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No Results from Trump Meeting with GOP on Immigration; Report: Babies & Toddlers Being Detained in Separate 'Tender-Age' Shelters. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired June 20, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, don't you have kids?
[07:00:25] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I'm asking Congress to do is to give us a third option, the legal authority to detain and promptly remove families together as a unit.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: It seems as though we have lost our sense of humanity.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Associated Press reporting that babies are being sent to tender-age shelters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you with absolute certainty that they're being treated humanely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't want to go for one of these short-term answers. He wants to go for the big fix.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if there is anything definitive from that meeting.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Legislation is not the way to go here when it's so easy for the president to sign it. It's an excuse.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. This story is not going away. In fact, it's only getting worse at the border.
And to this morning there are some jaw-dropping developments to tell you about in this crisis at the border. There are these tent cities that are being set up in 90-plus-degree temperatures. We've also learned about these so-called tender-age shelters. What are those? What goes on inside of them? And why is the president comfortable with this treatment of children?
BERMAN: The president met with Republican lawmakers. He discussed legislation. But they emerged with no clear marching orders. And get this. All of those Republicans who have been speaking out,
saying they take issue with the president's policy here. None of them spoke up at that meeting. None of them raised any objections to the White House choice to separate children from their parents. To be fair, the president didn't take any questions. But no one spoke up.
And remember, the president could end this with a phone call this minute, but he won't.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip, live for us at the White House this morning -- Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John.
The president can, indeed, end this but continues today to refuse to do so. And he went to the Hill yesterday to rally Republicans around a couple of immigration measures that they are considering this week, including some measures that would address this family separation issue.
But Republicans left that meeting confused about what the president actually wanted. And some say that he didn't actually help and may not -- these bills may not have enough votes to pass this week.
TRUMP: These are laws that have been broken for many years, decades. But we had a great meeting. Thanks so much.
PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump urging House Republicans to pass immigration legislation amid an escalating crisis over family separations at the border. But stopping short of wholeheartedly endorsing either bill the chamber is considering.
REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: He said it was important to get a bill passed, and he indicated that he would support both proposals.
PHILLIP: A number of Republican sources telling CNN that the meeting was not helpful and didn't move the ball forward. Multiple members telling CNN that President Trump appeared to be behind the more moderate compromise bill pushed by House leadership that would give many DREAMers an eventual path to citizenship, fund the border wall, and stop the practice of family separations.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also appearing to endorse the compromise bill.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL (VIA PHONE): Patching the problem is not the right thing. We need to get this thing done. But the overall bill the House is considering would be preferable, in my opinion.
PHILLIP: Several lawmakers telling CNN that the president did talk about these disturbing images of children sobbing after being taken from their families. REP. RANDY WEBER (R), TEXAS: Politically, he said this is bad. But
he didn't say -- he prefaced it by saying, "It's not about the politics. It's about this is the right thing to do."
PHILLIP: But one Republican telling CNN the president talked about family separations only in the context of political optics, telling members, "The crying babies doesn't look good politically."
In the Senate, Majority Leader McConnell expressing optimism about a narrow bill to address family separations, but it remains unclear if it could pass.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: All of the members of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together while their immigration status is determined.
SCHUMER: There are so many obstacles to legislation. And when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense.
PHILLIP: Earlier in the day, President Trump blasted a key provision of Senator Ted Cruz's bill while doubling down on his hardline immigration rhetoric.
TRUMP: When countries abuse us by sending their people up -- not their best -- we're not going to give any more aid to those countries. Why the hell should we?
PHILLIP: On Twitter, the president accusing Democrats of allowing undocumented immigrants to, quote, "infest the country," as Mr. Trump's surrogates continue to downplay the administration's zero- tolerance policy.
[07:05:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Womp-womp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read about a -- did you say, "Womp-womp" to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome being taken from her mother?
LEWANDOWSKI: What I said is you can take anything you want --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare you?
PHILLIP: But public outrage is growing across the country and on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quit separating the children! We won't go away!
PHILLIPS: Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus confronting the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're separating the kids. They're separating the children. Mr. President, don't you have kids?
(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP: And President Trump heads to Minnesota later today for a business roundtable at a time when his administration is waging an escalating trade war with China. He'll also hold a campaign rally later today. But of course, this issue of child separations at the borders is really not going away for this administration, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it doesn't seem like it, Abby. Thank you very much for all of that background.
So the Associated Press is reporting today that the youngest migrants, babies and toddlers who have been separated from their parents, are being held at so-called "tender-age shelters" in Texas.
CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Hidalgo, Texas, with more. Do we know what these tender-age shelters are, what happens inside there?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know according to the Associated Press, there are at least three tender-age shelters here in the Rio Grande Valley, and there are plans, Alisyn, to open up a fourth.
Health and Human Services defines "tender age" as any child under the age of 13 years old. And since this zero-tolerance policy took effect, there's been more than 2,300 children separated from their families, with the youngest going to these tender-age facilities.
One of these facilities we visited on Monday. It's located in Brownsville. It's called Casa El Presidente, and it's run by the nonprofit Southwest Key, which works hand in hand with Health and Human Services, as well as the Office of Refugee Resettlement. We tried to gain access. We were denied by security.
But Congressman Filemon Vela, who represents this district, was allowed inside. And what he describes is just simply heartbreaking. He said he saw about 80 children, all of them under the age of 10 years old, a mixture of both boys and girls. He saw a child as young as 5 years old. And probably the most chilling detail is that he saw a room dedicated to children under the age of 1.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FILEMON VELA (D), TEXAS: There's rooms with toddlers. So there's no question that even children underneath the age of 1 are being separated from their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: Over the weekend, Customs and Border Protection told CNN that it is not their policy to separate any child under the age of 4 years old if their parent does not have a criminal history.
The issue with all that is that now, under this zero-tolerance policy, anyone who crosses illegally is considered a criminal, and they have the discretion to separate the children from their parents -- John, Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Yes, Nick. We see the lightning happening behind you and
the thunder and the rain. And I mean, it's just the sort of most ominous backdrop for imagining, you know, how kids are spending the night away from their parents. They don't speak the language of the people who are keeping them in cages and what that's like at them.
BERMAN: The lightning strikes at 5 a.m., you're 4 years old. What do you do? You run to your parents. Unless you're one of those 2,300 kids separated by the U.S. government this morning.
CAMEROTA: Let's bring in our guests. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and Michael Shear. Great to have both of you.
David, I want to talk about the conditions inside some of these centers where the kids are being held. And we know this not because our cameras are being allowed in but because some people, some of our guests have been able to go in and, with their own eyes, see and report back to us.
So we just had Michelle Brane on. She's from the Women's Refugee Commission. She says there are no toys. There is no bedding. They're sleeping on the floor on thin mats. Kids are in cages. Don't kid yourself. Children are being kept in cages.
Children are being taken from their parents and neither are being told where they're going. So the parents don't know where their kids are going, and the kids are not being told where their parents will be or when they'll see them again.
That's what the -- that's the reality. OK? Let's just all talk about that. So when Jeff Sessions writes in op-ed, "All these children are well cared for," no, they're not. They're in cages alone.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And nobody is buying it. And we're not seeing much except for extraordinary efforts by the media to try to get some access.
This all means -- this cruel policy, the result of rhetoric from the president and those around him to dehumanize immigrants in a way that has horrified Republicans and Democrats alike, religious figures around the country, is mobilizing opposition to the White House and to Republicans on this issue.
The critical question is, so what? So what is the result of that?
Right now you have to look at what the president is doing, which is he's got an issue. He's already told us that he wants to run, wants his party to run on a hardline immigration stance. And what he seems to be angling for here is the ability to say, "I didn't kick the can down the road. I inherited this problem. I will force Democrats and Republicans to come up with a larger solution that gives me a lot of what I've wanted on lots of other issues and be able to declare victory." That is how he's setting this up politically.
[07:10:21] And, you know, the conditions down there, all that, he's willing to deny what is so clearly cruel to make an argument that these are bad people. That these children and their mothers who are bringing them in are somehow, you know, gang members and others, ignoring whatever desperation they come from, including violence that they may face in relationships and marriages and whatnot that they are fleeing. Disregarding all of that.
BERMAN: Michael Shear, you've done some terrific reporting on the choice. And remember, this is a White House choice. The White House has chosen to do this, to create this situation. How they got here, who's been pushing it.
And one of the things you note is, you know, they went into this with eyes wide open. Perhaps, though, they did not anticipate the firestorm that the whole thing caused. Explain.
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think it's important to remember that sometimes presidents and administrations get caught in crises, political crises that are not of their own making. You know, it comes from elsewhere and they have to deal with them. We've seen that in every presidency. This is not one of those.
This -- the context of this policy change that is forcing these children to be separated from their parents is that it is -- it grows inexorably out of exactly what the president campaigned on from the beginning, from the moment he stepped out and announced his candidacy and talked about Mexico sending rapists and murderers to America, all the way through all of the policies that you've seen in the first two years of the administration almost. The travel bans, the changes, the reductions in refugee admissions.
I mean, there is a world view that President Trump and people like Jeff Sessions, the attorney general and Steve Miller in the White House, they all share a kind of world view about closing America down to the rest of the world. And somehow protecting -- that protecting America involves keeping other people out.
And so this is -- this is not only a choice, as we've -- as we've reported and as Stephen Miller told me directly when myself and a colleague, Julie Hirschfield Davis, interviewed him in his office about a week or so ago. So it's a choice. But it also is kind of the inevitable outcome. If you want to shut the border down, if you want to keep people out, that is what you do. This is part of what you do.
And I think, you know, the administration and several of the officials are trying to get, you know, out of the political mess that they've created. But at the end of the day, we can't forget that they created it.
BERMAN: People call this Trump's Katrina. And it strikes me the difference between Katrina and this is George W. Bush didn't make it rain. Right?
BERMAN: President Trump made it rain here.
GREGORY: But -- but there are huge immigration problems that a number of presidents have been unable to solve, to get the kind of political consensus that they want to get a big deal.
The problem is that so many of these issues break down, and crises like this emerge because of the stories we tell ourselves as Americans. And that's what's so problematic here. We have the president of the United States telling Americans that the problem here is that these are dangerous figures streaming, infesting the United States.
CAMEROTA: Right. Right.
GREGORY: Just as, look, even Eleanor Roosevelt, who was opposed to her husband's plan to inter the Japanese after the Pearl Harbor attack kind of got it, you know, and understood it because of the fear after having been attacked.
So fear, loathing, anger, resentment leads to us telling ourselves stories about what's really going on, which is why you have to be factual in reporting and shining a light on what's really going on here.
The administration, in a way that is similar to crises like a Katrina, lose its footing because they're not telling the same story because they don't agree on what they're doing. And because they're not explaining to the American people even with what they are trying to do.
GREGORY: Here I think about John Kelly saying, you know, what he's trying to do is disrupt a network of smuggling, which is incredibly dangerous for migrants who are coming into the country.
CAMEROTA: Also, Michael, I think that there's something about, in order to not have your heart broken when you hear the audio of these little kids saying, you know, "Mamacita, Mamacita" and "Papi, papi," yelling for their parents, you have to harden your heart. And there's the dehumanization.
As long as you can see that they're, you know -- vermin was the word used, I think David Gregory, last hour about infestations of them, then you can dehumanize them. That makes it easier to try to get through all of this.
[07:15:03] And that leads a direct line to Corey Lewandowski. OK? One of President Trump's high-level functionaries on TV, feeling the freedom to say something as cold-hearted when he was presented with the scenario of a 10-year-old with Down syndrome being -- being separated from her parents. Here was Corey Lewandowski's response to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Womp-womp. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read about a -- did you say, "Womp-womp" to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome being taken from her mother?
LEWANDOWSKI: What I said is you can take anything you want --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare you?
LEWANDOWSKI: -- but the bottom line is very clear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare you?
LEWANDOWSKI: When you cross the border --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How absolutely dare you, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: You know, Michael, as I said last hour, if one of my fifth- grade son's classmates had said that about a girl with Down syndrome, I would tell my son, "Don't ever hang out with that kid any more. Get as far away from that toxic kid as you possibly can."
SHEAR: I mean, it's just heartbreaking that that would -- that he would say that.
I mean, look, part -- David is right, that these are really tough problems. And other presidents have confronted tough problems. And the question is how do you confront them? How do you talk about them? What are the language that you use? And -- and it all comes from the top.
In 2015, even before President Trump had declared for the presidency, he gave a speech in which he talked about people coming across the border from Mexico as vomit. And -- and, you know, that kind of rhetoric and everything else we've seen in the last two and a half years trickles down.
And so it can't be a surprise to us that the people who are around this president feel free to cross lines -- you know, policy lines but also rhetorical lines that we haven't seen before, because there's no -- there's no worry that, by doing so they're going to somehow anger the president.
Whether it was President Bush, or President Obama, or President Clinton, prior presidents would have been furious with an aide for using language like that and for commenting like that about a Down syndrome kid. I mean, it just -- but that kind of -- that kind of anger doesn't come from President Trump. And so -- and so people are free to use that kind of language.
BERMAN: No, I don't see the president speaking out against this at all. As you said, in some ways, the president's rhetoric opens the door for this kind of thing.
One thing we just want to note before we end this conversation, is that there have been people critical of how FOX News has been talking about this. Some of their people have been, you know, putting the argument out that somehow that people crossing the border are also less than human.
There's been a reaction within the greater FOX Entertainment empire. Steve Levitan, who does "Modern Family," which produces "Modern Family," FOX does. He says he no longer wants to work at FOX going forward.
I -- I don't know, David, if this is emblematic of something bigger. People see FOX as the mouthpiece, the official mouthpiece of the administration. You have Hollywood elites trying to take a stand against it. How do you see it?
GREGORY: You know, I think this is a bigger -- a bigger trend in our media, which is the idea of an attempt to report with balance has been displaced by communities. You know, people trying to correct for coverage in other places.
And FOX right now is supportive of the president. I think Tucker Carlson was on the air last night saying you shouldn't believe anything you hear on other channels. I mean, you have this tension now between facts versus reporting and this notion of fake news that is championed by the president of the United States. That's confusing for people. It makes it harder for all of us to get to what is real.
What is real here in this debate is that you have an objectively cruel policy that is contrary to American values that has been condemned as un-American by members of the president's own party. And not fringe members. Not people who are retiring. But stalwart supporters like Orrin Hatch, like Mitch McConnell and others who are opposed to this.
And at the same time, this is a real issue. These are criminals who are coming across the border. But that has always been thus. And we are America. And we have people who are streaming into the country, oftentimes illegally, either fleeing something or seeking a better life that America provides. And that's part of how we've absorbed them over the years.
BERMAN: David Gregory talking about some of the Republicans who have taken issue with the president. Those Republicans in the House had the president in the room last night and decided not to confront him on the issue.
CAMEROTA: Yes. That's our reporting from inside, that they didn't bring it up. So now what are they going to do about it?
BERMAN: We're going to talk to a Republican member of Congress next.
BERMAN: All right. President Trump told House Republicans that he supports both immigration bills that are expected to go up for a vote over the next couple days.
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Jeff Denham. He is one of the lawmakers who introduced what's called the compromise bill. And Congressman Denham was in that closed-door meeting with the president last night.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
Rachel Bade of "Politico" was just on with us a short time ago. She says there was a whip count after that meeting on your bill, the compromise bill, and Rachel reports you're pretty far away still on the votes. Where do you think you stand?
REP. JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: You know, I think the numbers came back pretty well last night. We whipped all of the Republican members. Obviously, there are still quite a few that, this 300-page bill, they want to read, they want to spend some time with. And we're looking forward to talking to each of those members again tonight.
BERMAN: If the vote was held right now, would it pass?
DENHAM: Well, I would hope so. I would hope Democrats would be on board on this, as well.
BERMAN: They're not. They're not, they're not.
DENHAM: And you've got to ask yourself why aren't they? The Gang of Eight bill, in 2013, had many of these very same provisions. In fact, it had 46 billion instead of 25 billion for border security. So, you know, this should be a bipartisan process between both houses. But right now, we are going to continue to whip members to try to get this done this week.
BERMAN: But again, just in terms of Republicans, do you have the votes as we speak?
DENHAM: We just whipped it last night. We're going to continue to do so.
[07:25:16] BERMAN: I do assume you would tell me "yes," if in fact, you had all the votes you needed.
Did the president help? There's been discussion that, by saying he supported both bills and not coming out firmly and explicitly saying that he's 100 percent behind your compromise bill, that somehow, that isn't giving it the push he needs. What more do you want from the president?
DENHAM: Look, I think the president did what he needed to do last night. He needed to show unwavering support. He needed to certainly show from what he said last Friday that he's 100 percent behind us. He did that. You know, he's not walking back the Goodlatte bill. He supported that before.
But we have a real compromise here that addresses the 1.8 million, giving them protection from day one. One point eight million DREAMers that will have 100 percent protection from day one.
BERMAN: My understanding is the president didn't take any questions, didn't accept any comments from the members who were in the room. Do you wish he had?
DENHAM: You know, I think that any time you have an opportunity to have a debate, when people get a chance to ask questions, I think there would have been greater opportunity to gain more support. But he talked for 45 minutes. And there's certainly a number of us that spoke to him before and afterwards. So I thought there was a great opportunity to have a discussion and dialogue.
BERMAN: Which there wasn't. There wasn't a dialogue; there was no back and forth. So you're suggesting that that's a missed opportunity. It does strike me that --
DENHAM: No, no, that's not what I'm saying at all.
BERMAN: Well, what would you have told him? If you had a chance in that room to tell him something, perhaps about separating children from parents at the border, which is a White House decision to do this policy over the last week --
BERMAN: -- what would you have told him on that?
DENHAM: Well, I did have that opportunity. I did have that opportunity. So did many other members.
After the -- he was done giving his speech, there were a number of us that were right there in the front of the room that came up and had a quick discussion with him. And this is an issue that I have addressed.
It is 100 percent fix in our bill to make sure that children are not separated from their parents. Look, I'm a father. You know, I'm always going to make sure that my children are protected and they're never separated from me. So we need to fix that under law. Not an executive order. Not a stroke of a pen. But Congress actually doing its job.
BERMAN: If your bill does not pass -- and I know you want it to pass. I think you told me you think you're in the direction of getting it passed. If it does not pass, does the president need to fix this with the stroke of a pen or a phone call? It's not even the stroke of a pen. He can call them and say, "Stop this."
DENHAM: Yes, look, this is a crisis situation. It happens --
BERMAN: He created it. He created the immediate crisis. Granted, the immigration issue on the border is not an issue he created. This has bedeviled presidents for years. In terms of the current separation of 2,300 babies and children being separated from their parents, he created this crisis over the last month. DENHAM: There are things that could be done immediately to fix the
situation, I would agree with that. But every summer under every president, we have an influx at our border. It happened under the previous president.
We need to make sure that we have these family residences, not orphanages that we used to send kids to, but family residences to keep kids with their parents. Deciding where their parents go is where the kids should go. We should never separate the two.
BERMAN: These tender-age facilities that have been reported about overnight, children, you know, from months old to 12 years old being held there, not knowing where their parents are, when you hear about these facilities, how does that make you feel?
DENHAM: It is a better situation than some of the other detention facilities that I've seen not only across the border but oftentimes, especially, under the previous administration. So many people came across the border that we would give them a bus -- send them on a bus or send them on an airplane to somewhere else in the country.
I would rather keep them in close proximity to their parents at a DHS facility or a child-care facility not run by the government. But in a -- one where it distinguishes -- these are kids under 13. So we need to have child-care facilities, which is what these ones are that they're talking about on the border.
But we've got to do better. We've got to have -- we've got to make sure that we have 100 percent parents with their kids. This bill does that.
BERMAN: Congressman, I do understand the president made some kind of an attempted joke in the caucus overnight about Mark Sanford, who lost his primary. He asked everyone in the room, "Hey, where's Mark Sanford? He ran a great race, didn't he?" It didn't get many laughs, I understand.
Was that appropriate for the president to do that?
DENHAM: No, I don't think so. Mark is a good friend of mine. I'm not sure why he -- why he did do it. I think, certainly, the tone of the room was that not only does the president have unwavering support behind this bill, but he expects all Republicans -- I mean, he did single out quite a few people, saying that they're his good friends; he would expect them to be with him on the vote. So I think that's where the Mark Sanford issue came in.
BERMAN: All right. Congressman Jeff Denham, keep us posted on where things stand over the next few hours. OK?
DENHAM: You got it. . Thanks for having me.
BERMAN: Appreciate it, Congressman.
Alisyn. CAMEROTA: OK. So where are Democrats on this? What can Democrats do today about this? Are they willing to compromise with Republicans to help the kids on the border? Senator Chris Coons is next.