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Report: The Story Behind the Picture of The Crying Girl on The Border; Trump Falsely Blames Dems For Separating Families at The Border; DHS Chief Says, We Do Not Apologize for Family Separations; Trump People Thought Family Separations Was A Deterrent but in Fact Border Crossings Increase. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 18, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The Justice Department's Inspector General, Michael Horowitz will speak before the Senate panel on the series of mistakes made by James Comey in his handling of the Clinton administration. These are live pictures obviously from Capitol Hill for this hearing here. After the play by play is this, after he testifies current FBI Director Christopher Wray is also expected to speak before the senate judiciary committee.

As we wait for that hearing to get underway, we have new developments surrounding the desperate situation unfolding along the U.S./Mexico border. Hundreds of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers are waiting to be processed at this facility in Texas. Many of them are children, some just infants, who will soon be separated from their parents as their parents are essentially taken to jail under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy for anyone caught illegally crossing the border.

You have seen these pictures, right? Some of them just sleeping on the floor, huddled under aluminum emergency blankets. They, along with their parents, are being cordoned off by walls and chain link fencing. The administration insists these are not cages but you can see barbed wire, padlocks. You decide. The Trump administration's crackdown has come under even more intense criticism and scrutiny in just the last couple of days, but the president has falsely tried to point the blame at Democrats for the problem.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly. We could have an immigration bill. We could have child separation. We're stuck with these horrible laws. They're horrible laws. What's happening is so sad. It's so sad. And it can be taken care of quickly, beautifully and we'll have safety.


BALDWIN: So, to be clear, this new policy requires the arrest of adults including those accompanied by their children. This is from the press release on the DHS website right now, but don't take my word for it. I want you to listen for yourselves. Listen to these words from top officials in the administration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: In order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families is not unusual or unjustified.


BALDWIN: This is CNN obtained internal documents that show not only did the administration begin enforcing this policy to deter border crossings, but Homeland Security finds it's not working. First, let's discuss the impact of this controversial practice by the Trump administration of separating families at the border with someone who has covered this issue up close for decades. He is John Burnett, the NPR southwest correspondent in Texas.

He had just toured the largest youth center in Brownsville where more than 1400 migrant boys are being held and has reported extensively on the immigration crisis unfolding at the border. Thank you so much for being with me today. If I may, before we get into the details, just about you and your perspective. It's my understanding you've been covering this border off and on for more than 30 years.


BALDWIN: Have you ever seen anything like this?

BURNETT: Well, we did have what Obama called a humanitarian crisis in 2014. That's when you had -- again, you had many, many, many what they called UACs, unaccompanied alien children, who were coming across the border. They were also fleeing gang violence in central America, but what you have now that's extraordinary, Brooke, are the family units coming up from south America and they have the hair-raising stories.

We're seeing the separation of children from families that have been widely reported on, incredibly criticized here. We've never seen that before. This is a willful decision by this administration. There are alternatives to detention. There are alternatives to separating these families. I've seen them for years. For instance, Operation Streamline started in 2003. They called that 100 percent prosecution of parents coming across illegally, but they kept the parents and children together.

BALDWIN: And now this national outrage obviously over the separation and these young people. You know, we've seen the photo of that crying little girl talking to John Moore who snapped that photo coming up in a little bit. These thermal blankets here. The chain link fences that look like cages.

BURNETT: Yes. BALDWIN: What I want to hear from you, john, since you were in the

Brownsville facility, what are we not seeing?

[14:05:00] BURNETT: Well, first of all, those chain link -- those chain link fences were there in 2014 under the Obama administration. When the kids came across, all the families were put in there as well. Bologna sandwiches, space blankets, it's unpleasant. What we saw is a small tour of Casa Padre, the largest child migrant shelter in the country. 1500 kids in a converted Walmart in Brownsville there in the tip of south Texas.

I mean, to be honest, most of these boys ages 10 to 17 appear to be well taken care of. They're fed. They're in classes. There's medical care. Lots of recreation. I don't think that's the real story. It's the fact that it's full, that there's so many children being separated from families and coming across alone that the department of health and human services is having to open more and more of these shelters in addition to this tent city in Tornillo outside of El Paso in the Chihuahua desert. This is the newest place we've heard about.

BALDWIN: I was on a plane on Saturday just to broaden this out as well listening to your story on NPR of the family, nine people, right. Who had come up from Guatemala, they were crossing and from Matamoros, Mexico. Across the bridge seeking asylum at the border. The father told you, if we go back home, they will kill us, they being the drug lords whom nearly killed the 23-year-old son.


BALDWIN: Tell me more about that family, John, and why they keep getting turned away.

BURNETT: Well, Brooke, one of the extraordinary things that's happening that I've never seen before, they're stationing customs and border protection officials in the middle of the international bridges all up and down the Rio Grande and they're stopping families from coming and asking asylum. They say there is no room in the immigration stations on the Texas side of the bridge when, in fact, I talked to Mexican officials. They say we've seen 10 to 15 people a day coming across.

Having said that, this one family from Guatemala, as you referenced, their son, their 23-year-old son there, he had -- a bullet had blown out his left eye. He had a horrific scar snaking up his arm because he was a guide to a water fall that was on narco land in Northern Guatemala and the narco had assassins to kill the boys and the other boys who were guides.

So, they fled with their lives and they actually have documentation from a public minister there saying this happened to the family. Buy hope that you authorities in these countries would give them asylum. What's happened is Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has changed the rules of asylum so domestic abuse and gang violence apparently will be no longer be causes for asylum. This family may find that their pleas for asylum fall on deaf ears. BALDWIN: Keep telling the stories, thanks so much from NPR.

BURNETT: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Staying on this, here's a quote for this, we do not apologize. Those are the words of Donald Trump's Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who defended the policy.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family. We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job. This administration has a simple message. If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.


BALDWIN: Though it's worth mentioning that the secretary just tweeted, quote, "We don't have a policy of separating families at the border, period."

So, I've got more voices on this. With me now, Tal Kopan, CNN politics reporter, Tara Setmayer CNN political commentator, and board director for Stand-Up Republic who worked for years on the Hill on immigration issues, and also Joshua Green, CNN political analyst and national correspondent from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Before we get into what's happening and how can it end, I want to just turn to you on your reporting because where the administration had hoped this would deter, right, a number of these illegal crossings at the border, it hasn't.

[14:10:00] TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Brooke, that's absolutely right. I've obtained internal documents from DHS that sort of spell out over a period of time starting in April when the first steps of this zero-tolerance prosecution policy was in place, they predicted that the full impact of the deterrent effect would be realized in about two to three weeks.

As the weeks go on, you see that the two places you would expect to see that impact, the number of people crossing illegally and the number of people showing up at a port of entry to legally claim asylum as we were just sort of hearing about, those two numbers both have the opposite effect every single week through the end of May that we saw in the policy.

And the documents acknowledge CBP has not yet seen the deterrent effect materialize. So, you know, in fact at the end of the month the number of people crossing illegally went up 5 percent. The number of people showing up where they told them to come so they wouldn't be separated went down 9 percent, and the reason that this is so important is that when you talk about traumatizing children, when you talk about a policy that raises serious humanitarian questions for a lot of people outside the administration, the justification for it is that it's supposedly necessary to secure the border. So, when you don't see the affects that are predicted internally materialize, it raises serious questions about why the country would actually be pursuing it.

BALDWIN: A lot of people raising the question why, including now Hillary Clinton has weighed in. I'm told we have sound from her. Let's watch.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Let's be very clear. This is not happening because of the, quote, Democrat's law, as the White House has claimed. Separating families is not mandated by law at all. That is an outright lie. Those who selectively use the Bible to justify this cruel at this are ignoring a central tenant of Christianity. I went to a lot of years of Sunday school. I even taught it from time to time. I've studied the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament and what is being done using the name of religion is contrary to everything I was ever taught. Jesus said, suffer the little children unto me. He did not say let the children suffer.


BALDWIN: Perhaps even a jab back at the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, for citing the Bible a couple of days over the justification of these practices. You, we were talking earlier, know a lot about this and immigration and have been on the phone with even border patrol agents who, you know, may have -- be having a tough internal struggle with having to enforce what they're doing. The thing is, the president and the U.S. administration, they may be blaming the Democrats, but they could stop this today.


BALDWIN: If they wanted to.

SETMAYER: That's right.

BALDWIN: So why don't they?

SETMAYER: Well, and I've said this before. Trump does not want to necessarily solve the issue of immigration. It was something he used to help him get elected. The issue of immigration is very complicated, multi-faceted from a number of reasons, you know, between border security, interior enforcement, economic magnets. Which is why Republicans, Democrats also have not been successful in doing something comprehensive over many years. What's happening now is something that the president of the United States could fix.

BALDWIN: Could fix?

SETMAYER: With the stroke of a pen or a phone call. All it is -- it is a policy. Similar to what happens in the Obama administration when they made the decision even under be the Bush administration when they made the decision to do catch and release or to have prosecutorial discretion where they told basically prosecutors, you don't have to prosecute the law, because it is the law. 275, of the Immigration Naturalization Act, that section says it's a misdemeanor punishable up to six months in jail and a fine. If you choose to enforce it that way, what happens is --

BALDWIN: It was like a look the other way.

SETMAYER: That's right. And Obama did that with DACA. Trump could say, let's not do this. Let's try to figure out another way. We know that he not only doubles down and triples down on things that are so tough. Now it's what are we doing? Until his supporters and people he listens to say, Mr. President, this isn't tenable, we shouldn't being doing it this way. He's not going to change it.

BALDWIN: I understand, Josh, the word immigration, when he talked about the wall, just buzz words for his base maybe bolster him. There's a difference to playing to your base and what's happening to these children.

[14:15:00] JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. And if you look at the positions the administration has right now, there's no consistent position. As far as I can see, there are three mutually exclusive positions that the administration is simultaneously trying to hold.

You have Kirstjen Nielsen saying there is no such policy. Steven Miller, senior White House adviser saying, yes, there is, it's zero tolerance and it's good. Then you have Donald Trump on Twitter saying this is a terrible policy and it's Democrat's fault, which isn't at all true.

What seems to be happening as best I can discern from Trump's behavior is that he's taken these little children as hostages to use as a bargaining chip in a negotiation with Democrats, rather than concede something like say, OK, we don't need my border wall, we'll work out a different deal. He's created this pain and this problem in hopes that he can go to Democrats and say, if you want to alleviate the suffering of these little kids in cages, then you need to fund my border wall.

SETMAYER: Which is back firing. Democrats have come to the table and I'm not one to usually defend the Democrats in things like this.

BALDWIN: You're not.

SETMAYER: I'm not. I'm a Republican. I've seen the obstruction with Democrats in the past and we tried to do this under the Bush administration. But the Democrats were willing to give more than once Trump the money he needed for the border wall, which is what shows me that he's disingenuous about solving this. Even the bills in front of Congress about to be considered this week, Trump blew that up on Friday when Republicans were trying really hard to come up with a compromise, that included tough border security. Trump blew that up and they had to patch it back together again. And they're trying to figure out what to do this week. He has been his own worst enemy on this.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Let me come back to the entire point. It's the policy, it's what is at stake and it is also these pictures. Standby everyone, coming up next, we'll talk live to the gentleman who snapped this photograph. This little girl crying in the dead of night on the border. Hear the story of this little girl.

Plus, moments from now lawmakers will grill the FBI chief and Inspector General who criticized the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin live here in Washington, DC we'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Live pictures of the hearing with the FBI and the Inspector General on Capitol Hill. We're waiting for the major reckoning of the FBI faces on Capitol Hill because for the first time we'll be hearing from the IG with the report out slamming the way the FBI leadership handled the Clinton investigation.

By were going to bounce back to what we've been talking about. The powerful image up folding at the U.S./Mexican border. This 2-year-old Honduran girl screaming as her mother is searched and detained. Photographer John Moore captured this. He's writing a book ten years of his work. His images. John is with me now. John, welcome.


BALDWIN: So, who is that little girl?

MOORE: That little girl came across the Rio Grande with her mother and a group of people in rafts late one night. It was a moonless night. They came up the embankment of the river and gathered along the dirt road where the border patrol collected them together and took everyone's names. Now typically when asylum seekers come across they actually seek out border patrol officers so that they can turn themselves in and seek asylum, and in the case of this group, it was mostly women and children.

BALDWIN: Mostly women and children. And when you saw her -- her -- her mom or -- I mean, tell me more about was she being taken away at the moment that she starts to scream? Give me more.

MOORE: It was very emotional, this situation. I had -- was able to speak with the mother very briefly. I asked her where she was interest and she said Honduras and she said they had been traveling for an entire month through Mexico. As you can imagine, a month on the road traveling in very dangerous conditions with cartels, gangs, the weather must have been very, very hard. And so, they crossed the border at night and when they -- the mother had to set down her daughter to be body searched, to be frisked before she was loaded into a van and taken away, and that very moment when she sat her little girl down is when she started crying. And, you know, I have children myself. I have a toddler and many young children have separation anxiety, but this took it to a very different level altogether.

BALDWIN: We're talking to John Moore who snapped that image of this little girl. We're going to come back, John. We're going to get a quick break in. I have so much more for you including I want to ask you what border agents were doing and why she didn't have any shoelaces. Stand by.


BALDWIN: Just as we come back from commercial break, I wanted to show you live pictures of what's happening on Capitol Hill. This afternoon lawmakers will be questioning the FBI director and the DOJ inspector general on the way FBI leadership handled the Clinton investigation. Stand by. Photographer John Moore is with us. He is the one who captured this just gripping image of this little girl in tears. In tears being separated from her mother, and here's the piece that I think not as many people are talking about but I'm just wondering about these border patrol agents, john. I mean, so many of them obviously are doing their jobs. They're doing what they're told to do and they can't speak out. Have you talked to any of them?

MOORE: Sure. I mean, it's a force of more than 20,000 border law enforcement officers so it's a very large group and many people have different opinions. By and large I would say most agents believe that they're just doing their jobs, and as we've seen, the law right now is the same as it's been for years. The border agents are the same people they've always been for years. What's different now is the administration's policy in Washington.

The same agents, they enforce the law under President Obama and the results were somewhat different. In the case of these pictures here, you know, it looked in many ways like it's looked in other years on other trips that I've taken to the border. In fact, the people there, I don't think they knew that they might be separated from their kids after these pictures were taken. Of course, I knew that that might be the case and probably the case and for me it was much more emotional taking these --