recent poll, 2/3 of you say you oppose what's happening at the border. So, we have a message for the lawmakers who represent you in my closing argument.
(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)
CUOMO: The children are crying. President Trump says he hears them, that he doesn't like it. But he knew this would happen, didn't he? The president knew when the policy to prosecute all cases of illegal entry of misdemeanor was hashed by his AG.
Harshness plays as strength he hopes. And yes, they also hope this does send a message to others looking for safe passage into the U.S. Forget the lady with the lamp in the harbor. Beware before you dare to come here. Catch and release that was the policy under Obama, somewhat under
Bush. Letting people go pending a court date that some would possibly never show for, that's weakness. President Trump must equal strength. So, let the children cry. Remember, they knew this would happen.
Second argument for Trump, I was forced into this. Wrong, this is not about a bad law. The law is the same as it was for the last two administrations.
The enforcement policy is what changed. President Trump did this, he knew they would not have the facilities to hold all these people being arrested. A big reason Obama and Bush did not enforce the law this way.
So, the children are going to keep crying. The Republicans hear them, and some will say they don't like it but they aren't going to join with Democrats to fix it, why? Some like the strong enforcement message. More are afraid of President Trump, afraid he'll make them cry in primaries, like these kids are crying now.
And also, there is some pragmatism at play. Some hope this will motivate actions on the other immigration policies they want to pass that Dems do not want. The Democrats will chastise as the media pushes them to address crying children. Senator Dianne Feinstein has the bill to stop the immigration but it doesn't appeal to public interest.
However, there is a solution, do your damn job. Compromise, find common ground like crying kids and act on it. Conscience, that sick feeling you should have hearing these kids, as parents, as people with warm blood pumping through your heart, that's what it should make you do. But if it doesn't, and act anyway. You know why? Fear of consequence.
More than 2/3 of Americans are against this. And I bet that number is going to rise. Who would vote for a member of any party who watched this happened and did nothing? It is a simple message. Do your job.
That's all for us tonight. Thank you for watching.
CNN with Don Lemon starts right now.