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Official: 500 Of The 2,300-Plus Immigrant Children Reunited With Their Parents; New York Facility Tries To Help Immigrant Kids Separated From Their Parents; New York Governor Cuomo: 700 Children Separated From Families Are In New York. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 22, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But as we've been saying all morning, Matt, good for her to go down there.

And good for you --

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER POLITICAL DIRECTOR, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: I agree.

BERMAN: -- to come on and talk to us this morning, as always.

SCHLAPP: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Matt Schlapp, thanks for being with us -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John.

So what can Democrats do today? What are they doing about this situation at the border? We have Congressman Joe Kennedy with us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: OK. So we have a development. CNN has just confirmed 500 of the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents have been reunited. So what's being done to unify the other 1,800 with their families?

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy, III of Massachusetts. He recently traveled to Texas to visit a facility where children are separated from their parents.

[07:35:06] Congressman, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

REP. JOE KENNEDY III (D-MA), MEMBER, ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: What did you see at that facility?

KENNEDY: Not much. It was a nice view from the outside. Look, I wasn't allowed in.

CAMEROTA: Oh, you couldn't get in? They wouldn't -- they wouldn't let you in. And, why not?

KENNEDY: No, they wouldn't let me in. They said -- they didn't really give an answer. They just said I couldn't come in.

And look, it would have been great to get inside and Alisyn, obviously, the -- one of the big challenges here is that from the authorities that I did speak with -- a couple of them came out to talk me -- was that one person tells you thing and another person told you another. The administration was saying all sorts of different things.

And the easy way to try to address some of those concerns is just OK, let me walk in and take a look, and they wouldn't let that happen.

Now, I will say that the individuals that were there pleaded with me to say we understand -- we are trying to provide the best services we can for these kids, and I take them at their word at that. I don't doubt that they're doing their best.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

KENNEDY: What I do take issue with is the idea that separating a parent from their child is in any way humane, decent or a way that you're actually going to achieve comprehensive immigration rules and clearly, it's not.

CAMEROTA: But how about this, Congressman. I mean, how about the fact that these parents don't know where their kids are today?

So we are -- it's good news that we just reported 500 have been reunited, but something like 700 were taken from Texas to New York.

KENNEDY: They --

CAMEROTA: And so, they are thousands away -- yes -- from their parents.

And do you have any confidence that our bureaucracy -- that ICE or federal officials know how to reunify parents and toddlers who may not be able to communicate their name or their phone number?

KENNEDY: Toddlers that are pre-verbal, some of which are. So, no, I don't. I sure hope that somebody, when they were going through this process, created some sort of identifier to be able to match those folks, one that obviously was going through those children to an HHS facility.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, listen, do you think they did? I mean, just --

KENNEDY: No, I don't. I don't they did. In fact, I'm pretty sure they didn't.

And so, look, this is one of the consequences of an absolutely inhumane, unjust, terrible policy that was put forth fairly secretly by an administration that then wouldn't even own their policy without actually engaging Congress. Even -- look, I will come down very differently on a lot of aspects of

immigration reform than my Republican colleagues. Most of them don't like this idea either.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

KENNEDY: But when you try to do this in the dead of night and then all of a sudden don't even own it -- I mean, my God, this is what happens. And so we're going to be left with trying to find some way of trying to reunite these kids, which I sure hope this administration tries to do.

Great news on that 500. We've got thousands more that we have to deal with and they deserve to --

I have -- I've got a 6-month-old and a 2 1/2-year-old. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a parent or that child that has gone through what those kids have gone through to be away from their parents and now lost and not told when they could possibly see their families again. It's unconscionable.

CAMEROTA: I can't either. I can't either.

KENNEDY: No, it's unconscionable.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I -- as a crime reporter, I covered missing kid cases. And what the parents always said was the not knowing was actually the worst. The not knowing when you're going to see your kid, if you're going to see your kid, where they are, who's caring for them, what's happening to them out in the world.

KENNEDY: Yet, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: That is torturous.

KENNEDY: Yes, but the -- and as abhorrent as all of those stories that you covered are, this was perpetrated by the American government in the name of enforcing a law.

This is about as incomprehensible and as inhumane a practice that I have ever heard of one could be. You can't literally create one worse -- which I want to make sure we're clear on this -- was exactly the point, all right? The administration officials were clear that the intent behind this policy was it to be a deterrent.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

KENNEDY: Now, understand what that means. It means that for those that are fleeing violence, and destruction, and death, and a risk of sexual trafficking and murder -- then to try to then flee thousands of miles through dangerous territory -- deserts, and jungles, and territory controlled by cartels -- that the risk and the pain associated with being separated from your child when you got to the United States was going to be so much worse that you would rather roll the dice in Honduras, and Guatemala, and El Salvador.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

KENNEDY: I was down on that border. I met with individuals that are running a shelter for immigrants as they navigate -- try to navigate through this process.

The person that ran it was telling me about a woman that he was -- that was seeking asylum and they were coordinating the visit to present for asylum at that moment. A grandmother whose husband was dragged of her home, had both (audio gap) by machetes and a body riddled with bullets. And then, taken by a cartel so that they couldn't bury him.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God.

KENNEDY: Their child and a spouse and their three kids were (audio gap).

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Congressman, so sorry. We're losing your satellite for some reason and we really appreciate you sharing with us what you saw -- what he saw there on the border. It is just as bone-chilling as you could ever imagine.

BERMAN: And he was perplexed. I mean, the first answer to your very first question, what did you see, he says not much because I couldn't get in.

[07:40:04] CAMEROTA: Right. We have the same problem with our cameras.

But, I mean, look, what I was hoping to get to with him was what can Democrats do because you know that there is this compromise bill that is being worked on. They've now moved the date to next week. Are any Democrats at the table trying to actually work this out?

BERMAN: I think the answer to that question is no. And I will also say I also think the president just killed whatever chances are that bill even has that's coming up. He said Republicans shouldn't bother with it until after the election. So that's gone as of this morning.

Up next, we're going to take you inside a facility where immigrant children are being held. This is -- you know, we don't get many looks inside. This isn't much of a look but it's something. We're trying to understand the conditions for these children.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:45:12] BERMAN: So what happens to children once they have been separated from their parents at the border? An estimated 700 migrant children are being housed in foster care facilities in New York State. That's nowhere the border, by the way. Some of them were sent to a foster care facility just outside New York City and our Jason Carroll was granted access inside. He joins us now.

Jason, we've seen so little.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BERMAN: It's so important that you got there.

CARROLL: Well, it really was important and we were really thankful to get that type of access. And the facility we were given access to is nothing like some of the images that we've seen of children being kept in those cages near the border. But the anxiety is there and the facility's workers say the only way to alleviate it is to reunite the children with their parents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY KOHOMBAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE CHILDREN'S VILLAGE, WESTCHESTER, NEW YORK: I am hurt by this policy because I know we are greater than this.

CARROLL (voice-over): Jeremy Kohomban runs Children's Village in Westchester. It's one of several facilities in and around New York City tasked with caring for children separated from their parents at the border, and it was the only facility in the area willing to open its doors to us.

KOHOMBAN: This kind of forced separation has permanent damage, both on the --

CARROLL (on camera): Psychological damage.

KOHOMBAN: Psychological, the fear, the anxiety. The fear of the unknown, right? If this could happen to me, what else could happen to me?

CARROLL (voice-over): He's talking about the 20 children he and his staff have been caring for since they arrived a few days ago. The youngest is nine years, the oldest is 17.

KOHOMBAN: Actually, the biggest concern that our children have had recently is about -- for their parents. It's not even about themselves.

They're like is my mom OK? Is my dad going to be OK? Where are they, what's happening? That's the anxiety.

Kohomban says he isn't able to give more details about the children in his care but he was still able to give us a sense of what happens when children arrive here.

KOHOMBAN: They come in here. We have nurses 24/7 and we have a team of doctors. CARROLL: First stop is a medical exam. Many arrive with conditions such as lice and chicken pox. But the doctor here says it's their emotional damage that can be the toughest to treat.

DOUG WAITE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, THE CHILDREN'S VILLAGE, WESTCHESTER, NEW YORK: Believe me, I was just as indignant and outraged by our recent policies, that hopefully are shifting, of removing kids from their parents because we know that this causes permanent trauma to the child and can affect their brain development, especially the younger kids.

CARROLL: The children here stay in rooms that look much like this. There is also a recreation center where play is encouraged.

EDWIN DELEON, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, THE CHILDREN'S VILLAGE, WESTCHESTER, NEW YORK: Children will cry, but if you bring fun to them -- a fun spirit -- sports. Stuff that it just takes their mind off what really is going on in their lives. That's what we try to do best.

CARROLL: Most importantly, this facility has helped some of the children contact their parents.

KOHOMBAN: They are elated, they're relieved, and it's a first step to building trust.

CARROLL (on camera): OK.

KOHOMBAN: They begin to trust us.

CARROLL: Yes.

KOHOMBAN: You know, I said we'll find your mom -- we know where she is. Now trust us for the next step.

CARROLL: Yes.

KOHOMBAN: This is difficult work to do when kids don't trust you.

CARROLL: Yes.

KOHOMBAN: It's impossible to do it.

CARROLL (voice-over): For Kohomban, this is also personal. He's a first-generation American from Sri Lanka. His goal now is reunite these children with their families, quickly.

CARROLL (on camera): It could be weeks, months? Any sort of -- any sort of time line?

KOHOMBAN: It depends on -- you know, it's hard to -- hard to answer that question but it's -- I believe the word I could use to best describe is expediency is what it's all about. We don't want to keep kids away from families one minute longer than they already have been.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And as you heard there, the man that runs the facility says he is working with federal contacts to try to reunite these children with their parents. But again, as you heard there, no time line on exactly when that will happen -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Jason, that is really, really helpful to have that insight. And it's also very helpful to meet such a kind person, particularly this morning with the stories of alleged abuse at at least two of these detention centers. So, thank you very much.

OK. So why are so many of these kids ending up in New York? Governor Andrew Cuomo is here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:07] BERMAN: New York's governor says there are about 700 undocumented children separated from their parents and currently living in New York shelters, but those are estimates. The governor's office says it is not getting answers from the Health and Human Services Department on just how many children are actually even in the state of New York.

Joining us now to discuss, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He visited a facility in New York on Thursday were children separated from their parents are currently living.

Governor, I want to talk to you about what you saw and what you're going to do.

First, we have so little vision -- so little eyes on what's going on inside these facilities. Tell me what you saw.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Well, that's part of the problem, right, John? And thank you for having me, by the way.

I believe what happened is when the president started this zero tolerance policy in April they never really thought it through. The reasoning from Gen. Kelly was apparently that it would serve as a deterrent and if they started arresting and separating, people would stop coming. That was wrong, obviously.

HHS then had to start this shuttle of these 2,500 children -- or whatever the number actually is -- all across the country.

New York State has a large foster care system so many of the children came to New York. The foster care agencies weren't prepared. They hadn't been notified because no one expected this to happen.

So they are in different foster care facilities. Different foster care facilities have different levels of services. Some of them have been placed from the foster care facilities into private foster care homes which are basically run by parents, individuals, and they've taken them into their homes.

So we're now trying to go backtrack and find out where were they sent and where have they gone, and are they getting the appropriate level of services. I sent the letter to HHS and I said number one, I don't why you

wouldn't tell us what children have been placed in the state. We will be willing to provide mental health services, et cetera, to these traumatized children at our costs. And I've heard nothing back from HHS.

BERMAN: What do you know?

CUOMO: I worked with the federal government for --

BERMAN: What do you know about these children at this point?

CUOMO: I know nothing from HHS. All I know is what I'm now putting together from going to the foster care agencies. And what I'm doing today is we're canvasing all the foster care agencies in our state to find out who they have there.

A complication is not only did the HHS send children to our state without our knowledge, they put a gag order on the foster care agencies, and they don't want the foster care agencies telling us, which is just bizarre, John. Why would you not want the state to help provide services -- mental health services, counseling, reunification services -- at the state's expense?

[07:55:12] This is not the way it normally works.

So I went to a facility yesterday --

BERMAN: No. What happens is -- what happens is they get federal funding. These agencies aren't being forthcoming here in the state because they're getting federal funding. They don't want to jeopardize the federal funding by revealing information.

But why would they? Why do you think that the federal government doesn't want this information out there?

CUOMO: John, there is no good answer. There is no good answer.

I've been in the federal for eight years. I was a cabinet secretary. I've been governor for eight years.

I've worked with the federal government on everything from hurricanes to floods, to health crises. Normally, you work together.

Why the HHS Sec. Azar, whose mission it is to protect children, would not use the states to help provide services is incredible to me.

BERMAN: Are they safe -- do you think the kids --

CUOMO: Why he would --

BERMAN: Do you know the kids are safe?

CUOMO: You know, it -- we have a good foster care system but these are kids who are highly traumatized.

I went to a facility yesterday. I mean, just put this in real terms.

You have a child who is with their parent. They show up at the border. They think they're going to a new country together with their parents.

And then, they wind up in a cage, they wind up separated, and they wind up being put on an airplane or a bus and sent somewhere else in the country. They don't speak the language, they don't know where they are.

The facility I was at said they have a high level of psychological trauma and anxiety disorders.

BERMAN: Yes, they don't know where their parents are. In the middle of this all they don't know where their parents are either, and their parents don't know where they are.

As a political matter, Governor, I am interested. What do you think should happen to these parents who cross the border with their children?

You know, obviously, at this point, I think the country -- there's consensus they should be separated from their children. That has stopped going forward.

Do you think they should be held together in detention?

CUOMO: Well, here's the problem, John. You have a little issue called the law, OK? And the federal government either knew this and ran in total disregard of the law or they're trying to create a crisis using these children as pawns to force the federal government -- Congress to act.

Remember what happened here. April seventh, they start the zero tolerance policy. We're going to arrest everyone. We're tough, we're macho, we're strong on the border. We think it will be a deterrent.

It wasn't a deterrent. They knew when they arrested the parents, by law --

BERMAN: Governor, I do understand that. It was a choice. This was absolutely an administration choice to separate these parents from the children.

What they say --

CUOMO: Right.

BERMAN: -- is that what they call -- I hate this term but for lack of better words and for lack of time -- they say catch and release was in place before where they would just let the parents and the children go wasn't working because a quarter of them, they say and the statistics show, were not showing up back in court as they were told to.

So what do you do about that? CUOMO: John, it's baloney. First, their new -- their new solutions in the executive order and 20,000 on military bases, that also violates the law so that's also a scam on the American people.

And you know that we have many systems in this country where people are accused, they're arrested -- they're accused of a crime. They're released in a number of fashions and they come back for their court date. You don't release them and say have a nice day and I hope you come back.

We have people who we arrest every day in this state and in this country.

BERMAN: But, 40,000 aren't coming back, nationally.

CUOMO: We've got bail systems --

BERMAN: Forty thousand of these people are not coming back.

CUOMO: Well, they -- John, then you use one of the systems we know works. Bail systems works. Placement with model families work where they're put in the custody of a family and they have a 96 percent return rate. There are other ways to do this.

I arrest people every day and they have to come back for a court appearance, and they do because you have some connection. On the asylum program, they use ankle bracelets to make sure they can monitor them. You have programs where they place them with American families and the American families are responsible for making sure they come back, and that has a 96 percent success rate.

So it was not catch and release or put them in a cage. That was never the choice.

This was all politics. This was a president who ran on this issue and wants to say I'm going to be tough on the border. That's all this is.