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Trump Requests Extended Detention For Migrant Children; Migrant Children Beaten at Virginia Facility?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 15:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The majority of the children in this -- in this shelter came unaccompanied. I think five or six, maybe seven tops, were taken from their parents.

So, when you're talking about the big controversy that the president reversed himself on to try to at least ameliorate, certainly not fix yesterday, this was basically not that.

Having said that, it's not a terrible thing for the first lady or anybody in the administration...

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: To go down and see it for themselves.

BASH: To go down and to talk to the people who are running these facilities on the federal, state and local level, and to meet with some of the children.

We don't know if she actually met with any of those handful of children who were separated from their parents after they came illegally across the border.

BALDWIN: Right. You can already just hear the critics say, Mary, you know, she didn't go to the facilities where you saw the cages and the thermal blankets...

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: ... really so much of the strife that has dominated our coverage all week long.

And I would love your thoughts as well, in addition to, do we even know, was this trip her idea? Was there any pushback from her husband to go? Do you know anything?

MARY JORDAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it's very clear it was her idea.

And we're hearing from the White House itself that she said, basically, you know, I'm going to Texas. And, you know, he didn't -- it was her idea. She initiated it. And also we're hearing that she had the idea before he signed the executive order.

It's almost like she might not have even known he was going to do that yesterday, that a trip like this doesn't come up in a second. So, she had planned to go. She is well aware that there was criticism, both her and Ivanka, mothers. They talk a lot about kids. This huge thing was building.

Everyone from the pope right around the world were looking at those photos of crying toddlers.


JORDAN: And you have two moms in the White House. And there was a big, big push for them to speak out and do more.

So, I think she was planning this trip, and I think it was her idea. But I thought what was so interesting is she goes and does this. Whether it was the right place or not exactly, she was on the border. But less than an hour later, all the words that she had about compassion and I care and I want the kids to be reunited were kind of, forget that.

Back to Donald Trump, who was slamming Democrats, saying, falsely, that they had created this mess, and it was up to them to fix it.



JORDAN: So, it was kind of like a whiplash for the first lady back to the president.

BALDWIN: Whiplash. Jinx. Yes.

BASH: And I think, as long as we point out what you said, it is easy for in any administration, Democrat or Republican, to take cameras in order to show compassion and maybe possibly show the best face and the best case...

BALDWIN: Sure, carefully choreographed.


BASH: Right. Exactly.


BASH: It's imagery.


BALDWIN: Can we talk about the Zara jacket?

BASH: Speaking of imagery.

BALDWIN: Speaking of imagery, let's talk about this Zara jacket.

And, guys, if we have a photo, let's throw it up. So, this is what we're just learning about this jacket. Here we go. You can only see the side of it. So, this is Melania Trump boarding Air Force One to head down to Texas. And the back of the jacket apparently reads, "I don't really care. Do you?"

And just to channel Kate Bennett, who covers her every move, she always says nothing the first lady does is an accident.

BASH: No, especially when you have a giant sign on the back of your coat that you know people are going to be seeing when you board an airplane covered by cameras. This is pretty remarkable.


BASH: It is.

And the White House -- actually, the first lady's spokeswoman has already released a statement saying -- effectively, saying, give me a break.

BALDWIN: Give me a break.

BASH: I hope that this is not going to overshadow what she did in Texas. It's just a jacket. No.

BALDWIN: You're not buying it.

BASH: You just -- you can't have it both ways. You can't very, very carefully, in a very sophisticated way, as the first lady has done for, you know, a year-and-a-half now, send pretty clear messages, as Kate Bennett always says, with her wardrobe, somebody who doesn't talk a lot, doesn't give public speeches a lot.

She speaks volume with what she wears, either the pussy bow or the big white hat or the white suit during the MeToo movement.


BASH: And the fact that she has this giant sign...

BALDWIN: Painted on her back

BASH: ... painted on the back, "I really don't care. Do you?" -- now, I don't...


BALDWIN: Who is she asking that of?

BASH: Well, I was going to say I think that it is -- it was impossible to think that that is aimed at the people she just saw.

It's more, I think, likely, just because we're -- this is what we do with the first lady when she wears these things, to maybe the person who she is married to.



Dana and Mary, we're going to wrap on that. To be determined. We may never know, but nothing is an accident.

Ladies, thank you so much.

On the legality of all of this, let me bring in CNN analyst Paul Callan, who is on the phone with me to talk more about the Trump administration now asking this judge to detain children with their parents for more than that 20-day limit, as was imposed by that Flores Settlement decree.


Paul, explain this, as we're all, like, learning about all these laws together. Explain it and put it in perspective.


So, the back -- first of all, the back story on this is that the administration, the federal government was, back as far as 1997, holding people in custody for so long with their children that they were hauled into court, in this case of Flores vs. Reno.

And after a very contentious litigation, the court worked out a settlement where it was required that children had to be released from custody, if they're held in custody with their parents, after 20 days.

Now, this was an attempt, really, I think, to be kind to the children and not have them incarcerated.

So, what eventually occurred was this program of catch and release, where somebody was seeking asylum and had kids with them, they would get placed with relatives in the United States while they waited in line to get in front of a federal judge...


CALLAN: ... to have their asylum claim heard.

Now, enter the Trump administration, which says, we have a zero tolerance policy. Anybody who comes to the border who doesn't have the proper visa to get into the United States is going to, if they have entered illegally, be locked up. And if they have kids, we can't lock up the kids together. We're going to take the kids away.

So, he started -- the Trump administration started this new policy, and which, by the way, is perfectly legal, but it's -- it just violates, I think, everybody's humanitarian feelings about how children and their parents should be treated.

So, when the president decided yesterday, finally, that the public pressure was too great, and the country was too upset about this, now he tries to find a way to fix the problem by keeping his zero tolerance policy intact, and yet letting the children -- go and be put with their children. And he's got a real problem on his hands, because the only way it

worked out before was when you allowed people who came in with what appeared to be legitimate asylum claims, you would release them and allow them to be placed with family or some other reasonable place in the United States, and then told to come back when it's time for their court hearing.

I don't know, frankly, what they're going to hammer out here, because while the Trump administration wants to work out a settlement, I can tell you that that pesky attorney general from the state of Washington, who opposed the travel ban initially, is the same person now who is doing the negotiations on this Flores vs. Reno case.

And he's going to go into court and say, we're not going to trust the administration on this, to allow them to keep kids in custody with their parents for more than 20 days. They may be locked up for a year. Who knows how long it will take before their claims are heard?

So that is sort of the back story of what is going on.


BALDWIN: That corroborate exactly what I was hearing from this former ICE director at the top of last hour, that they're -- just highly unlikely for that person to overturn and extend this time limit.

So, perhaps some legal foreshadowing from you, Paul Callan, while we stay on it and see if that at all changes.

Paul, thank you, as always, for synthesizing these things for us.

From the DOJ now to the Pentagon, more breaking news on this story involving 20,000 children?

Barbara Starr, what do you have?


Well, we have now learned that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon are preparing, if you will, for the possibility of being ready to house up to 20,000 children on military bases. There has been a congressional notification to Capitol Hill that the Pentagon will be ready to meet the HHS request to be prepared to house 20,000 children.

Here's what we know. There are four military bases that are being surveyed for the possibility of their surplus space, surplus buildings, if you will, being used to house children.

The way it works is HHS looks at military bases, looks at what capacity for housing is out there. They earmark the military bases. The military does not get involved with the children of any housing, providing any services.

They simply are, according to the Pentagon, the landlord for all of this. HHS and these contractors that they have been using will come on to the military bases and run these facilities.

But what it does mean is, the Pentagon now, U.S. troops, very much in the middle of the optics, the political optics of this whole situation. If it comes to pass that there are 20,000 children on U.S. military bases, that is something that is going to put the Pentagon right in the middle all of this.


We do expect that Defense Secretary James Mattis will agree, because, just yesterday, he told reporters here that he would meet any request from HHS on this immigration issue.

And we also know that now about 20 or so Defense Department attorneys have been earmarked to go over to the Justice Department and handle immigration cases. So, regardless of the niceties of the law, the optics are, the military is getting right into the middle of this, whether they like it or not -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I just want to underscore what you have just reported, because we have been talking about so far in this crisis 2,300 children. And you are saying they are preparing for 20,000 children.

STARR: They are preparing for -- just to be -- let's you and me circle back on this. The notification to Congress, as we understand it, is to be prepared for having the capacity to house up to 20,000 children.

And, now, it could also include families, adults, their relatives, but to be prepared for that capacity. So, it tells us where this could potentially be headed, because HHS and the Pentagon have quietly been making calculations. When could they run out of room in some of these shelters and community areas where they have been housing people and when would they have to turn to military bases?

It did happen under the Obama administration. The numbers were less significant. But we are looking at them saying they see how the trend is going, and if the trend keeps going in this direction, they believe that military bases need to be prepared to house up to 20,000. HHS will run it, contractors will run it, but it will be on U.S. military bases, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Barbara, thank you very much.

STARR: Sure.

BALDWIN: It's just tough to imagine that number of kids being held, potentially, even if it's just potential.


More news this time from Capitol Hill. The hard-line Republican immigration bill failed in the House today 193-231, with no votes from Democrats -- House Republicans also forced to postpone a vote on their compromise immigration bill until tomorrow, because they simply did not have the votes. This comes one day after President Trump reversed his policy to

separate immigrant children from their families that caused chaos on the southern border.

We don't know what made the president change his mind about separating families at the border. But we do know that there have been a lot of contradictions and conflicting stances from within this one administration in just one week.

So, to help us navigate through the flip-flops and the U-turns, Chris Cillizza is with us, our CNN politics reporter and editor at large.

Chris, whew. Walk me through what you're seeing.


Look, Brooke, it's a complex and maybe a more growing situation, as Barbara just reported. But let's just go through how we got here. And the truth of the matter is, it hasn't been that long, but there's been so many different stories.

So, let's start broad. Is this or is this not, the family separation, the result of a Trump policy?

Donald Trump, "That's their law," talking about Democrats.

Well, Stephen Miller, one of the architects of Donald Trump's immigration policy, simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy. Is -- the policy is the law.

Let's be clear. The facts are clear on this. The policy change by the Trump administration in April to say, we are having zero tolerance policy, meant that we are going to have a lot more families separated at the border and maybe even more, as Barbara just reported.

Let's go to the next one, because that's just the first of a number. OK. Was the separation policy meant as a deterrent to keep people from trying to enter the country illegally?

Jeff Sessions, John Kelly both say, yes, it was. Kirstjen Nielsen, in what I think was the tone-deaf moment of the week, Brooke, her press conference on Monday, in which she said -- never addressed anything except the details of the law, rather than human element of the law -- said, it is offensive to call the policy a deterrent.

Well, then Jeff Sessions and John Kelly must have offended her.

Let's go to the next one. OK, immigration judges. Do we need more immigration judges to try to expedite these cases, so that families are separated for a shorter period of time, people are incarcerated for a shorter period of time, or do we need less?

Well, Marc Short, the congressional liaison for the Trump administration, says -- we need -- there aren't enough, we need more.

Donald Trump, he doesn't want the judges.


Let's go to the next one. Like I said, Brooke, these just keep coming.

OK, the immigration bill. Donald Trump messed this one up all on his own. He said, "I certainly wouldn't sign the moderate bill." Remember, there are two, the Goodlatte bill that just failed, and the moderate one which they're postponing a vote on, but is likely to fail.

They then come back later with a statement that says, well, actually, Donald Trump supports the moderate compromise bill, basically throwing everything into total chaos.

Do we have one more? So, this is -- this is the biggest one. Remember Donald Trump saying, only Congress can fix this? Kirstjen Nielsen, the Department of Homeland service -- secretary said, Congress alone can fix it. Executive order can't fix it. Only Congress can.

"I'm going to be signing an executive order."

Huh? Again, this is the problem here. It's the gang who can't shoot straight. They can't seem to get their stories straight. And it's not just about their story, as you have detailed, as we have detailed on the network. This is about human lives. This is about kids being separated from their parents.


CILLIZZA: Anyone who has kids, who knows kids, knows that it is a hugely difficult thing that is not going to take a day or a week to get over -- Brooke, back to you.

BALDWIN: Not at all. It is a whiplash, indeed, for all of us. Chris Cillizza, thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: So, what happens next? What happens to the children already separated from their mothers and fathers and left in limbo? We will talk with someone who knows this issue really better than most.

Plus, have you seen this latest cover of "TIME" magazine? Look at this. It shows this young girl, this immigrant child, crying as President Trump looks down at her. We will discuss that with the editor of "TIME" coming up.



BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. The president there signing that executive order to change his

administration's practice of separating children from their parents at the nation's southern border.

Let me make something crystal clear here. Here, he did not need to do this. The president could have reversed the practice with a simple phone call.

But his choice to do this by executive order could lead to a whole raft of legal challenges, all because of something called the Flores Settlement.

So, Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, is with us. She is a senior fellow at MPI, where she directs the institute's U.S. immigration policy work.

So, Doris, thank you so much for coming in and walking us through all of this.

But just first question, simple question, how did -- how do they unite these 2,300 kids who have been separated from their parents with their parents now?

DORIS MEISSNER, FORMER COMMISSIONER, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE: I don't think anybody knows that. And there hasn't been any answers to that question.

It's going to be very difficult. First of all, we have -- one has to be sure that there actually is information on the names of the children, names of the children, the names of the parents.

BALDWIN: Because of these kids don't have that.

MEISSNER: Secondly, the children are now in a different position legally than the parents are. So, there will be issues of disentangling their legal circumstances.

And, thirdly, if they are reunited -- and it's absolutely imperative, it's imperative that they be reunited, because of, first and foremost, the mental, physical well-being of the children. We are hearing all kinds of really alarming information about the effect that this kind of sudden...

BALDWIN: Change.


MEISSNER: Change, trauma might have on young people.



MEISSNER: So, it's essential that they are reunited.

But then, when they are reunited, there is the situation of family detention. The executive order is calling for people to be together, but in family detention. And there are very -- there are real limits on how long children can be kept in those settings.

BALDWIN: Let's get into the limits, because you signed the Flores agreement in 1997.

This is the agreement that was mentioned in this executive order that the president signed. So, basically, kids under this agreement -- and you're the expert -- but kids under this agreement can be in a -- they need to be in the least restrictive setting, meaning toilets, food, comfortable beds, for up to 20 days.

MEISSNER: That's right.

BALDWIN: And, after 20 days, they need to be placed.


BALDWIN: If we are talking about the Trump administration then reuniting the parents with the kids, the kids would still be in detention, but that would go longer than the 20 days, which would be in violation of this agreement.

MEISSNER: Right. Well, and that's exactly right. This -- this was a consent decree. It is a court settlement.

It has the force of law and it has been something that has been bedeviling the administration. It's been a problem not just for this administration, but for other administrations, when it's difficult to place children that quickly.

But the thing that's a -- the thing that's really important part about the executive order that was signed yesterday, it's being viewed as a political reversal for the president, et cetera. But, in fact, it has put the administration where it wants to be.

It has put the administration in a situation where they are pursuing longstand -- permanent, not permanent, but...

BALDWIN: Long-term...

MEISSNER: ... long-term...

BALDWIN: ... detention.

MEISSNER: detention. Exactly.

They are dealing in a situation where they have significantly narrowed the grounds for claiming asylum. So, they have achieved that through a separate decision. And they now have a basis for going into court and contesting the Flores decision.

BALDWIN: Which is precisely what they're trying to do.

MEISSNER: And that's exactly what they're trying to do, is get out from under those restrictions and make it possible to hold people. BALDWIN: To hold children.

MEISSNER: Hold children.

BALDWIN: For long -- and their parents for longer than 20 days.

MEISSNER: And their parents, right, because that decision was then amended in 2017 by the same judge that actually will hear the case now to include families.

So, although Flores applied only to children in the 1990s, it now applies to children and families, in other words, mothers. And that has been the -- the constraint that they have been facing.


BALDWIN: So that is the decision that we will all be watching for.

Doris, thank you for coming in.

MEISSNER: You're certainly welcome.

BALDWIN: Let's talk when that happens, OK? Doris, thank you.

Coming up next, stripped naked with a bag placed over their heads and beaten, those are just some of the allegations coming out of this immigration detention center in Virginia. What is happening there?

We are going to take you live next.


BALDWIN: Images of migrant children in cages left so many people outraged, right, calling for changes.

But court filings show the poor treatment of immigrant minors extends way beyond these latest photos. New allegations are surfacing about what is happening to other migrant children, some of whom came to the U.S. without their parents.

In court filings, children at the facility near Staunton, Virginia, say they were beaten and abused.