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Discussion of Immigration Issues; Interview with Rep. Adriano Espaillat. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 25, 2018 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN: There is no due process here at this table this morning, not at all.

JOHN AVLON, CNN: Duly noted.

ERICA HILL, CNN: At least we know where we stand.

AVLON: Exactly.

BERMAN: Thank you very much. Why are we saying this? Well, it seems the president is trying to grab more power this morning and upend the legal system at the border. No due process, no courts. He wants to throw out undocumented immigrants who cross the border with no judges or legal proceedings. Now, we're waiting to hear from constitutionalists on this. What do they think of this? Silence so far.

The president reportedly angry he can't do more by executive fiat and also angry that he reversed the administration's decision to separate children from their parents the border. The Trump administration claims it has a plan for reuniting the thousands of families it shows to separate, but it really is not clear how, even less clear when. Some 500 children, the government says, have been reunited with their parents, but more than 2,000 children remain in custody scattered around the entire country.

HILL: Well, if this is (ph) lawmakers visiting detention centers to see the conditions firsthand are describing some of them as prison- like, noting the saw children in cells and concrete floors, all of this, of course, the backdrop for what we're waiting on in Washington. House expected to vote this week on a compromise immigration bill.

Republican leaders say the White House supports it. Decisive president telling lawmakers last week not to waste their time on it, so can it actually pass the House. We've got all of this covered for you this morning. We go first to CNN's Abby Phillip who is live at the White House. Abby -

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica. President Trump had a busy Sunday on social media tweeting that the U.S. should deport illegal immigrants without any due process at all. He also noted that the U.S. was facing an invasion of, quote, "these people coming in across the borders," and he also railed against existing immigration laws, all of this while his administration continues to struggle to explain how they are going to reunite these families that had been separated for weeks at the border.


Protest intensifying as the Trump administration struggles to reunite the thousands of children still separated from their parents. Democratic lawmakers touring detention centers at the border blasting the conditions they saw inside.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), M.A.: It's a disturbing picture. There are children by themselves. I saw a six-month-old baby. They're on the concrete floors in cages. There's just no other way to describe it.

PHILLIP: But despite the public outcry, President Trump ramping up his hard lined immigration rhetoric suggesting that those who crossed into the United States illegally should be sent back immediately without due process or an appearance before a judge.

The New York Times reports that President Trump complained to aides about why he could not just create an overarching executive order to solve the problem. Those aides explained to him that immigration overhaul is beyond his powers.

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: The problem with his executive order is it's in direct contradiction to the standing order and ruling from the judge -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Including his council -

BOSSERT: My guess that stroke of a pen does not survive three weeks before this court overrules it.

PHILLIP: The president blaming Democrats for failing to pass immigration reform legislation last week and calling his party to focus on immigration in the fall, not now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like the issue for election, too. Our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders, let MS-13 all over our country.

PHILLIP: President Trump's comments leaving Republicans confused on how to move forward.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), T.X.: I did talk to the White House yesterday. They say the president's still 100 percent behind us.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), A.Z.: I don't know how in the world we're going to fix this in the short-term. It's really a big mess.

PHILLIP: This as the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services revealed their plan to reunite immigrant families separated at the border. Children will remain in custody of Health and Human Services based on the results of their parent's immigration proceedings. If the parent is released, they can apply to be the child's sponsor, a process that could take weeks. If the parent is deported, the child will be reunited before they leave the country, but it's still unclear who will link the parents with their children.

Backlash over the crisis hitting home as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant Friday night. Sanders firing back on Twitter. "Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so." The owner of the Red Hen saying, "I explain that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold such as honesty and compassion and cooperation. I said I'd like to ask you to leave."


And here at the White House, it's foreign policy on the agenda this morning. The president will host King Abdullah of Jordan and also Queen Rania Al Abdullah here at the White House.


Later this afternoon, he's heading to West Columbia, South Carolina for a political trip on behalf of governor Henry McMaster. This is the eve of a special election down in that state.

BERMAN: All right, Abby Phillip for us at the White House. Abby, thanks so much And remember, when we're talking about restaurants and people getting kicked out or staying in, there's still 2,00 children who are separated from their parents by the U.S. government, scattered all around the country, and we've had remarkably little visibility at how they're doing or what conditions they're living in. Some lawmakers have been allowed into just a few of these places. You just heard from Elizabeth Warren describe the conditions that she saw. Let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval live outside a facility in Los Fresnos, Texas. Polo, what are you learning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, many of those reunifications are happening according the U.S. government, many of them happening at this remote Cameron Country, Texas facility in Port Isabel. About 538 children have been reunited with their parents according to the latest update provided by the Department of Homeland Security and also Health and Human Service.

Let's dive into some of the other numbers, though, because clearly there is more to be done. About 2,037 children are still in the care of HHS at this hour. And important distinction to point out here this morning, only 17 percent of those have been recently separated from their parents because of the enforcement of zero-tolerance policy. The rest of the 83 percent, those are undocumented minors that have come across the border by themselves, so it's very important to keep that in a mind because that is part of an issues that we have been covering really for years, particularly since 2014 when we watched at least 70,000 unaccompanied children poured across the U.S.-Mexico border.

So what we are also seeing, though, is obviously that call for answers. Many of these lawmakers that have been travelling to these facilities are not only calling on the reunification of those children who were separated from their parents, but also for a closer look at the way some of these children are managed, some of these kids are managed. Just this past weekend, a 15-year-old undocumented Honduran boy essentially walked off the premises from a facility that he was being housed. Southwest Key Services, the owner or the operator saying the policies were followed. They are not a detention center. They are simply a child care facility. Erica and John -

BERMAN: All right, Polo Sandoval for us in Los Fresnos, Texas. Polo, thanks so much. I want to bring in A.B. Stoddard, and Associate Editor at Real Clear Politics, and Brian Karem, CNN Political Analyst and the Executive Editor of the Sentinel Newspapers. Brian, we're hearing that the -


BERMAN: -- president is full of regret that he signed this executive order trying to reverse the White House choice to separate children from their parents, and we are hearing directly from him that he wants more power and less due process at the border. What do you make of it?

KAREM: It's one, hot mess, isn't it? I mean, here's -- it's a microcosm of the entire Trump administration, and I think Maggie Haberman had it right last hour when she said for the first time it's going to be a defining moment for this president. It's exposing the weaknesses of this presidency at its very base level.

Chaos because the president decided with the help of his favorite friend, Stephen Miller, to come up with this particular bit of strategy to go after people coming across the border. It didn't work. The optics were bad. They didn't tell us the truth about it. It was chaos. First, he said it was the Democrat's fault. Then he came back and said it's still the Democrat's fault, that he said something else. It was a policy, it wasn't a policy. They had an executive order to change the policy, and now you have some 2,000 children that are not reunited with their parents.

And some of the sources I have in Homeland Security say quite bluntly and quite honestly they're afraid they may never -- some of these children may never be reacquainted with their parents. That's a sobering thought. And at the same time then you have the president who regrets what he did and now wishes he had more power.

It shows the ignorance of how our system works. The fact that the very beginning when the Trump administration began they couldn't get the best and the brightest. The people that they got have brought to this country chaos and ignorance, and that type of ignorance and arrogance and chaos is only continuing to -- it's like snowball going down a hill and gollee (ph), you don't want to be at the bottom of the hill.

HILL: There's that one part of it. There's the ignorance of how things work, just basic understanding of how government works, yes. BERMAN: Absolutely.

KAREM: Like the Constitution.

HILL: There is -- a minor thing -

BERMAN: That little thing.

HILL: Maybe a whole separation of powers thing we have going on. There's also this ignorance of the details of the story, right, and how difficult immigration is. But A.B., it also brings up the fact that this is the president who does time and again go to what he sees as a quick fix because he just wants to wave a pen and make it move forward. That's a big part of this as well.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Right, it'll be interesting to see what the reaction is to his sort of call against any due process for these migrants. He -- we've known from incident after incident that the president is frustrated by his lack of ability to command more expansive power in his job as president.


And he finds the other co-equal and separate branches of the legislature and the judiciary sort of pesky and in its way.

And that's not a surprise. There are two political tensions here, one is that there is a strong majority in this country that does not want these families to be separated. The second one is though that they don't want illegal immigration in these high numbers.

And so if you look at the CBS poll out last night, 48 percent of the respondents wanted the families kept together and returned to their home country together, 21 percent wanted them to -- to stay.

So they are not actually for indefinite intention -- detention as a family unit, they want them to be together from the start and then in most cases sent home. So that's the political tension here.

What's going to overlay that is what Brian (ph) was talking about and you're talking about, this incredible incompetence and chaos, the fact that there's no interagency umbrella coordinating the location of the parents with the children and that we're looking at months ahead of the possibility of most of the 2,000 remaining children who were separated from their parents not being able to be reunited with them.

Those are the images, that's the conversation that's going to overlay the political debate going into the (inaudible).

BERMAN: And look, the U.S. government did this, the U.S. government separated 2,000, 2,500 kids from their families, John. And look, the president's not going to eliminate due process, I don't think he's ever going to get what he wants there.

But we do have a window into where his head is on this, and yes he says he wants to stop illegal immigration over the border, John. But it also -- I also get the sense, you know, he wants to cut down in the legal process also.

He's talking about asylum seekers here, he'd love to see that restricted, you know, incredibly.

AVLON: Yes, no, look, I mean the president views the constitution and Congress as impediments to what he would like to get done, and there are advisers to the White House who seem to have a real issue, not just with illegal immigration as you say, but with non-white immigration.

And these are demographic issues and political strategies coming to a head, maybe (ph) talked about incompetence in chaos. Well there's also cruelty and that's why this issue is not playing the way the president would like and he can't make it disappear.

This is a -- this is a fundamental conflict between our values and policies, and when people see children crying and screaming, separate from their parents and put in cages without any receipts, any ability to connect them, that violates them and the choice is not between open borders and reuniting these families, that's a false choice.

So the president and this administration's going to have to get their head around dealing with this, because the old strategy, the traditional strategy of distract, deflect, and divide is not going to trump, pun unintended, prying separated children away from their families.

KAREM: There is no way that this president can get his head around this particular situation, John. The -- we -- he has determined and -- and shown us that it's impossible for him to do it.

BERMAN: Well except I -- I think what John is saying, and I think there is some evidence to this, if he wants fewer people coming from Mexico or south --


-- legally or otherwise --


KAREM: -- if these were white people instead of brown people, we would not be having this conversation. The simple fact of the matter is it's who's coming across the border. You don't see this type of heated rhetoric or debate about people who have come across the border and had extended their welcome past their visas and are now illegal immigrants from other countries where they are white.

That's a problem this administration has, the entire optics of the situation, and again, speaks to the ignorance of -- and the complexities of this situation. And at the bottom line, it -- you know, John nailed it, it's this president wants to be king Donald Trump, not President Donald Trump, and really doesn't care too much about how the constitutional separation of powers takes place.

He wants to be able to have an edict and go forward, and it doesn't work that way.

HILL: No it does not. We'll continue to see how that all falls out, not just today of course, throughout the week. We do want to get your take, though, on what happened of course over the weekend to Sarah Huckabee Sanders who was asked to leave a restaurant, she had already been seated, served the cheese board.

As we understand it, the restaurant owner is standing by her decision to ask her to leave, they both say the exchange was very polite, the reaction from people across the board on both sides has not been as polite or as measured.

Here's some of what Maxine Waters had to say over the weekend, I want to show you this (ph) first.


REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIFORNIA: And if you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, in a gasoline station, you get out and (inaudible) you push back on them and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.



HILL: There was a lot in that moment to say the very least. A.B. you start this one -- us off with this one. That is -- that is some loaded rhetoric from a public official.

STODDARD: Maxine Waters is poised to take over one of the most important positions in the separate and co-equal branch of government as chairman of the Financial Services Committee in the House, she is doing everything she can to prevent her own promotion.

This is beyond overreach, it is so outrageous that she is trying to motivate voters on her side to be as divisive as President Trump. It is -- I just -- I just find it really unbelievable that this is the kind of thing that they're trying to stoke this sort of mob mentality on the left.

It's -- it's just the exact thing that will drive turnout on the other side, and she's -- she's -- this is just -- this is exactly the example that Maggie was talking about and we've talked about here so many times.

People sort of end up, you know, behaving like the president, and they shoot themselves in the foot.



AVLON: Brian, just one second, because A.B.'s raising the election, and that's in the back drop of everything, 140 days out. And -- and mid term elections tend to be high intensity, low turnout. And if -- if republicans are feeling a bit divided about the

president, maybe a bit demoralized about the lack of the republican party in Congress standing up for the president, this is exactly the kind of thing that's going to get him motivated, because it will create a veneer of moral equivalence.

And if we get to a place as a country where it's open season on anyone if they serve in an administration in public, when mob rule starts being advocated by elected officials, that is bad for everybody and it's the opposite, as you pointed out, of Michelle Obama's they go low, we go high.

BERMAN: The republicans are running on the farm to table ticket. Brian, I want to get your take on this, specifically on Sarah Sanders in the restaurant, because I watch a little TV and every once in a while I see that you and Sarah, you know, don't see eye to eye on things in the briefing room.

So do you think it was appropriate for this restaurant to ask Sarah to leave?

KAREM: Look, I don't own that restaurant and I would -- I would only say that I disagree with what you say but will defend to death your right to say it. So in so much as I -- I believe that, I -- I also believe that in D.C. there's nothing worse than a republican other than a democrat, as Maxine Waters proved.

That was way over the top, I would have served her. I mean, you know, I have my disagreements with Sarah but I go back afterwards and we're still able to talk. I -- I don't understand, what happened is just a little bit of civility.

I mean what we have in -- in the press briefing room is a question and an answer and I'll press hard and I hope that, you know, I -- I have pressed hard and she answers or doesn't answer, that's it.

But you're out with your family going to a restaurant, what -- what did she do that would warrant her being, you know, thrown out of (inaudible) I got a lot of grief for saying that over this weekend too, you know, the resist, resist.

And look, man, I -- I'm not that guy, you go in a restaurant, I'll serve you. I mean, unless you're doing something really outrageous, but you know, I used to work as a waiter, so you know, I've served a lot of strange people.

BERMAN: Brian (inaudible) I'm not that guy --


-- not that guy. All right, Brian Karem, John Avlon right there, A.B. thanks so much for being with us as well. As we've been saying all along, we have such little visibility on these children who are all across the country, all across the country in so many different states, really from coast to coast. We're going to speak to a member of Congress who has had a chance to

visit with some of these children. We need that window. Stick around, next.




BERMAN: More than 2,000 undocumented children remained separated from their families, separated from their families by the Untied States Government. This says, the Trump Administration begins to lay out a plan to reunite them. Lawmakers are trying to visit, both, the parents and the children to get their own sense of what's happening. We've really seen so little, ourselves.

Congressman Adriano Espaillat is one of these lawmakers. He's a democrat from New York and the first formally undocumented immigration to serve in Congress. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, D-NY: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: As I've been saying, we just don't have a window on how these 2,000 children are doing. We have a very hard time getting our cameras inside. You have visited one of these centers in East Harlem, here in New York, which is not next to Texas, mind you, where, some, 200 of these children, who have been separated from their parents, are. Tell me what you saw, how are they doing?

ESPAILLAT: Well, I saw some of the children and I met some of the foster care parents, and you know, these kids are very resilient, you know. They've probably gone through a lot, and as such, they, still, are able to give you a little smile, but I can't image that they're not traumatized, not knowing where their parents are.

BERMAN: They don't -- they don't know where their parents are.

ESPAILLAT: They don't know where their parents are, although, that particular center has been able to reunite 100 of them back with their parents, but for the most part, most children are still apart from their parents, latched from their parents, some of them have been deported back to their country, and their children are. So this is a real nightmare. This is now (ph) far from the American dream, I think it's the American nightmare.

BERMAN: Do the children have sense of what this process is? The White House told us, over the weekend, there is this process in place to get these children reunited with their parents. Do those kids see it, do they understand it?

ESPAILLAT: They all understand it. I think, you know, some of them come with a little note attached with a safety pin, in their clothes, with somebody's phone number and name. And so, this center, the Cayuga Center is trying to unite them with these folks, and so, it's really, really touching to see them, as young as 9-months-old and as old as 17-years-old, so, really, a large stretch, age-wise, but the children have gone through -- through -- through hell and -


BERMAN: The physical conditions are good though, yes?

ESPAILLAT: Well, this is a center where they come in for schooling and after school activities, they go back home with their foster care, and the women that I met, some of which seemed to know me, I really liked what I saw. It's just more than, just taking care of these children. They're -- they're invested in this, right.

BERMAN: Look, there's compassion everywhere, and we're see appreciative of the compassion being shown to some of these families. Let me ask you this, though, because now, the president signed this executive order that says, that, no longer does he want to separate the children from their. One of the possible solutions is to hold the children alongside the parents. There may be legal issues with that, with this Flores decision, but would you support an idea, of having children held with their parents, indefinitely?

ESPAILLAT: No, because the Flores decision is in (ph) 20 days.

BERMAN: If -- if -- if he found a way to get beyond that? I just want to know where democrats stand on this, even -- if they found a way around Flores, would you be okay?

ESPAILLAT: No, because this is incarcerating families, whether it is in a jail-type setting or in these tent cities or one of these military camps, that's not a place most children are placed, most children is, school, a playground, an afterschool center. That's where children should be (ph).

BERMAN: So, then, and this is what the White House argument is, then, if a parent come across the border with their children, you don't feel that the parent should be held at all?

ESPAILLAT: Many of these parents are coming in, seeking asylum. We have a longstanding tradition in this nation, to welcome those that are seeking asylum. They should have their due process in court, not these massive arraignments, where you have 50 people, a kangaroo court, where the judge automatically says, get them out.

Each case should be seen. There have been meritorious cases where people have fled death and terror.


ESPAILLAT: That's the backbone of our nation (ph).

BERMAN: And there are democrats and republicans who want more judges to speed this process, but again, just so I understand it, there are those seeking asylum through legal means there. I understand, you don't want them held, but are you saying that, if a parent brings a child, by definition, don't detain them?

ESPAILLAT: If a parent brings a child and they come to the border and they voluntary come to -- to an ICE agent or a Border Patrol agent and says, I'm seeking asylum because my death -- my life is in danger, my children's lives is in danger. I think they should have the right to -- to due process and go before a judge and -

BERMAN: Kirstjen Nielsen says that, if they go to a center, they get that due process. She's talking about people who don't cross at the centers. What about -

ESPAILLAT: You know what's happening to those people? They're unable to cross those bridges and they are forced to cross the border, and they voluntarily -

BERMAN: Right.

ESPAILLAT: -- go to the border, a port of entry and report themselves to Border Patrol, and then they are arrested as (inaudible).

BERMAN: We've heard the stories. It does seem like a mess down there. I'm just figure out where democrats stand or what they would support, going forward -


BERMAN: I do -- I do want to -- I want to cover one other subject here because it's important because we have -- you're a democratic member of Congress. We know Sarah Sanders was turned away at a restaurant, Friday night. This is isn't so much about Sarah Sanders here, but Maxine Waters, who was a powerful member of your party, powerful member of the Caucus. I just to want play you what she said, about how she feels the administration members should be treated. Let's listen.


REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIFORNIA: And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out (ph) and you stand your ground and you take that from them and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.


BERMAN: Are you comfortable with that, telling members of the administration, supporters of the president, in this case, they're not welcome anymore, in the restaurant?

ESPAILLAT: I love Auntie Maxine, and she's an iconic member of Congress and a great women. Look, I think, we -- we -- we should not be trapped into these side stories, right, about whether or not, people get angry at you, at a restaurant, at a store.

I have constituencies, some of them love me and some of them don't like me that much. That's what the nature of public service is, so, to get sidetracked into debates about whether or not, somebody was welcome at a restaurant, takes our eyes off of what's going on in America. BERMAN: We are laser focused on these 2,000 kids, and we've been talking about them, a great deal, doesn't mean we don't have time to ask a question about what's right. And so (ph), I'm just asking you, are you comfortable with what Maxine Water's just said?

ESPAILLAT: Look, I love Maxine Waters. I don't think that the debate should become an episode of The Apprentice. I think we should focus on the issues, like what's happening to these kids at the border.

The cuts that are coming up, that we -- we passed this tax scan, that's going to hurt Medicaid and Medicare, those are the real issues of the American people. Maxine Water's entitled to her opinion and I respect that.

BERMAN: Do you wish she hadn't said it?

ESPAILLAT: What's that?

BERMAN: Do you wish she hadn't said it?

ESPAILLAT: She has the right to say what she feels, and I support it.

BERMAN: Adriano Espaillat, Congressman from New York. Great to have you with us, thanks so much.

ESPAILLAT: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: Erica?

HILL: Down, just ahead, we take a closer look at the future of the GOP. This, after hearing George Will saying, "Vote against Republicans, bring in more Democrats."