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US religious leaders condemn border family separations; Treating tech addiction as a public health issue. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, as a growing chorus of religious leaders speaks out against separating children from their parents

at the US-Mexico border, I ask the reverend who blessed President Trump's inauguration about the administration invoking scripture to justify this


Plus, children gripped by a thoroughly modern curse, tech addiction. Children's rights campaigner Baroness Kidron says this should be a public

health issue and she joins me here in the studio.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Immigration seems to be occupying the world stage. It is roiling Europe and heartbreaking images of traumatized children at the US-Mexico border

are being beamed across the globe.

But now, protests against this zero tolerance, which is the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating migrant children from their

parents, are rolling in from an unexpected corner.

Evangelicals, an essential building block of Trump's loyal base, they are weighing in, they're calling the policy disgraceful, immoral and even


Clergy from Jeff Sessions' own church, he's the attorney general, the United Methodists are bringing church law charges against him saying

tearing children away from parents is unnecessarily cruel.

And the Presbyterian Church, which is Donald Trump's denomination, calls out in the name of God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the name of our Lord

Jesus Christ, stop.

And even today, President Trump doubled down saying the United States needs security, whether it's politically correct or not.

The Reverend Samuel Rodriguez is also speaking out against this practice. He is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

It's an ally and an advisor to Donald Trump and one of the few clergy chosen to speak at the president's inauguration 18 months ago. Take a




need for him for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn for they will be comforted.


AMANPOUR: So, a little of the Beatitudes from Reverend Rodriguez who joins me now from Sacramento, California.

Reverend, welcome to the program. I wonder, first, before we play you some of the really devastating audio that's come out from the border, what in

general you make of what's happening there right now?

RODRIGUEZ: This policy, the separation of families, can best be described as morally reprehensible, anti-Christian and anti-American. It is

completely unnecessary, without a doubt. It is egregious. And we must find an expedited solution as expeditiously as possible. We're calling

upon Congress to act this week.

Ted Cruz, Dianne Feinstein, John Cornyn, others are offering solutions that will bring an end to this tragic horrific policy.

AMANPOUR: Reverend, one of the other senior senators, Lindsey Graham, has said the president himself could end this with a phone call. It's not

federal law. He could end it with a phone call. Have you advised him to do so? Have you been in contact with him at all?

RODRIGUEZ: I haven't been in contact with him on this matter. In full disclosure, again, it's not a Trump bill that he signed. This is the

convergence of a 1997 Flores Settlement with the Clinton administration, subsequently the convergence of George W. Bush's Wilberforce Act.

We've had great intentions, by the way, against human trafficking. And then, this US Circuit Court of Appeal in 2016 expanding the Flores

Settlement and the Wilberforce Act.

So, it's actually the Trump administration implementing policy already in place with zero sort of grace. Again, it's wrong. It's morally

reprehensible. It's anti-Christian.

I'm calling upon Congress and the president to act as soon as possible. We can't separate families. There's nothing Christian about it. There's

nothing redemptive about it.

Listen, I agree with the president. We have to protect our border. I agree with the president. We have to stop illegal immigration for many

purposes, even from a moral imperative to end sex trafficking and human slavery and the Coyotes exploiting people on the border, without a doubt.

But this is not the best way to get the message across. In the matter of fact, I find it to be reprehensible to use children as tools of political


[14:05:06] AMANPOUR: So, reverend, I want to play you this audio that has really been shocking people. It's come from "ProPublica". It's a non-

profit investigative journalists operation. And it's audio that was taped of these children at the border in severe stress and distress. Let's just



AMANPOUR: Reverend, I saw you shaking your head there.

RODRIGUEZ: You know what's ironic. I'm moved by this. Let me tell you why. For those that don't understand the Spanish vernacular in your

audience, the border agent is actually saying, well, look what we have here. We have an orchestra playing and what we need is a conductor.

My God! These are children crying out for help, crying out for dad, crying out for parents. This is so wrong. What we're hearing right now, by the

way, what we're hearing right now is the crescendo of voices from a base that supports, by the way, strongly supports this president on religious

liberty, on life issues, on so many issues that expand our ability to preach the gospel of love, grace, truth and hope.

So, we support the president on this matter, but that same base - listen, we've reached the tipping point. When Franklin Graham, one of the most

conservative evangelical leaders, not in America, but on the planet, when Franklin Graham comes out and says this is completely wrong, there's

nothing right about this whatsoever.

So, we've reached that crescendo now where the evangelical supporting base is calling out for the president and Congress to act immediately on this


AMANPOUR: So, reverend, I wonder then, talking about people who support the president, it's really important because they have the credibility with

the base. So, you're talking about the evangelicals, a very, very key plank of his base, but also we have the conservatives, some might call it

right-wing media, for instance, on Fox News.

So, I wonder whether you think they also need to change their tone. This is what Ann Coulter, a very, very prominent supporter of the president on

this harsh immigration policy, this is what she said on Fox News about this tape and about the heartbreak of the kids. Just listen.


ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: These child actors, weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now, do not fall for it, Mr.



AMANPOUR: I mean, that's brutal.

RODRIGUEZ: Child actors! Child actors! Child actors! Listen, I have - in full disclosure, I have friends on the Fox News network and I can assure

you that Ann does not speak on behalf of the Fox Network or on behalf of many of the correspondents or pundits whatsoever, without a doubt.

Child actors? That's just silly.


RODRIGUEZ: That's intellectually naive, emotionally brutal and silly. Absolutely wrong. Hey, there are midterms coming up, there are midterms

coming up, and that same 81 percent evangelical supportive base that does support the president and commends him and applauds him on so many issues,

by the way, that same base may not turn out this November, if this policy is in place intact. I can assure you.

There is great angst and consternation on behalf of evangelicals around this issue of separating families. Again, there's nothing Christian about

it. It's actually anti-Christian.

If there is anything Jesus advocated for was protecting children. Let the children come unto me because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So, Christ

is the quintessential child advocate in all of the universe and this policy runs counter to the spirit and the ethos of Christ.

AMANPOUR: You said it doesn't represent Fox, but actually Laura Ingraham, who's another very, very prominent Fox commentator and contributor said

that these cages that the kids are being put in she called it "summer camp", this sort of detention area for the kids

So, the thing is it may not represent the whole of Fox, but it's a very, very loud voice for Trump supporters. And I just want to ask you because

the facts are here.

CNN did a poll and basically it shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans, 67 percent, disapprove of this zero-tolerance policy, this

separation policy, but when it comes to Republicans, 58 percent approve.

They're getting - I don't know where they're getting their info from and why they approve. What would you say to that?

[14:10:05] RODRIGUEZ: Oh, I would say to all Republicans and all conservatives that advocate this idea and notion, historically speaking -

well, since 1980, the Republican Party has been the champion of what? The pro-life, pro-family platform, right? The pro-family platform.

You can't be both pro-family and be in favor of separating families. There's a lack of a cognitive continuum there and even a moral continuum.

So, if you are pro-family, you can't support separating families.

Again, it's this dichotomy we create. I am in favor of border protection. I am in favor of stopping illegal immigration, but I am equally opposed to

separating families.

Why do we have to be either/or? And that's the problem. Some suffer, both on the left and on the right, they suffer from myopia. They have a tunnel

vision and they lack some sort of a comprehensive meta-narrative.

We need to stop this and conservatives need to realize. There are midterms coming up and they need to mobilize the base. Eighty percent of

evangelicals supported Donald Trump. That's a strong base that turns out to vote, midterm and every four years.

This base right now is full of consternation, angst and becoming very upset. There is righteous indignation - righteous indignation! - rising up

right now in the evangelical community around the issue of immigration and the separation of families.

By the way, I agree with President Trump. When he stated the onus falls upon Congress, if they want to change the law, let Congress change it. I'm

calling upon my friends in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan, who I know personally, I'm calling upon them right

now to act and Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to act in the Senate, in the next seven, eight days and find a solution to this immigration malaise.

AMANPOUR: I wonder what your own flock, your own churchgoers are telling you because you have responded quite categorically to the religious

imperative here and the moral imperative.

So, I wonder whether I can just play for you these soundbites over the last week that we've heard from the attorney general and indeed from the White

House podium, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokeswoman, which specifically invoked The Bible and the scriptures to defend this policy.

I just want you to listen. I know you're exercised about this. You can tell me about it on the other side.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the

laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of

times throughout the Bible.


AMANPOUR: Reverend, biblical scholars have pushed back very heavily and I can see you are too. In fact, they remember that way back when these very,

very same scriptures were used to justify slavery and all sorts of other horrors, but certainly slavery.

So, what do you make of today's politicians, leaders of the country making these invocations?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Let me just give a word of advice to all politicians. If you have not graduated with a D.Min or a doctor in theology from a viable,

accredited seminary that preaches and advocates biblical orthodoxy or biblical truth, don't cite The Bible. Don't cite The Bible.

Especially, don't cite The Bible to justify actions that are so controversial and run counter to the meta-narrative of scripture of truth,

of love, grace, and hope. Do not.

Dear Mr. Attorney General, with great due deference, please do not cite Romans 13 to justify a policy that runs counter to Genesis to Revelation.

Do not use one scripture, one scripture to justify an action that runs against every other scripture in The Bible.

Please stick to your attorney general mandate and assignment with great due deference and do not - let the preachers preach. Let the attorney general

do his job.

But, again, it's wrong. It's inappropriate and we're not accepting it and we're not embracing it. We are what we tolerate and we won't be

complacent. And as you can tell, I'm passionate about this. Silence is not an option. And we won't be silent.

And again, I agree with the president. I agree with my president. Congress needs to act now.

By the way, I did hear the president this past Friday state explicitly that he is opposed to separating families, that it is wrong and then I heard his

wife, the first lady, say the same thing.

So, I agree with them. Now that it's wrong and we have former first ladies making a statement, my friend Jeb Bush and others, let's come together,

let's get Congress to act immediately in the next week.

[14:15:07] AMANPOUR: Reverend, I think, listen, you're absolutely right. Congress has punted this over and over again. It's a real shame and it's

now reaching its terrible human cost and crescendo on the border.

But many are also saying the president is punting as well because he could stop this. It is not part of any mandated policy. It's his own

administration's policy.

But what I want to ask you this, is I wonder whether you can look at this graph that we're putting up, which basically shows that the whole premise

is that America is being overrun with illegal immigrants, that's what President Trump said again, but in fact arrests of migrants are down under

President Trump, something like half from what we saw under President Obama.

So, it kind of undermines the premise that somehow there's a terrible danger afoot and a great threat to the republic.

RODRIGUEZ: We've got to balance this out. Listen, I'm in California and I have seen the egregious impact of what I call the infiltration of nefarious

activity via the conduit of certain sectors, of the undocumented community, primarily the Mara Salvatrucha, those that the president has highlighted.

I have seen that impact in Los Angeles and throughout the State of California and New York and other regions of the country. So, I do agree

with the president. We have to stop illegal immigration. Indeed.

There are people that want to do us harm, but I'm still committed to believing 98.7 percent of the people that are here undocumented are amazing

people. They really are. Created in the image of God and committed to doing good for themselves and for their families.

Now, I want them to come here legally, but we need to find a way to integrate them. No, I don't think America is being taken over by

undocumented individuals. I do not.

I do believe we have to stop illegal immigration. So, we have to find a happy medium as expeditiously as possible. But, again, we have to redeem

the narrative. This nation is blessed by immigrants historically. I believe immigrants are a great blessing to America indeed.

Hey, listen, they're god-fearing, hardworking and they have an amazing, amazing commitment to family. God, family and hard work. Are these anti

American values? Absolutely not. So, immigrants may actually enrich the collective of the American experience.

AMANPOUR: A really important message and certainly from your perspective. Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, thank you so much for joining us from California


RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Now, the mental health stress on those children and the families at the border is incalculable. But mental health is an issue that is

troubling much of our world including our youth in all sorts of different ways.

Here in the UK, Prince William has just opened Britain's first-ever crisis center for suicidal men. It's in Liverpool. The recent high-profile

suicides of the designer, Kate Spade, and of our colleague, Anthony Bourdain, have made us all reflect on the importance of a deeper

understanding of the various and complex triggers of deterioration.

A big area of concern is social media, not least the pressures of a perfect Instagram world. Now, a new report says that tech addiction should be a

public health issue and Baroness Beeban Kidron, whose foundation wrote the report says, children especially urgently need a better deal.

And she's joining me now. Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: We've talked before. You've been following this issue of tech addiction and mental health in children very, very closely for the last

several years.

I just want to read one of the highlights of your report about the creation of the Internet. Your report basically says, the Internet is an

extraordinary force for good, but it was not designed with children in mind. Despite this, it is now part of every aspect of children's lives,

used to socialize, play, create and learn. You can't get away from it if you're a kid.

KIDRON: Absolutely, it's not optional. And I think that's the first thing we have to think about. It wasn't designed for children to be present and

then that they're using these adult services and it's not just about content. It's about how it's designed.

And that's what the report does. It sort of gathers together all the thinking about design and says is this appropriate for childhood.

AMANPOUR: So, I mean, we've been doing a lot. We've followed a lot of the design of the Internet. We followed a lot along the Facebook and the

algorithms and all the apps and things that they do to sort of concentrate their users' minds.

What specifically in regard to children is, in your view, the design flaw?

KIDRON: Well, if you think about things like default settings, if you have autoplay, you automatically have the next piece and then you get what you

call a tech tantrum.

[14:20:00] It's not a choice. We're saying we have to redesign it, so it's a choice to carry on, not a choice to get off. And everything is like

that. The buzzes and the lights and the brightness.

And the thing is that children are in a very, very - a period of their life where their attention can be grabbed very easily. And what we find is that

if you get a kid into a series of habits, it's very hard to get them out.

AMANPOUR: So, the World Health Organization just this week has come out and actually said that computer games and video games, I think, are a major

mental health issue, right?

KIDRON: Absolutely. And the NHS has just said that game addiction is an issue for them in the health side.

AMANPOUR: And you talk about tech addiction and how it should be a public health issue. And let's just take some of these stats from your report.

And, honestly, they're mind-blowing.

Eighty-six percent of 3 to 4-year-olds - 3 to 4-year-olds! - have access to a tablet, 83 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds own a smartphone. I mean, that

is - I can't believe the 3 to 4-year-olds. That's almost every three - are we talking about just Great Britain, the United Kingdom?

KIDRON: It is a global problem. And our report does look at the UK. But if you think about America, one of the stats that I thought was

extraordinary was that 70 percent of American teenagers are saying they have family conflict over technology use and 30 percent of those are saying

it's every single day.

And then, we work a lot with children themselves and they say it's not just them, but they're watching their parents fail to watch them because their

parents are on their own devices.

So, we're creating a world in which nobody's attending to anybody else and we're all attending to our devices. And for children, I think we have to

just remember, it has proper impact, so we're seeing social anxiety, we're seeing if you use your phone before bedtime, you're more likely to have

interrupted sleep. Well, that's half of all children.

We're seeing educational impacts. The LSE did a really interesting piece of work where they say actually low achievers achieve even lower if they

use the phone too much. When they take away the phone, those are the people who benefit most.

So, it's sort of imprinting more inequality into children.

AMANPOUR: And interestingly, even some of the top private schools in England are sort of putting bans on phones, particularly at night at some

of these boarding schools, and they thought they'd have a backlash, but actually the kids have been relieved.

Let me just read a couple of the - we're talking about the consequences on children, personal anxieties, social aggression, denuded relationships,

sleep deprivation, impact on education, just what you've just been talking about.

And children seem to be crying for help. One of them scrolling forever gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. I'm so aware of how little control

I have and the feeling of needing to be online and always consuming.

So, this is like an Instagram always consuming addictive world. What advice do you give to the parents?

KIDRON: Well, I think it's really difficult for parents. I mean, we do give advice. We say detoxify what you can. Help your kids switch off.

Put your own phones down. But I think it's wrong to point at parents.

And parent blaming is sort of - we can't say that parents and children have to adapt to commercial needs of technology companies. We've got to go

again. And we say, look, OK, guys, we understand you've done this incredible thing, you've brought us this incredible technology, but you did

not anticipate that children will be there.

Guess what? A third of all of the 3 billion users are under 18. That's a third of all users. This is not a marginal problem. And we're saying they

are there, so think again.

And we're also saying, look at your astronomical share price and don't tell us you'll fall over if you give a better deal to the kids.

AMANPOUR: Well, look, it's interesting because with Apple, for instance, is a good example. Tim Cook has been saying certain things, but two of

Apple's major initial investors have appealed to the company just this year saying, there is a developing consensus around the world, including in

Silicon Valley, that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored at the outset and no company can outsource

that responsibility.

So, what should companies do? What's the company's role? Because you quote another teenager. "It makes me angry that businesses use specific

designs to keep young people on their apps or websites. They're exploiting unknowing young people, so that they're able to build up ad revenue."

This is an ongoing debate. Can companies give up? I know you just talked about the high share price and everything, but do you think there is a

tipping point coming or not?

KIDRON: Well, A, I do think there's a tipping point coming. But I think there's a bigger question, which is what other company would we say it was

OK to do your business and harm children. Yes? That's not a business model.

[14:25:02] If you have to harm children to get your revenue, it's not a business model. It's not acceptable. So, I think the thing is, actually,

there's quite a lot they can do without damaging themselves.

And it starts with time-out, time-off, default off, save buttons, make it frictionless to get off as well as on. All of these things - I mean,

technology is sometimes treated as if it was mountains and airs, but it's not. It's all designed. In fact, it's rebooted very regularly. And the

designs are actually made to entrap kids. And we're saying, new deal.

AMANPOUR: The other way, untrap them. Let them free. Exactly.

KIDRON: Let them free.

AMANPOUR: And so just 30 seconds left, are governments to legislate this or does it have to be voluntary by the sectors themselves, the business?

KIDRON: You know what? I'm really disappointed at voluntary. I think self-regulation has been terrible. They haven't stepped up. We've seen a

lot of deals that really haven't been very meaningful. And we are going to regulate. This will be regulated.

But I think that on these particular issues, it would be really helpful if governments all over the globe recognize this as a harm and had all the

policy and all the education and all the things that flow from that and say this is a public health issue, we want our kids with their heads to the sky

full of imagination, not just here.

AMANPOUR: And the kids seem to be taking that initiative themselves, at least some of them.

Anyway, Baroness Kidron, thank you so much. A really important report.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at and you can follow me on

Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.