Return to Transcripts main page

CUOMO PRIME TIME

Reversing Course, But Not Admitting It; Pres. Trump Hits Campaign Trail After Signing Exec. Order On Family Separations; Despite Pres. Trump's Exec. Order, Practice Of Separating Families Could Resume After 20 Days; Hope And Fear; Migrants Tell Stories Of Abuse, Gang Violence As They Await Entry; "Zero-Tolerance" Defender; Pres. Trump Has Fulsome Praise For DHS Secy. Nielsen; Champions For Change; Solving America's Hunger Crisis. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:01:32] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Chris Cuomo is off tonight.

We begin this hour, keeping them honest. And there's breaking news to go with it. It could lead more than 2,300 kids taken from their parents from the border without their parents for long time to come. More in that shortly, but first the ceremony that preceeded it. President Trump reversing course on the policy, his own policy that led their separation. It was none however any kind of mea culpa, far from it. There were no admission today that it was his policy choice, not the underlying the law or the inaction of other president that perceive the day this blow up. Instead he billed what he was doing as an act of courage, his own courage, of course, as well as something of a gift.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: OK, we're going to have a lot of happy people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, it's unclear whether he was referring to these young people in holding pens at longer term facilities across the country or their parents being jailed elsewhere on a misdemeanor charge of entering the country illegally, which the administration once falsely claimed the law required which it actually doesn't. What is clear however, is that by signing the document, President Trump, with a stroke of his pen, demolished claims that he and his administration have actually been making day after day as hundreds more children were taken, about how little they could do about any of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: You can't do it through an executive order. SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: We hope Congress will actually do their parts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see action by Congress.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: For years and years of Congress not taking action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only Congress can fix this issue.

NIELSEN: Congress alone can fix it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress is going to come and fix this.

NIELSEN: Congress could fix this tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress can actually solve the problem.

NIELSEN: Congress is the one that needs to fix this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, Congress, this is your law.

NIELSEN: The only option is to not enforce the law at all.

Congress is asking those of us who enforce the law to turn our backs on the law and not enforce the law. It's not an answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we need to fix that under law. None executive order, not a stroke of a pen.

TRUMP: You can't fix it with an executive order.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, actually it turns out you can, the President did it today. What's more according to CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero and others an executive order wasn't even needed, because the policy didn't originate with one. It was launch from the 6th of April and a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to federal prosecutors along the southwest border. The subject, a zero tolerance policy for migrants, effective immediately. Now, there's nothing in the memo about the human cost, only a big statement that field offices should request any additional resources required for implementing the policy.

But whether or not the President need an executive order to reverse the Attorney Generals memo, the date on that document just three months ago speaks loudly to another Presidential falsehood today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: This has been going on for 60 years. 60 years, nobody's taken care of it, nobody's had the political courage to take care of it. But we're going to take a few days it. It's been going on for a long time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Now, 60 years certainly is a very long time. Its 60 years. It's a whole lot longer than 3 1/2 months, all of it during his administration that this has actually been going on. And just to be charitable, and to assume the President was talking about the underlying law, well that's only been around for 10 years and it was never enforced this way until now. So, it's hard to see exactly what he meant again.

Now there's the breaking news I mentioned at the top of the broadcast that the executive order that the President signed today does not call for the children already separated from the parents to be reunited. Our Kaitlan Collins has that breaking news. She joins us now.

So, what exactly happens to those kids, more than 2,300 of them who are being held tonight?

[21:05:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the precisely the question, Anderson. These images have played out on news for days. And that's in part what's spurred the President to sign this executive order today. He caved to that political pressure. But now we don't even know what's going to happen to these 2,300 children. What we do know is that they will not be immediately reunited with their families, even though the President is fashioning this is them kind of saving grace for these families that have been separated from their children.

Right now they're admitting that this policy does nothing for those who've already been separated from their families. They are not grant (INAUDIBLE) into this executive order. So, essentially these children who have been taken away from their parents, put wherever throughout the United States, will remain there while their parents remain in federal custody as they move forward with these immigration proceedings. And then it will be up to the parents to get in touch with Health and Human Services in order to try to find out where their children are.

Now, that raises an entire slew of questions about what happens as the parents are deported. And what not, but the bottom line is what the President sign today does nothing for those 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents.

COOPER: So, I understand, the Justice Department is actually saying the child separation policy, it might resume in less than three weeks.

COLLINS: That's right. We're learning so much more about what this executive order doesn't do. And there is this 1997 court settlement that says children cannot be held in immigration detention centers for more than 20 days. Now, unless that ruling is overturned by the President, by the Department of Justice, that's going to remain in effect.

So essentially, in 20 days we could go back to the process that got us here in the first place where these children are being separated from their families. The President signed this executive order today. He blamed the Democrats. He said that he was doing something to stop this problem. But Anderson, the bottom line is the President created this problem because of his administration's zero tolerance immigration policy. And he didn't need an executive order to put an end to this. There are questions whether this will even do that. All he had to do was call his Attorney General.

COOPER: And just in terms of the reunification or the lack thereof, if the parent is deported back, then do we know what happens to the child who is currently in the United States, whether they're in foster care or in some sort of facility? I mean it is -- are they going to be flown back as well?

COLLINS: We don't. And that's the question. How would they be reunited with their parents? If essentially this is a 4-year-old child, they don't know their parents' name, these are little children. So, how would they get back in touch with their family? Now, there is some kind of foster home, typically the system that they have set up is for those children, those unaccompanied minors who come across the border illegally without parents with them, that is what the system is to help children like that, not for the parents who -- for the children who come with their parents, sometimes very young children, and then get separated with their parents are detained for crossing the border illegally.

So, it raises an entire slew of question of what is going to happen to these children if they are never reunited with parents, if their parents are sent back to Honduras or whatever and they're back in Idaho, it raises so many questions about that. And the administration tried to answer questions about this, they held a call today and with the counsel for the attorney general. But essentially during the entire call, Anderson, they did not answer the questions about the logistics of the entire situation.

So, while the administration is going to say they have fixed this, they have put an end to this, it is just raising more questions with this executive order here tonight.

COOPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much, appreciate it from White House.

The President spoke tonight at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota. He did talk briefly about immigration and his executive order. Our Jeff Zeleny joins us now. So what did the President say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the President is now on his way back to Washington. He left the rally a short time ago. And I can tell you for all the consternation back in the west wing, for all the heated rhetoric, for all the concern among Republicans and the revolt in the party, the President here tonight addressed this very little. This is the entirety of what he said about the executive order here tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Today I signed an executive order. We're going to keep families together. But the border is going to be just as tough as it's been. Democrats don't care about the impact of uncontrolled migration on your communities, your schools, your hospitals, your jobs, or your safety. Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So taking some familiar jabs there at Democrats for, you know, what is going to be a midterm election message. But what was left out of that, Anderson, was in fact the concern among Republicans. That is what drove the President to, you know, do a major about-face today in Washington. The biggest one that I can remember since he has taken office.

[21:10:02] But no mention of the consternation among Republicans. Even though House majority leader Kevin McCarthy was here in Minnesota with the President, they're trying to win these House seats here. Zero mention of that.

COOPER: It's interesting, though, I mean you're saying it's a big reversal for the President. You would certainly never get that sense from actually having listened to the President today.

ZELENY: No doubt about it. And I mean we have covered so many rallies that candidate Trump has had, President Trump has had, really for the last three years. Anderson, I'm not sure that I can remember one where immigration was less of a focus than it was here tonight. Yes, there was some talk about building the border wall. But really in passing. The President likes to tout his accomplishments, talking a lot about that Singapore summit last week, talking a lot about the economy. Very little discussion at all about the executive order.

The reality here is, Republicans and the White House realize that immigration is a driving issue for this base. It's less clear if this reversal today fits into that. But Anderson, I was struck by that, as he was here in Minnesota, even saying, you know, this is the state that he wished he would have won more than any other. This is the first state he's come to that he didn't win, actually, in 2016, that's been since 1972, that a Republican carried Minnesota, he said he will do it in 2020, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks very much.

There are great many legal questions obviously surrounding all of this. To help sort them through, John Sandweg, former acting director of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, joins me. Also, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Jeff, the President saying that there are going to be, quote, a lot of very happy people. The executive order doesn't have anything to do -- or it doesn't address the kids who were already separated from their parents. I mean the ones who are already in custody.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Which is an enormous, enormous issue. Because not only are these children in custody, but as I understand it, the record keeping of their relationships, of where their parents are, whether the parents know where the kids are, is murky at best. And the executive order itself does not say that those children should be returned with their parents. It only is forward-looking, not looking back at the children who have already been incarcerated. What happens now? I mean, it is very much up to the government to try to sort it out. But certainly today's action doesn't tell us what they're going to do.

COOPER: John, I mean you're someone who's dealt with this issue for a very long time. I'm wondering what you make of the executive order, has it really changed anything, has it resolved things?

JOHN SANDWEG, FMR ACTING DIR, U.S. IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Well I think, the intention was to change things. I think there's a lot of confusion. And frankly, I think the way the order is drafted is not executable. I mean on thing, it says is we're going to consider to prosecute everybody, but we're not going to separate children from their parents. You know, the whole point of the separation policy was because we couldn't hold them in Department of Justice custody and keep the families together.

It talks about building massive detention camps inside military basis, there's no money for that with ICE. And that's all contradicted by the Flores settlement. You know, look, I think there's just as much confusion coming out of this, I was really shocked to see that they're not going to reunite the kids. I thought the whole point it is was reunite the kids and it's actually quite disappointing to see, that 2,300 separated aren't going to be reunited with their parents.

COOPER: Its also interesting John, because -- I mean the Flores settlement which you mentioned, mandates the kids can only be held and correct me if I'm wrong for 20 days in detention. If the administration is not able to reverse the Flores settlement, which is a court issue, then it seems very possible that even if families are held together, if they can't reverse the Flores settlement after 20 days, those kids are going to have to be separated.

SANDWEG: I mean it does, I mean -- you think that goes right against what he did today and credit is trying to take for reuniting families. You wouldn't expect them to do it. But certainly if they can -- you know, the Flores settlement is pretty clear. And I can't imagine Judge Gee the judge who oversees that settlement is going to reverse her order of just a couple of years ago and says, you know, say that the federal government can detain families and kids together for more than 20 days. And I guess we'll find out in 20 days. But one would hope they would release these families under an alternative to detention. Again, the next probably (ph) hearing before an immigration judge, the problem is solved, the border is just this tough. We have a much more humane policy.

TOOBIN: Alternatively, you know, one way of complying with the Flores settlement is after those 20 days, releasing both the children and the adults as opposed to separating them out. That is inconsistent with the message that the Trump administration has been sending about being tough on this. But I mean, it's important to point out that is a possibility, especially since it does seem unlikely that the Flores settlement is just going to be overturned in a couple of days. COOPER: Yes, I mean Jeff, I mean the "Washington Post" is reporting that the administration is preparing to litigate the Flores settlement which is we talk about requires is 20 days. They have a better chance in court, they think, than doing anything legislatively. Does that make sense to you?

[21:15:10] TOOBIN: I mean, certainly legislation appears to be going nowhere. That the House of Representatives can't even agree on what they want to do. And in any event, anything they want to do is very unlikely to pass the senate. So there doesn't seem to be any legislative solution in the immediate offing. Going to court, I mean, this is a settlement, the Flores case. This was a satisfactory resolution to this problem. And now, you know, what is there to persuade a judge to upset it? Just because the President is in political trouble? That's not something a judge is going to take seriously.

COOPER: John, just in terms of catch and release, or so-called, how bad was the rate of people coming back and appearing for court? I mean the Department of Justice figures I saw was 75% of people would come back. Is that your understanding? And are there other options like ankle monitoring, which, you know, some Republican lawmakers have talked about.

SANDWEG: Look, I understand people's frustration with this. But with catch and release, what was going on, is what a family unit was apprehended, we would release them but not let them go, they have a court date to appear before an immigration judge. The problem wasn't -- the immigration courts, which aren't complete control of this administration, as they're not really independent courts. They're an arm of the Department of Justice.

The immigration courts consistently deprioritize people who are not detained. So on those family units would released, they would get a hearing date, but it would get pushed out for two, three, four years. And I can understand the border hawks, that feels a lot like amnesty. But there's a simple solution. Prioritize these cases on the docket, put an ankle bracelet on and the stats that I saw was kept for about 99% of the people who are wearing an alternative detention like an ankle bracelet would show up for immigration court.

Put an ankle bracelet on people if you're worried about a flight risk. Expedite the hearing, if they win asylum, great. If they lose asylum, you know, remove them back to their country as a family unit. That's tough on the border, that's humane, it's a lot cheaper, it's a lot more efficient, and it's a lot less controversial in what they're doing now.

TOOBIN: And Ted Cruz --

COOPER: Hold on. John, and your saying, according to ICE, 99% of the people with ankle bracelets would return to court for their hearing? And I imagine the monitoring of an ankle bracelet is a fraction of the cost of actually, you know, detaining somebody in a federal facility.

SANDWEG: Anderson, the bed rate for a family unit is $350 per person per day, because you have to have all the things you need to detain kids and comply with Flores. The average daily rate for an ankle bracelet I think is about $1.75. You know, so families want to show up for court because frankly they think they're going to win. A lot of these people are fleeing persecution in Central America. This is their path to getting a green card, and permanent status in United States. So, they're already incentivized to show up, they don't want to go back to Guatemala. They want to go win a green card.

COOPER: It's so interesting Jeff to hear this from John, who's obviously has been long time focusing on this, because, supporters the President's policy is, you know, we had Reverend Scott in the last hour who is saying that nobody shows up, they just disappear into the, you know, into the country.

TOOBIN: And Ted Cruz, who is not exactly a dove on these issues, actually had a serious proposal of adding judges. Add more immigration judges so that you could process these cases more quickly. But the President completely dismissed that and he said we don't need judges, we need people -- you know, we need people more arrests. But, you know, we do have due process of law in this country, even for people who are not citizens. So if you are not going to have some sort of system which has a decent number of judges to process these cases, they're just not going to happen, and you're not going to get these people out of the country.

COOPER: John Sandweg, Jeff Toobin, appreciate it, thank you very much. Good discussion.

Coming up next, our political panel's take on what could be serious political fallout from the President's policy, his reversal of it. And we have been discussing, this is very big kind of got you in today's executive order.

Also later, stories of survival. Migrants speaking out about what they have endured, and the future they're hoping for, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:22:48] COOPER: President Trump did today what made presidents have done when changing direction, he framed it as not changing direction, as an act of political bravery. Not seeing more than half a century. That said, the framing of the aside, the expectation was that it may lead to the reunion of more than 2,300 kids with family members. Tonight though, as we've been reporting, there's a catch or perhaps a catch-22. Today's order does nothing for the 2,300 kids already in custody.

Joining me to talk about it is Gloria Borger, David Gergen, and Mike Shields.

So, Gloria, I mean this interesting, this administration has been saying look -- the President was saying days ago, an executive order wouldn't work in this, and now this reversal.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Look, he said it was up to Congress, that it wasn't up to him. And of course, Anderson, we know that he didn't really mean executive order. He could have just picked up the phone and said do this, you know, reunite these families. But even with his executive order, you've pointing (INAUDIBLE), it doesn't do anything for the families who already split up. And that is because this was an ad hoc policy of zero tolerance that was reversed, sort of, in an ad hoc way. It was a crisis the President created.

And then he said he fixed it. But he didn't really fix it. And that's because there is no plan here. And so maybe in a couple of days we'll find out that they've come up with a way to reunite these families and maybe we won't. But as of right now, it's up to the adults to try and find their children once they are out of protective custody, once they're free. And that's ridiculous.

COOPER: Mike, do you think this, a, has been rolled out in the appropriate way, the zero tolerance policy to begin with, and also the President's reversal today?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Clearly not. And I think, look, the first thing to do when you're in a hole is quit digging. And I think the President did that. And I think on the 20- day issue, he's really -- we're sort of heading where he's been trying to go which is, let's put this on Capitol Hill. And I think there is an opportunity, believe it or not, for a little bit of political judo here, were use someone's momentum against them, because when Republicans are talking about security at the border, we're winning. That's a winning issue for us in race after race. When we're looking at children in cages, we're obviously losing, OK?

[21:25:01] And so we're trying to move away from that and get to Capitol Hill. And there's going to be two bills on the House floor tomorrow. And one of them in particular is what a lot of Democrats want. And it includes a DACA fix. It's going to permanently fix this within the 20-day window that we're talking about. And if 197 Democrats follow Nancy Pelosi in all in unison vote no and it goes down by say 10 votes, then there's going to be an opportunity for Republicans to say, wait a minute, yes, we've gotten past this, we've now put this on the floor to try to have a fix to a problem that's been vexing us for years, it vexed President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton, and you're still voting no because you sort or want to go after the President on this. When it would actually help the children you're talking about.

And that allows Republicans to start messaging more on security and actually getting things done and getting away from the current problem that we have.

COOPER: But David, I mean are Republicans on the same page on this?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think they're at sixes and sevens at the moment, Anderson, trying to see which way this is going to cut. Look, in my judgment, the President reversed course just in time before this would have become another Katrina. And had it gone through the weekend without repairing this, reversing course, I think he would have had a crushing blow to his presidency, not unlike what happened to George W. Bush in Katrina.

But even so, what people will remember is this is an episode that reeks, that reeks, not only of cruelty but of incompetence. The administration put this policy into place, which they badly executed. They turned their back on the suffering, tried to avert their eyes. They then lied about how to fix it. And finally they reversed course. And I think all of it, everybody has looked at this and said, oh, my god, you know, how can they have done this? My judgment, even though this is not a Katrina, it will leave an indelible stain upon the presidency.

BORGER: Well, what's worse is they tried to use it and to use these families and these children as a way to gain political leverage so the President could get the funding for the wall. And they thought that this would give them leverage. Instead of getting leverage, they got these pictures coming out, and this travesty that people were watching, and people were outraged about, including members of the Republican Party who were upset about this and rightly so.

So the President even failed in his own, you know, political calculation here. And if he knows anything, he knows bad press when he sees it. And he was watching television along with everybody else. But is this a real fix? Absolutely not.

COOPER: Mike, I mean if the President can't get his own party, which is the majority party, on the same page, how can he blame Democrats, to your point, for Congress not taking action?

SHIELDS: Yes, I mean, this has been going on in Washington for quite a while. This is what the real fights are. But the point is, let's say the House leadership bill fails by 10 votes tomorrow and 197 Democrats voted against it, of course Democrats are going to say Republicans are in charge of everything, they could have passed their bill. But there is going to be an argument to be made, when you -- if you're going to be intellectually honest, when Democrats are on television crying about children and crying about DACA and they couldn't get 10 of their members to vote for something that would have fixed it, this will be the second time that the President and the Republicans have put a DACA fix up for a vote and Democrats wouldn't work with them.

And so it just hardens us back into our partisan corners. But it is at least -- it's a better political argument to make than what we've had in the last couple of days, which is let's talk about border security. Let's ask the Democrats what their solution is. If we're not just going to let people bring children up and use them as an excuse to get into the country and we're not going to do that, and we'll just going to let people come in, then what is your answer on border security if it's not an open border?

Because President Obama had a very similar problem, he had a migrant crisis. He had family detention centers. And he backed off from it when he had a similar backlash. And then only one in five people in that circumstance were then prosecuted during Obama's term. And that's how partly how we got President Trump, because people were sick of seeing that. There was 80% chance that you would bring a child and get into the country which would help, you know, child traffickers and all sorts of things. So, in the end what Republicans have to do is get Democrats on the record, what is your solution to this and today was at least a step towards getting to the debate is suppose to what we've been talking about.

COOPER: David, I saw you shaking your head.

GERGEN: I just think that the President and his administration right now have lost a lot of credibility on whatever they have to say about immigration. They are not in a commanding position now on legislation. They're going to have a lot of Democrats who won't want to cooperate with them on, you know, on any basis. Because they think they're dealing with people who are not playing the straight up. And in this case I think what the Democrats will argue and a lot of people will buy into is doing the same thing with the DACA kids that he did with these young children, you know, coming -- you know, who've been locked up in cages.

Now, that is he's holding them as hostages to get what he wants on the rest of his legislation, legislation that he knows full well that the Democrats will not sign off on

[21:30:00] COOPER: Yes, David Gergen, Mike Shields, Gloria Borger, thanks very much. Lots to look for tomorrow.

Coming up, we're going to take you inside a migrant center along the Texas/Mexico border, where dozens are now living, hoping for better future, but uncertain of await to them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All across the southern border, people are still trying to enter the United States. Tonight, CNN's Ed Lavendera is along the Texas border, with the Mexico migrant shelter full of folks who say they've endured some horrifying situations back home. And what keeps them going is the ultimate goal of a better, safer life in the United States. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Senda De Vida Migrant Shelter sits inside this compound in a ramshackle neighborhood in Reynosa, Mexico, on the edge of the Rio Grande. There are nearly 50 migrants inside. More than a dozen were children. It's where we found Christian Ortiz cleaning up the mattresses soaked by an overnight rainstorm. Ortiz showed us the slashing scars on his back. The beating drove him north, leaving his two sons behind.

(on-camera): He says these are the scars from -- where he was whipped by gang members in Honduras and his family was threatened if he didn't join the gang.

(voice-over): Ortiz says he left his two sons to request asylum in the U.S. But in recent weeks the Trump administration has move to make it more difficult for Central American immigrants to win asylum cases. (on-camera): He says he doesn't have the documentation of what he went through, only the scars. And that's the only thing he has to show them. So, he's not convinced that would be enough to get asylum in the United States.

(voice-over): He feels like the only option he has is to cross the Rio Grande illegally. So, now he plans on how to cross the river on a raft.

[21:35:02] (on-camera): For weeks, Trump administration officials have urged migrants to seek asylum at official ports of entry. This is the bridge that takes you from Reynosa, Mexico into Hidalgo, Texas. Not only are migrants telling us they often getting turned away in the middle of the bridge by U.S. customs officials, but they're also telling us that Mexican customs officials aren't even letting them set foot on the bridge.

(voice-over): Patricia Florez says she's been turned away at this bridge twice in the last two weeks, and that Mexican authorities threatened to deport her if she tried again. Florez and her 7-year- old son are from El Salvador.

(on-camera): She says she's scared of being separated from her son, but doesn't think God will allow that.

(voice-over): She says she had to escape gang violence. She says, her son saw a man who was shot in the eye outside their home. And that one of her son's favorite imaginary games is to run around with a make-believe bulletproof jacket and pretend he survived the gang members' gunshots.

(on-camera): I see you're getting emotional, when asking her why she does this, and she says it's worth the hard journey.

(voice-over): These migrants sit in a form of purgatory, straddling a life between north and south. Tears well up in Christian Ortiz's eyes, and he says one last thing before we leave.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

LAVANDERA (on-camera): He's saying that he hopes that the stories of immigrants like himself and others will change the President Trump's heart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: So, Anderson, really the question is, and it continues to be, is whether or not this zero tolerance policy is serving as any kind of deterrent for migrants still coming from Central America and other parts of Mexico as well. The pastor of that shelter told me that he has seen in the last few weeks a couple of cases where families have just given up and turned back around and decided to go back home to Central America.

But, by and large, over and over, as we've traveled these border communities, we hear over and over from these migrants that going through the immigration process, the uncertainty of what might happen is far better than returning home. Anderson?

COOPER: Ed Lavendera, thanks very much.

Ahead, despite the rough reception she got last night at a Mexican restaurant, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is getting a big praise from a former tough critic. A pretty important one. We'll show you who and tell you what she did to turn things around, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:41:05] COOPER: Last night in Washington, before today's Oval Office signing ceremony, Homeland Security Nielsen went out for what her aides call the working dinner at a Mexican restaurant, was interrupted by group of protesters from an organization called Metro D.C. Democratic Socialist of America, were furious at the administration's family separation policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame. Shame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame. Shame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If kids don't eat in peace, you don't eat in peace!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If kids don't eat in peace, you don't eat in peace!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If kids don't eat in peace, you don't eat in peace!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That dinner came after Secretary Nielsen delivered a resolute defense of the policy at a White House briefing. Later President Trump praised her for doing what he called a fabulous job. CNN's Alex Marquardt, has in-depth look at Secretary Nielsen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIELSEN: We will not apologize for doing for our job. We have sworn to do this job. ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kirstjen Nielsen has emerged as one of the most loyal foot soldiers of the Trump agenda. This week, trumpeting its policy of separating families at the border to a gathering of sheriffs, then unflinchingly defending it amid a barrage of reporters' questions at the White House.

NIELSEN: This administration does not create a policy of separating families at the border.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): She repeated over and over, the administration's false line that it was a law that only Congress could change.

NIELSEN: Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): This is Nielsen's second tour of duty in the government. After serving in the Bush administration from 2002 to 2007, first working at TSA, then overseeing the White House's preparation and response to domestic disasters.

On her watch as a 33-year-old special assistant to President Bush, she faced one of the country's darkest chapters, the catastrophic response to hurricane Katrina. She was named in Congressional reports along with other top officials for failing to act on dire warnings of the approaching storm.

Nielsen left government and became a cyber security and risk analyst at George Washington University and the World Economic Forum. After Trump won the election, she served on the transition team before being named chief of stuff to then Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. They grew close, and when he moved to the White House, Nielsen briefly followed at his deputy before being promoted to head the agency.

TRUMP: There will be no on-the-job training for Kirstjen. She is ready on day one.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Critics have argued she is unqualified for the cabinet role and accused Nielsen of appeasing the President by focusing on immigration over more urgent security issues like terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better to distract the American people from the real issues facing the department and perhaps from President's own problems too.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): For all her loyalty, there have been flickers of daylight between Nielsen and President Trump.

NIELSEN: Technology, as you know, plays a key part and we can't forget it.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Telling Congress one of the President's prize goals, wall with Mexico, isn't entirely necessary.

NIELSEN: There is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea. MARQUARDT (voice-over): Nielsen has clashed with President Trump, who has reportedly accused her of being softer on immigration than he would like, including over the child separation policy. In May, the "New York Times" reported that Nielsen had been driven to the brink of resignation, even prompting her to draft a letter which she never submitted.

NIELSEN: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): And when he reversed it --

TRUMP: Great job.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): -- praise from the boss and a place in his good graces, for now. Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just, ahead, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has covered hunger crises all over the world. Tonight, his powerful "Champions for Change" report, takes a look at the surprising battle against hunger here in the U.S. And the volunteers working hard to help struggling to help families put food on the table.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:49:12] COOPER: This week we're telling the extraordinary stories of people and organizations that are making a big difference in a special series called "Champions For Change."

Did you know right here in the United States, more than 41 million people have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for other basic necessities? It's a reality that's unacceptable to our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So he decided to find out what can be done to try to solve America's hunger problem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST (voice-over): When I first heard the story I'm about to tell you, I really didn't believe it. It starts with these adorable children. Four out of five kids in this classroom are food insecure. Not sure when or if they will get their next meal.

Suffering hunger, even widespread hunger, famine, have been some of the most emotionally tough stories I've covered in 17 years as a journalist.

[21:50:02] (on-camera): Hello, and welcome to a very special edition of SJMD, the front lines of famine. I'm in Dadaab, Kenya, and one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

(voice-over): Still, I wasn't ready to believe just how bad the problem was back home. What is happening in the United States is by no means of famine, but 1 in 8 Americans, 1 in 6 children struggle with hunger. CHARITY MILLS, CLIENT, TRI-LAKES CARES: So what I have found is that poverty lives right next door to all of us. It can happen to anybody. And it happens due to some sort of catastrophic event that you're not expecting.

GUPTA (voice-over): And there something else. The face of hunger might surprise you. It surprised me. Charity Mills, mother of five, her husband, back in grad school retraining after the recession. Every meal now dependent on the generosity of others.

MILLS: There was a time when we were 100% dependent on it, and that was -- you know, a difficult time.

GUPTA (voice-over): So today, the organization Feeding America is all about feeding Charity Mills and her family.

(on-camera): You do this every morning?

PAUL LOBATO, DRIVER, CARE AND SHARE FOOD BANK: Yes, sir, every morning.

GUPTA (on-camera): Yes. It's incredible work.

LOBATO: It is, it is. I love it.

GUPTA (on-camera): When you were --

(voice-over): Here in Colorado Springs, Paul Lobato and I are on a mission to collect food that might other wise go to waste.

(on-camera): There is food today that will be pick up today, that will keep people fed.

LOBATO: Yes, sir.

GUPTA (voice-over): 40% of food goes to waste in this country.

(on-camera): How do you live in a society where 40% of food goes to waste and people are hungry? I think when people recognize the waste that happens in the fields, on the docks, in stores, in people's homes, they will feel empower to do something about it.

(voice-over): Today Paul and I bring back almost thousands of pound of food to be inspected and sorted. And a lot of it last longer than you think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a surprise that meat in a can will last that long.

GUPTA (on-camera): So five years after the expiration date?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

GUPTA (on-camera): I did not know that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes. GUPTA (on-camera): That surprise me.

(voice-over): When you spend time at a place like feeding America and meet some of their two million volunteers, you quickly realize everyone here has a story about hunger. Like "Champion for Change" Mary Lasch.

MARY LASCH, VOLUNTEER, CARE AND SHARE FOOD BANK: I know the pain in the stomach, the sadness, you're scared to say anything. You know, my parents worked at a five-star resort in the Poconos, my dad was a chef. But yet his kids were hungry, because of abuse and neglect, he didn't feed us but he fed hundreds of other people daily, but not his own kids.

GUPTA (on-camera): How much is what you went through at that time is part of what you're doing now?

LASCH: That is what drives me. If I can make a difference in one child's life a day, I feel that my work is done.

GUPTA (on-camera): This is it, this is feeding America. It feels like you're actually doing something worthwhile.

PATRICK BRENNAN, FACILITIES MANAGER, SAN ANTONIO FOOD BANK: So, we're going to dig some potatoes.

GUPTA (on-camera): OK.

BRENNAN: This is what a potato plant looks like.

GUPTA (on-camera): This is it?

BRENNAN: This is it right here.

GUPTA (on-camera): People forget food comes from the ground in times. You know?

BRENNAN: It's amazing, yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): Former Green Beret Patrick Brennan, is my commanding officer today at this farm in San Antonio.

BRENNAN: We got this basket here, pull the stuff that we harvested this morning.

GUPTA (on-camera): That's all pretty good looking garnish (ph).

BRENNAN: It's fantastic.

GUPTA (voice-over): The one thing I hope you will remember, if we simply stop wasting food, we can absolutely feed America. Remember those kids, the food we're passing out and will feed them and their families was food that might have otherwise gone to waste.

XANDER, RECIPIENT, SEND HUNGER PACKING: When I get those food bags I -- they're really heavy and that heaviness is love. GUPTA (on-camera): It's hard to hear about these kids. You can't believe that a kid would be hungry, first of all, then there -- they're taking food home for their family, it's a lot of responsibility, I think. And I, you know -- it's like we can do better.

(on-camera): It's the reason I wanted to tell the story of feeding America. Matt Knott is the organization's president.

MATT KNOTT, PRESIDENT, FEEDING AMERICA: You know, I think it's a solvable problem actually, and as I said, we're working the scale to solve that problem to get food from every -- really every point in the U.S. food supply chain from farm to fork. Whether a surplus food, to capture that food and get it to people who need it most.

GUPTA (voice-over): People like Charity Mills. The food we picked up earlier has made its way to this pantry and then to Charity's home.

MILLS: This night is spaghetti, which is a pretty typical family meal for us.

[21:55:00] LASCH: (INAUDIBLE) has back today. Sounds good.

GUPTA (on-camera): If you would have stepped back and thought about how many people you've likely helped feed now?

LASCH: I haven't, but I don't feel like it's been enough yet. So, however I can help, as long as I can help them, I'll do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sanjay, you said by some account, 40% of food is wasted in this country. It's an incredibly high figure. It's kind of shocking -- I mean how does the problem get solved?

GUPTA: Well, part of it, there's not the respect for food, you know, and all this different levels, whether it's in the crops, whether it's in the stores, whether it's in people's homes. We tend to -- we all tend to waste a lot of foods. And I think from a consumer standpoint, that's a big part of it. So, consumers who actually resolve to go ahead and eat ugly fruit or ugly produce, I mean that stuff doesn't get sold in stores. And also the use by and sell by dates Anderson, I don't know if you pay attention to that. People will throw away their foods if it's past the use by date.

Those are not even -- those are not even mandated by the government. Those are voluntary date. They really have no basis. People know when their food is spoiled, don't eat it then. As I said in the piece, can meat can last five years past the "expiration dates". So we could stop waste and a lot of our food.

COOPER: I didn't know that. Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: We're going to continue to share inspirational stories all week long. You can watch the "CHAMPION FOR CHANGE" one hour special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:00:16] COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon.