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Rate of children being separated from families is increasing. TRANSCRIPT: 06/19/2018. All In.

Guests: Will Hurd, Jennifer Harbury, Terry Canales, Tania Chavez, Alfonso Mercado, Jeff Merkley

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: June 19, 2018 Guest: Will Hurd, Jennifer Harbury, Terry Canales, Tania Chavez, Alfonso Mercado, Jeff Merkley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And it`s not the reality show his people like so much. I think we will remember this moment down along the Rio Grande and remember that Donald Trump was better at the show than he is at the reality. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us and "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. We are live from the border in Trump`s America.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally which should happen you have to take the children away.

HAYES: Taking children away. The Trump policy that has become an American moral crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is torture and it is sinful. As the administration defends --


HAYES: And the President deflects.

TRUMP: I say it`s very strongly the Democrats fault.

HAYES: We are here to see the real story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me about what you`re fleeing from in your country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said gangs threaten her life.

HAYES: Together with Lawrence O`Donnell and the reporters of NBC News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That HHS time and again that we would like to see not only the girls but the toddlers. MSNBC primetime coverage begins with a special edition of ALL IN right now


HAYES: Good evening from McAllen, Texas, I`m Chris Hayes. We come to you tonight from the epicenter of this crisis just a couple miles away from the U.S. southern border here in McAllen, Texas at the largest immigration processing center in the country where migrant children are being separated from their parents after crossing into the United States. This, no matter what they try to tell you is the Trump Administration`s policy. The crisis is accelerating. According to new government data that we just got our hands on today released by DHS, the Trump Administration separated 2,352 children from their parents between May 5th and June 9th. That is a rate of 65 children taken from their families every single day, up for about 46 per day over an earlier period starting in April. In just the last couple hours, the President wrapped up an immigration meeting with House Republicans amid a growing bipartisan backlash across the country and across civil society to his child separation policy.

This story has exploded since ALL IN began covering it about four weeks ago. And now we`re here at the border on the front lines to talk to people about what`s happening to show you what our government is doing to the children in its custody. We`re not alone. Tonight "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell will also be broadcasting live from Brownsville, Texas. That`s where 1,500 children are being held in the converted Wal-Mart. We have Mariana Atencio just across the border in Mexico, Gadi Schwartz in Guatemala where many of these kids journeys began, Cal Perry in Tornillo, Texas where the United States government has just erected a tent city in the desert to keep migrant children, and here McAllen MSNBC`s Stephanie Ruhle and Jacob Soboroff, one of the few reporters to actually see inside some of these detention centers. First up, let`s go to my colleague Lawrence O`Donnell in Brownsville. Lawrence, this is now the biggest story in the country.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Chris, it is. And I`ve spent the day in Brownsville, this is the biggest facility housing children that we know of. And I just want to begin with the mysterious quality of this story because let`s remember, we don`t know exactly how many children are being detained. We don`t know where they`re being held. One of the great mysteries has been where are the girls. I believe I found one of the girls facilities today. I`ll report on that at 10:00 in my hour coming up. But Chris, the mystery of what goes on behind those walls behind me is the story that we`re really trying to get at and all we have are government-issued photographs, very few reporters who`ve been allowed extremely limited controlled visits where they`re not allowed to speak to any of the kids in these facilities. And so the story we`re working on sadly is mostly a mystery. We`re trying to really get at the truth of what`s happening inside these facilities.

HAYES: All right, Lawrence O`Donnell thanks for joining me. We`ll be talking later. I`ll be checking back in to Lawrence later in the hour. Let`s go to MSNBC`s Mariana Atencio who`s just across the border in Reynosa, Mexico. And Mariana, there`s been lots of reports that people essentially stacked up awaiting entry at that proper port of entry and being turned back. What are you seeing there?

MARIANA ATENCIO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I heard from one mother who says she was turned back. And they come to this shelter where they basically find themselves in limbo. This is a shelter in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. One of the most dangerous cities in Mexico were these migrant mothers from Honduras, from Guatemala, from El Salvador tell me that they`re having to weigh this incredibly difficult decision of whether or not to cross to the United States they say for the sake of their children. There is a church service going on behind me because the priest that heads the shelter is trying to give these families some hope, give these kids some structure. They`re about 60 people here essentially waiting this out. And I want to introduce you to one of these mothers. This is Patricia and her little son Johan who was seven years old. Patricia, can you tell us you`re desperately trying to cross with your little boy, what kind of violence are you fleeing from in your country.

There`s violence that is killing us in our country. Gangs, the organized crime, we don`t know where so much of this crime is coming from. But this is killing us. Being a young boy, you don`t have a future there. A young boy like her son who is seven, and Chris boys as young as nine and ten get recruited by these gangs in Central America.

Patricia, what is your message to the Trump Administration. You`ve been waiting out here for two weeks and it took you three months to even get here.

Please help us. Please don`t be bad. We are human beings. Like Christ says, we need each other. Please have a heart. Please soften your heart. It`s not only me, it`s other mothers.

Thank you so much, Patricia. And Chris, I want to point out to this Bible that she is clinging to. A Bible that has been cited by the Attorney General as the justification of some sort for this policy of separating families. Chris?

HAYES: MSNBC`s Mariana Atencio, thank you for that. That was really, really important to see. NBC News Correspondent Gadi Schwartz is in Guatemala City, Guatemala. That`s over a thousand miles away and that`s where many immigrant families that are ending up here and on the border and in detention start their journey to the U.S. Gadi, what do you hear from folks there about why people are making the decision to undertake this extremely perilous journey.

GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Chris, people here, Guatemalans here keep describing the situation those family separations in a word. It`s (INAUDIBLE) which basically means what a barbarity, what an atrocity. They are incredulous that that`s able to happen in the United States. They keep asking us about it and we`re starting to hear more and more of stories of not just these families being separated in the United States but actually, parents that are separated from their children in the United States and then the parents are deported to Guatemala to some of these countries without their children.

So, their children are still in shelters in the United States. And once these parents are here in Guatemala, it becomes very, very difficult for them to contact the authorities in the United States to figure out exactly where their sons and daughters are. Many of them have trouble speaking Spanish because they are indigenous people. I want to tell you a little bit about this one father that we heard of today. It was a father and a 14-year-old girl. They were trying to make their way north to escape the violence.

They were kidnapped during their trip up north and they will held for ransom. It was $600 ransom. They were able to come up with that money, pay off the gangs that were holding them and then they crossed the border into the United States. Once they crossed the border into the United States, they were once again apprehended by Border Patrol. And the advocates that are working with them say that they were separated. The daughter went one way, the father went another and then the father was quickly deported back to Guatemala. The daughter is still up there and then the advocates that are working on that case say it was almost like they were kidnapped twice, once by the gangs, the other time by the U.S. government. They want answers. They don`t know when his daughter is going to come back. And that is the site that we are hearing from more and more families here. Chris?

HAYES: Gadi, I just want to be clear here, that the post-deportation, the individual that you were talking of is back in Guatemala and his daughter is still in U.S. custody?

SCHWARTZ: Correct. And it`s not just him. There are other cases -- the advocates that we were talking to you today said that there are five cases that are very similar. One of those cases is a six-year-old girl, they`re trying to reunite a six-year-old girl who is still in the United States with their parents here in Guatemala. So there`s a lot of confusion just because of the way that the bureaucracy is set up not just in the United States but here in Guatemala too. And some of those language barriers but those cases are coming up more and more frequently. Chris?

HAYES: All right, Gadi Schwartz in Guatemala City, thank you very much for that. I want to go to NBC`s Cal Perry who is in Tornillo, Texas. That is where the government has recently constructed a tent city in a very, very hot part of this country to house immigrant children. Cal, what does it seem like there?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we just saw a couple of vans arrived. We understand that this is the overflow area for a lot of the centers that you`re talking about. They`re just about a quarter of a mile behind me. It`s just out of view that is intentional. They do not want the media clearly to see this tent city. About 18 to 20 tents we`re told by a congressman, Congressman Bill Hurd that right now about 400 beds exist in that tent city. But Chris, get this. They`re preparing for up to 4,000 beds in this tent city. As you said, the temperature here is a growing concern to officials. It was 105 degrees here today. You can imagine what it`s going to be like if you have 20 unaccompanied minors in those tents during that heat. I just want to echo quickly what Lawrence said. We are asking for access to these centers. We are doing this in the dark. We are bringing the best information that we have but we have not seen these unaccompanied minors in these tent cities. We`ve only seen these government handouts, Chris.

HAYES: All right, NBC`s Cal Perry that is a very important question get the bottom of the plans for Tornillo. And we should also mention, that is on federal government property am I correct? That`s on -- is that`s on the military base there Tornillo?

PERRY: No, it`s federal property, Chris, just off that highway right there to my right.

HAYES: Federal property means as Jacob Soboroff and other advocates have noted that essentially gives the government immunity in terms of both civil lawsuits and in terms of state regulation for the care of those children so it`s even more important of course that reporters be allowed to get in there and advocates as well. NBC`s Cal Perry, thanks -- go ahead.

PERRY: And I`ll tell you -- because the best shots that we`ve seen from a local newspaper, the reporter went to Mexico came around risking a lot to get those photos to get the shots. If you walk onto this road, you`ll be met by a customs Border Patrol within three minutes flashing lights and they escort you off that road, Chris.

HAYES: All right, Cal Perry, thank you. I`m joined right here in McAllen, Texas by MSNBC`s own Stephanie Ruhle and Jacob Soboroff. And Jacob, you have been trying -- I mean, we should just be really clear here about the sort of numbers and it`s very confusing. There`s two populations, there`s unaccompanied minors, there`s kids who are coming by themselves. They have been coming for a while, it really spiked in 2014, that`s continued to happen. And then there`s about 2,500, 2,600 kids taken from their parents rendered unaccompanied by our government, by the system, processed here. You`ve been trying to get some answers on those full location of them. What is the -- what do we know right now?

JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It gives me the chills actually when you say that. Let`s just remember why we`re all standing here right now. Inside that building, in that building right there with the metal siding, there are over 1,200 people. 1,100 children in this sector alone have been separated from their parents. This is where it is all happening right now. When we found out today, the Secretary of Homeland Security who says she`s been in detention centers in this country has never been inside this facility ever. This is the one with the cages, this is one with the mats, this is the one with the mylar blankets. We don`t know once they leave here where all of these children end up particularly the girls and a toddler. That`s something you and I were talking about last week when I was outside that shelter where Lawrence is in Brownsville, Texas right now. And we`ve asked HHS time and again. I think I called them three or four times today and asked them where are the girls, where the toddlers, can we get some pictures? And what they offered to me today was a pictures of those shelters in 2016 where the girls are and I said I don`t want your pictures, I want to get into those shelters.

HAYES: I should also note, I mean, not only that I have -- I cannot get anyone at all to talk to me. They have gone completely dark. We also just don`t know a breakdown and this is why it`s important. There`s an infrastructure that was built for unaccompanied minors like the facility we saw in Brownsville because you know, what do you do with the 13-year old 12-year old shows up right? There is no infrastructure by the government for kids younger than that. What we understand and I`ve talked to some advocates who say a lot of it is being done through foster care but that`s all we know. We don`t have any numbers. Nothing like that.

SOBOROFF: It was never been done before. And not only has it never been done before but the cases that Gadi was describing, it may not be all that unusual. We`re hearing about a class of basically orphaned immigrants that may be created by this entire program. Julia Ainsley was reporting that out today. It`s not just a couple, it may be a huge number of these 1,100 kids from here and 2,500 across the country that could never see their parents again.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Chris, I can`t get anyone to answer the question, why. Why put this policy in place? Put the humanitarian issue the heartstrings aside from a policy perspective. If the President says we have a jobs issue. Immigrants are stealing our jobs. How can he possibly make the same argument the jobs picture is great and America is beautiful. When I walk through this town, there are help wanted signs in every window. I spoke to small business managers who said this is a community of Texans and migrants. One of the reasons this community has risen up is because migrants have taken jobs Americans didn`t want to. We`ve heard this story before. You have shrimp boats that need workers. So the immigration issue was an issue and people here say we need border security. But the crisis has erupted because of separating children from parents which makes no logical economic or policy sense.

HAYES: You know the argument -- I mean, part of what`s difficult about this conversation is they won`t own the policy, right? But today --

RUHLE: I mean, why won`t they? If it was such a good policy, own it.

HAYES: That`s a great question. I mean, today on the DHS call, they call it a deterrent. One of the things I think it`s important for folks to know and I`m sure you both encounter this in your reporting is that the trip is the deterrent. The trip is the deterrent. People are making a calculation. You just heard from Mariana Atencio. You heard from Gadi Schwarz. I`ve talked to advocates down here, stories of people being shot and beaten, having one of their sons taken and killed and they go with the other two. They are making a calculation to traverse literally the most dangerous thousand miles that exists in the world.

SOBOROFF: Mexico is the most dangerous country in the entire world today. And the U.S. government knows that deterrence also kills people. I`m talking about deterrence at our southern border. 1994, the official Border Patrol policy was called prevention through deterrence. It`s the first round of walls that we got. People ended up going around those walls, not coming into the U.S. They went to the Arizona desert, to (INAUDIBLE) came here, to the Falfurrias checkpoint here in South Texas. They go around those checkpoints, they die in the brush. More people die. What do you think asylum seekers are going to do? They`re not going to seek asylum, they`re going to run for it and they`re going to die out there.

RUHLE: And so supporters of this policy make the argument, what are these people complaining about? They`re getting three square meals a day and they have a bed to sleep in and they didn`t have that on the road. Make that argument but make the argument for why then separate the children from their mothers? From a labor perspective, let these mothers stay with them. It makes no sense.

HAYES: You got a chance to talk to a woman really the sort of legendary woman here in McAllen, a local nun who runs a shelter. Tell me about her.

RUHLE: I did. I spoke to Sister Norma who they called the Pope`s favorite nun and she said this is a humanitarian issue. Just today she met with the head of Border Patrol who she`s worked with for years and I said how does he feel about this? And she was somewhat wry about it and she said he`s doing his job and we`re all trying to do the best we can and she just kept pressing saying America is better than this. And I brought to her a point you made up earlier -- you made earlier. In the Trump administration, we have seen the Muslim ban, Charlottesville, Puerto Rico, and now -- and now this. These four issues are making all of us wonder, is this what the United States stands for? And Sister Norma said we must be better than this. And she was actually optimistic because here we are talking about this. This is -- this is raised to national and international attention. It`s a moment in history to do something better. And she feels a sense of optimism in hopes that the President and you know he watches cable news, is watching.

HAYES: There`s also a sense in which -- and part of part of what makes this story difficult and difficult to report is the lack of transparency. It`s not just about the numbers. They did a bunch of press about zero tolerance but it`s also very clear what you heard from Mariana, what we`ve heard from folks we`re talking to, there is now a concerted effort to turn people away at those ports of entrance. I mean, they are using methods, they`re not being very transparent about it to essentially put the clamp on asylum seekers.

RUHLE: Chris, may I just ask both of you a question. If it`s a zero- tolerance policy, where are the employers who employ undocumented immigrants who`s going after them? Because wouldn`t they be in trouble too because they`re the ones for depressing wages, hiring undocumented immigrants, paying them less and giving them no benefit.

SOBOROFF: Just real quick on the ports of entry. I heard you talking about it with Ari Melber earlier today. Basically, they`re putting these people in this situation where if they send them to the ports of entry, they say to them don`t cross and didn`t declare asylum in between the ports of entry. They show up at the ports of entry, there are a 130,000 inadmissible. It`s what they call them over the course of a seven-month period I think recently. A big chunk of those are people that didn`t actually make it in at the ports of entry. They say it`s a very low bar to the credible fair screening. 80 percent of the people make it through the first round.

You got to actually step into the United States in order to be able to declare asylum. And when you have CBP agents waiting on those dots on the floor. I mean, I`ve seen them over and over again and basically preventing you by telling you, sorry we don`t have space, come back later. I met a family in Nogales, Arizona a couple of months ago, five days in a row they showed up at the port of entry to try and get it there and every time they say hey, why don`t you come back later. What are you supposed to do?

HAYES: Right. Stephanie Ruhle and Jacob Soboroff, it`s so great to have you down here and doing the work that you`re doing. Thank you for making time for me tonight.

SOBOROFF: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: We have much more live from the border tonight on the President`s policy of ripping children from their families. We`ll learn more about that leaked audio that captured the nation`s attention yesterday of children weeping for their parents in a U.S. government facility with the lawyer who released it. Plus, Senator Jeff Merkley tells me why he`s calling for the resignation of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. And next, Republican Congressman Will Hurd was in a meeting with the President about what is happening here at the border which he represents and he joins me right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said, gangs threatened her life and that`s why she had to leave Honduras with a three-year-old child.


HAYES: All right, we are back with our special coverage tonight here in McAllen, Texas steps on the country`s largest immigration processing center for young migrants detained behind metal wire, sleep under mylar blankets on thin pads placed on the concrete floor. Among them children who have been separated from their parents often with no warning, having no idea where they`re being taken under the policy of the Trump Administration which has been in effect now for about six weeks. The member of Congress who represents much of the Texas border is representative Will Hurd, Republican who on Friday visited a temporary shelter in Tornillo, Texas in his district where hundreds of minors are now being held.

Just a short time ago Hurd and other Republicans met with Donald Trump on Capitol Hill to discuss immigration policy. And joining me now from Capitol Hill is Congressman Will Hurd, Republican of Texas. Congressman, before we get to the meeting, there`s a letter going around the Senate just asking the President to end the policy that is his doing, his administration is doing while a legislative solution is worked out. Is that something you would like to see before we even talk about what the legislative solution is?

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Look, this is something that`s clearly within this Administration`s ability to stop today. I think it`s ridiculous that we even have to consider a piece of legislation to say you shouldn`t rip kids from their mother`s arms, right? This is something we should know. And land of the free in the home of the brave, we shouldn`t be using kids as a deterrence. So yes I would like to see this stop today and also I`d like to see us work on a legislative solution so it doesn`t get to be brought back up.

HAYES: Was that -- could anyone communicate that point of view to the President today as he came in to meet with your caucus of House Republicans?

HURD: No he didn`t take any questions or any comments and there really wasn`t anything definitive from the meeting. I think the one thing that we did realize is that the House and -- Congress is going to ultimately have to act. I believe this is a problem. This is actually isn`t a Republican or Democratic problem. It shouldn`t be a Republican or Democratic problem. This is something that we have to solve in a bipartisan fashion. And when I saw the facility in Tornillo last Friday, that`s a manifestation of a failed policy and this is something we shouldn`t be doing and this is something that we should stop. And also this is -- this is an issue that doesn`t show us the real problem. The real problem is issues that are happening in Costa Rica, and El Salvador, and Honduras that`s causing this migration. We need more judges in order to prosecute people. We need to have smart border security and building a 30-foot high concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. These are all things that we can work on and solve together.

HAYES: You know, I wanted to ask you about something the President tweeted earlier this morning and you -- I don`t know if you saw our coverage but there`s a little ten-year-old boy outside a mass in Reynosa with his mother. The President said that those people are coming to "infest the United States." Do you think the people that are showing up here, the draggled, having travelled a thousand miles are coming to "infest the United States?"

HURD: No. I think most these people that are coming are coming to try to improve their quality of life. Now, we also -- you know if you violate the law that there should be consequences. But when people are in our custody, we should treat them humanely and respectfully. This is a symptom of a broken immigration system. And in a broken immigration system you shouldn`t be resorting to kids. In your previous segment here somebody was asking a bunch of questions. Some of the questions I have is what were some of the alternatives that were being discussed versus this current policy? How does a mom or a dad figure out where their kid is. I think we`ve all seen that one-page document that says call a 1-800 number. Really? That`s how someone is going to find out where their --- where their child is and what if their kid is OK. These are a lot of questions. And partly HHS doesn`t always know what DOJ is doing. DOJ doesn`t necessarily know what the Department of Homeland Security is doing. And so this is -- this is a big problem especially when it comes to taking care of kids.

HAYES: Well, the President seems to think that you guys are going to have to solve it so we will see what you and your colleagues can get done. Congressman Will Hurd, thanks for being with me.

HURD: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: The human toll of the Trump administration policy of separating children from their parents at the border is evident in the cries of those children.





HAYES: Earlier today I went to the border to meet Jennifer Harbury. She`s a Civil Rights Attorney and she is the one who obtained that very audio recording. I asked her how she got it.

JENNIFER HARBURY, CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER: Well there was a whistleblower who made the tape recording. That person made it directly. That person brought it to me. We had a legal consultation about different issues and the whistleblower asked me to make it available to the press which I did.

HAYES: And that tape was taken in in the Ursula Center in the McAllen --

HARBURY: I cannot -- I can`t disclose which Customs and Border Patrol offices it was it was taken in. It was taken in a place where children are being separated from their parents and was taken in the last few days.

HAYES: I think maybe it`s -- you`ve been down here doing this work here on the border for 40 years.


HAYES: Maybe can you tell us what`s changed in the last say six weeks under this -- what the administration calls zero-tolerance policy? What have you seen first-hand?

HARBURY: I have never in 40 years seeing children separated from their parents. It`s unheard of for a misdemeanor. I mean, next time you get a parking ticket, do you expect your children to be taken away? Really? We have never seen people piled up on the bridge asking for asylum which is the legal way to do it. They`re following the laws completely. They`re legally requesting. Nowadays they`re not allowed to sit in the big air- conditioned waiting room where there`s bathrooms and stuff. They had to sleep with their children on the cement sidewalk two weeks, 16 days, in rentals on the Reynosa bridge and over in Roma that lasted for about three weeks. There was a three-month-old baby that went to a hospital.

HAYES: The argument from the Administration is if you don`t cross at the port of entry, that is illegal, that is not protected under international asylum law. When people go to ports of entry which are the border crossings with a border checkpoint and all the stuff and you come and you say I`m from Guatemala, I`m here seeking asylum.

HARBURY: All of this is aimed at shoving people back to the countries they came from and letting them die there. Number one, you tap on the door and say I`m here. At the beginning of last year and now in many places including El Paso and Brownsville, what they`re most likely to say is go away we won`t do it.

HAYES: And let me just be clear, is that new?

HARBURY: It happened a little bit last year at the beginning of the Trump administration. That has never happened before.

HAYES: OK, so that`s complete -- that is a new thing that happened with Trump that when people would present themselves for asylum being told essentially no room at the end. Get out of here. And this is because, as far as you can tell, someone has sent word down to CBP, the front line CBP officers who are manning these ports of entry, to say, for the first time that you`ve been doing this work in 40 years, you cannot come in.

HARBURY: They`re saying we will not let you apply for asylum. If they aren`t sleeping on the bridge now, what a lot of the border patrol agents are doing is saying we`re going to call Mexican immigration to come drag you away. And people are terrified of that, so they`re running back to the safe houses in Ranosa (ph), which are not safe at all. they`re a number one target for kidnapping by the cartels.

HAYES: Right, so that`s -- this is really important. So, the squeeze here is two things are happening. One is at the ports of entry, increasingly, they`re just not letting people come in to apply for asylum. People are then desperate. They`ve made this journey up from Northern Triangle. They then go back, find a coyote, try to cross somewhere else...


HAYES: And then that`s when, if they`re apprehended and they present for asylum...

HARBURY: Then they`re punished.

HAYES: That`s when they`re children are taken away.

HARBURY: And not only that, they`re punished in an additional way if they come legally, right. If they make it through the hot cement sidewalks and everything and get to, you know, get through their credible fear interview, which means they have a reasonable claim, a right to be heard by the judge, then as of last year, it had been less and less that people like that are being released on parole or bond, and that means if you have no criminal record, you have clear ID, your fingerprints come back clean and you have a number of U.S. citizen or LPR relatives who will take care of you, then you go live with them while your case goes through for a year or two.

They stopped doing that. Only some women who were pregnant were allowed out, and for a long time women with children. But people like an 18-year- old who had come running up here because both of his brothers had been killed by the cartel, he went to (inaudible) detention center. Those are exactly like prisons. They`re not -- they`re supposed to be civil detention centers, they`re not even partitions between the toilet bowls there. They`re not allowed to touch one another to comfort each other. If someone gets news that a relative has just been murdered and is crying, if they try to hug them or anything, they`re told get back or we`ll put you in the hole.

So, if you go by the river your kids will be taken away. Huge punishment. If you walk across the bridge you may get turned back altogether and kidnapped at the foot of the bridge. Or if you`re lucky enough to finally get across the bridge, you may get to sleep there. Or, if you actually get in and pass your credible fear interview, so you`re going to at least get before an immigration judge some day, you could spend two years in prison.

And what a lot of people do after being in there long enough, they give up and they go back to the dangers they fled. And they do get killed.

HAYES: Which is, of course, the entire point of the policy.

Jennifer, thank you so much.


HAYES: You can only imagine the psychological damage for these children as a result of the Trump policy. I`m joined now by Dr. Alfonso Mercado. He`s a clinical psychologist who has been working with children and families in these border communities, also a professor at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. It`s good to have you here.

So you work with these communities. Before we`re even talking about the trauma of children taken from their parents, just generally migrants that are undergoing an incredibly traumatic journey, whether they`re unaccompanied or even with parents, like what are the psychological effects that manifest when you`re dealing with them?

DR. ALFONSO MERCADO, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-RIO GRANDE VALLEY: Well, Chris, I think it`s important to understand that the reasons why these families and children are migrating to the United States are -- they range from extreme poverty, trauma, abuse, and the issues go on and on. So, we`re looking at pre-migration trauma.

And many of them experience migration during their journey, traveling thousands of miles, being exposed to severe conditions, let alone once they are here on U.S. soil they -- the trauma continues, right.

So, we`re looking at long-term consequences of the children that ranges anywhere from psychological, physical and social.

HAYES: You know, something that -- this is reading from the mental health professional petition about the policy to pretend that separating children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma. Do you agree with that?

MERCADO: We definitely see neurological consequences. Trauma brings so many consequences to the table. We`re looking at severe mental health symptoms that can arise later on in adulthood, whether it`s development of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety. We`re looking at substance abuse. So many relational, you know, issues that can arise later on in life as well.

HAYES: You know, one other thing someone said to me -- someone who worked in one of the facilities, right. So, this facility was outfitted to hold unaccompanied minors, and then it started getting kids who had been taken from their parents, right, two very different populations. Said the unaccompanied minors, you know, it was hard for them, but they knew what they were getting into when they got there. They knew they were going alone.

The people who are coming having just been ripped from their parents, there was this extra uncertainty that one second their parents was there and the next second they weren`t.

MERCADO: Chris, I see these families on a regular basis here as a psychologist in my community in South Texas. And these families don`t know what they -- they don`t know what`s happening, right. So, this is new trauma that they are experiencing if this practice is happening. And it is at different levels, right.

So, many times we`re exacerbating these -- we`re exacerbating these symptoms due to that separation, whether it`s hours, days, and weeks at a time or months at a time. And I`ve seen -- I`ve seen all of that at different levels.

HAYES: Does it stick with a kid?

MERCADO: Definitely. You know, when we`re looking at trauma at different stages, separation, we`re looking at long-term psychological effects, physical effects as well.

HAYES: All right, doctor, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time. Dr. Alfonso Mercado.

Next, Senator Jeff Merkley returned to the border after being denied access to one of the detention facilities. Now he`s calling for Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign. Senator Merkley joins me next.


HAYES: We are back here on the border in McAllen, Texas with our special coverage of the decision by Donald Trump and his administration to, among other things that we`re still learning about, forcibly separate migrant children from their parents as a plan to deter people from coming here seeking asylum.

Two weeks ago my next guest, Senator Jeff Merkley, was turned away from a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas that is now being used by the Trump administration, contracted through a social services agency, as a detention center for migrant children.

Merkley returned to the South Texas border this weekend to tour processing centers in the Rio Grande Valley, including here in McAllen, to better understand how the Trump policy is playing out on the ground.

And joining me now from back in Washington is Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon.

Senator, what did you learn by being able to access these facilities?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) OREGON: Well, I`ll tell you the -- it was very striking right from the beginning to that how much easier it is to get in when you have seven members of congress coming together, but also because of the publicity of the last two weeks.

But what we saw out on that bridge that Jennifer was speaking to and I was able to meet with Jennifer when I came two weeks ago is a story that really gives the lie to what the administration is saying when the secretary of homeland security says if only they would come to the border official site to come across there would be no issue, and yet they`re turning people away from those official sites. They`re leaving them on the bridge two weeks ago, as Jennifer was describing, and now just having border guards out there turning them away if they`re seeking asylum, letting just a couple through in the course of a day, just a few through.

HAYES: Senator, there`s a big decision that you and your colleagues have now. One way to understand what`s happened is that the president has taken hostages, essentially, in both the sort of metaphorical and literal sense - - 2,600 children separated from their parents through an act of the president and his administration, and now is using them as leverage to try to get a legislative solution favorable to his preferred policy goals.

Ted Cruz has a bill that is relatively narrow, but would truncate the asylum process and do a lot of other things. Are Democrats going to play ball with this essential -- this legislative negotiation on these terms?

MERKLEY: Well, we`re going to keep emphasizing that this entire problem was created with the stroke of a pen, a presidential pen, and it`s a presidential pen that can end it.

Now, Cruz is putting forward a bill, that`s what legislators do. His bill actually sets up a kangaroo court. It says that you have 14 days from your -- basically your detention, or your prison cell, to be able to get documents from your home country to make your case and prove that your life was at risk and you have a credible fear of return. Nobody can do that. So everybody would be turned down for asylum. I`m sure there`s other problems in it as well, but that`s certainly one of them.

We have to keep coming back to the fact that we are a nation that has always treated through fleeing persecution with respect, treating people respectfully. They get their hearing. If they meet the standard then welcomed into the U.S., if not then they leave.

And we have -- well, we only let in about 1 out of 5 through those hearings. And we had a case management program that was working, by all accounts, quite well, but the administration shut down, that had people turning up for their hearings at very high rates. And one article I read it said 100 percent, another article said 99 percent.

So, we had a perfectly good system torn down by the president in this effort to start essentially hurting children to send a message to families overseas, just totally unacceptable.

HAYES: All right, Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for your time tonight.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, as the eyes of the entire world turn to this very border, we are just minutes away from right now what do people of Texas who call this state home think of what`s happening. Much more from McAllen right after this.


HAYES: We`re back with our special live coverage from McAllen, Texas and in this reddest of red states, Republicans are starting to publicly oppose the government`s policy of separating families at the border. In the past 24 hours, Ted Cruz, Texas Senator, introduced a bill to keep families together. You heard Senator Jeff Merkley offer some criticisms of the particulars of that bill, but his Republican colleague, also Texas Senator Jon Cornyn said in a speech from the Senate floor he intended to do the same thing, which is interesting given that Beto O`Rourke, who is running against Ted Cruz, sort of took the lead on this issue.

Also in the last 24 hours in a letter, Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Strauss asked the president move immediately to rescind the policy of separating immigrant families and then made it clear that this is not a binary choice between rampant crime and tearing families apart.

With me now Tania Chavez who is a strategist at immigration rights group La Union de Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, and Democratic state representative Terry Canales.

Tania, let me start with you, what are the concerns your organization who works here down in McAllen has about what the effects of this policy are?

TANIA CHAVEZ, LA UNION DE PUEBLO ENTERO: Well, one of the fears that we have is that we have dealt with the issue of immigration for many years, and families who have resided here for many years are now wondering are we next, right?


HAYES: So it has sort of cast a pall over the community here.

CHAVEZ: Exactly. And then the other issue is now we`re starting to get some calls into our office. And how do we reunite those children with their parents? Our biggest concern is that when children get routed through the system and they`re ready to be released to a family member, their parents are in detention, so how are you going to get them to someone -- in safety?

And if they were to have another undocumented relative that they could be released to, the zero tolerance policy is preventing those family members from stepping forward to picking up those children. So now we have them being released to a foster care system.

HAYES: Right, so you can have someone, a kid who has cleared the process, who is ready to be released, that the adult is still in detention because that -- they`ve been separated in the processing, and then they can`t go to an actual family member they have because that family member is too scared they`re going to get prosecuted and deported.

CHAVEZ: Exactly. And so what we`re dealing with, with our community is that historically in the Rio Grande Valley we dealt with the issue of immigration, and we have increased (inaudible). And we`re also wondering if this is going to mean more (inaudible) for border communities when we`re just trying to make a living and be a safe community, a welcoming community for all immigrants.

HAYES: This is your district, what did you think of the letter from the house speaker today?

TERRY CANALES, TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: It was what was needed. You know, we`ve got two different breeds of Republicans in Texas. And I think Joe Strauss represents the more ideological person that better represents the mainstream Republican, not this far fringe right Republican that we`ve seen that basically, you know, a President Trump style follower.

HAYES: I mean, this is a massive disruption for this area, right.

CANALES: It`s incredibly.

HAYES: You -- you`re someone who has been in that facility, you represent the border, what`s new now, what has changed under the Trump administration, particularly under this policy?

CANALES: Well, what you`re seeing clearly is -- having -- the last time I was in the facility in 2014, those were unaccompanied minors. What they`re created are unaccompanied minors who actually weren`t unaccompanied, which is the problem.

But make no mistake, that`s a prison. I`ve been inside it. The children sleep on the floor. They`re covered in aluminum look like foil camping blankets. This is a terrible place to be.

And the last time I was in here, Chris, I sat in my truck for almost 20 minutes and cried my eyes out. That was me. I can`t imagine the children that are in there. It`s absolutely devastating, the psychological effect.

And know that we`re at the epicenter of this, that our community is at the epicenter of this, it`s really taken a toll on us all.

CHAVEZ: Yesterday and this morning when we were here, we get to see the buses where the children are being shuttled out, and it`s really -- it breaks your heart to see those children waving their hands at you. And so we need to make sure that the public knows that this can be ended by the Trump administration with the stroke of a pen. He has the power to end this policy.

HAYES: So really important thing that I want to hear from both of you, because you live in this community, you represent this community, there is -- the context of this whole thing is that somehow these people that are coming seeking asylum, in most cases, they need to be held somewhere, you can`t just like let them go. But of course that was what we did for years, right.

CHAVEZ: They don`t need to be held anywhere, they are asylum seekers looking for a better way of life. They need to be processed and being given a credible fear interview and be let in into the United States, that`s what needs to happen.

We are not in the business of incarcerating kids like we`re doing today.

So, the nation and this Trump administration needs to end this policy because it`s immoral.

CANALES: Additionally, I`d weigh in and say that one of the aspects that you hear is this MS-13 rhetoric, that they`re all -- I spoke with my sheriff and he said in 2016 they had one person arrested that was affiliated, an American born; 2017, one affiliated; and 2018, one affiliated, all American born. Three people in three years in a county of over a million people.

HAYES: In a county of a million people on the border and at the site of an influx of people that are...

CANALES: It`s a false narrative, and the idea that they`re selling it to the American people that there`s an influx of MS-13 people -- yes, the majority. There are -- maybe there are some caught at the border, but the idea that they`re sticking around here and creating havoc, that`s not the truth. And it`s been confirmed by my largest law enforcement agency.

So, this -- the idea that...

HAYES: When you hear the president talk about the threat, and when you hear -- when you see the president use the word like infest -- he used that word today, I don`t know if you noticed -- he said that they`re coming here to infest the U.S.

CANALES: It`s disheartening. It`s disgusting. And what they`re doing isn`t like Jeff Sessions said that there`s some sort of biblical justification, this is not biblical this is diabolical. And it`s disheartening to me. And it`s racist, at best.

CHAVEZ: America is a welcoming country. We are nation of immigrants, and therefore we should be welcoming them.

CANALES: Absolutely.

CHAVEZ: I asked President Trump how will he feel if his child were to be taken away from him, right? He is a father, why is he tearing apart children from their parents.

HAYES: Texas State Representative Terry Canales, Tania Chavez of LUPE, thank you very much for joining me.

CANALES: Thank you.

HAYES: Just in case you`re unclear about how Trump and his supporters feel about things, I want to take you to take a look at Corey Lewandowski, this a very close aid and friend of the president, a former Trump campaign manager, and this is him reacting to a story about what`s happening here at the border on Fox News earlier tonight. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage. I read about a - - did you say whomp, whomp to a 10-year-old with Down Syndrome being taken from her mother?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What I said is you can (inaudible) but the bottom line...


LEWANDOWSKI: When you cross the border illegally, you have...


HAYES: There you have the reaction to a story in the Wall Street Journal about how, as a result of this Trump policy, a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome was recently separated from her mother and 10-year-old brother as they attempted to enter the U.S.

The girl was sent to a facility in McAllen, while her mother was sent to Brownsville. And Corey Lewandowski, who is a close associate of the president of the United States says whomp, whomp on national television.

I am in McAllen, Texas. And Lawrence O`Donnell is in Brownsville. Lawrence, it feels like some kind of moral reckoning the country is working through right now.

O`DONNELL: Well, what we just saw with Cory Lewandowski is the sad fact that you won`t pick up on this network`s coverage, but that there are people out there who are actually enjoying this, not feeling neutral about it, not feeling confused about it, not feeling that the law is worth supporting even if it`s painful, there are people watching this who are enjoying it. And Cory Lewandowski is one of them.

And would it surprise anyone that the campaign manager of the presidential candidate who actually himself on a stage in front of his supporters mocked a disabled reporter and made fun of a reporter`s physical disability? Would it surprise anyone that Corey Lewandowski would do this?

If you put Corey Lewandowski on television, there is a very high likelihood of something like that happening. The real issue is why would anyone put him on television?

HAYES: You know, there`s this kind of braggadocio that comes from the White House -- and I remember this happened with the Muslim ban when it was a complete, you know, it was a complete cluster and it was a crisis and it was getting knocked down in court, when there were protests at every airport, and you`ve got these off the record quotes from Bannon and Miller being like oh we wanted this. We like making the liberals cry.

And you`re seeing similar things now, that this is the intent of the Trump administration to cause this crisis. They like it. Do you think that`s true?

O`DONNELL: Well, Steve Bannon says it`s true. And I don`t know why we`d want to doubt that. It seems that they get energy from it, it seems the president gets energized by it. The president seems more energized by this now than he was a couple of days ago.

I mean, here I am standing in front of the largest facility, Casa Padre, that is holding children in Texas, largest facility that`s holding children in the country, and I`m not the first reporter to stand here in front of this building. But by the time I`m standing in front of it, the president is going up to Capitol Hill tonight and kind of leading a cheerleading sessions about how well this is going.

HAYES: Is he marching -- I mean, the politics of this are fascinating to me, because this was something that it sort of -- it -- we started covering it four weeks ago. It was a din. It has become a roar. I saw Beto O`Rourke, who is challenging Ted Cruz here out in front of that. And all of a sudden, the next thing you know, Ted Cruz has a bill that he is sponsoring. And Jon Cornyn. And now Mitch McConnell says, no, we don`t like this. And the House Republicans, no, we don`t like this. And oh no this is terrible.

And Will Hurd, who is in a district that almost voted for Hillary, voted for Hillary -- you know, a tight district was just on my show saying I don`t like this. The politics of this seem to be pointing away from the White House. What do you think?

O`DONNELL: Well, Chris, no one has more actual experience of this issue than people who live in the border states. People who have been living in Texas for decades have seen versions of this for decades. And they know that the world doesn`t come to an end if you release a parent and a child instead of putting them into custody, as we`re doing now for the first time.

And so it`s no surprise that people in border states, like Texas, would be reacting against this.

HAYES: There`s also a sort of question here about what -- is there a breaking point? Everyone keeps looking for the breaking point. There was a question about the breaking point in Charlottesville. There was a question about -- you know, the S-hole countries that he talked about.

And the president using the language he`s been using the last two days talking about Germany has to preserve its purity against the sort of interlopers, rooting on right-wing nationalist movements in Europe. And then today talking about immigrants infesting the country. I mean, it has always been ugly from the moment he came down the escalator, but it feels particularly dark and ugly right now.

O`DONNELL: Well, it seems, Chris, that when you put Donald Trump under pressure you find out more truth about him. The more pressure that the Republicans in congress have been getting on this issue, the more pressure the White House has been getting on this issue, the more clarifying Donald Trump`s words are about it, the more clarifying Corey Lewandowski is about it tonight, showing us that he actually enjoys this.

And so this is part of the process. If you -- if the pressure backed on Donald Trump, he actually reacts in a way that reveals more of what he really thinks.

Remember when he said I hated seeing this? He said I hate seeing this? That`s what he was saying on Friday. He doesn`t say that anymore.

HAYES: You`re there in Brownsville, and you`re going to be reporting and hosting your show live from there later tonight and doing some work trying to find where the girls who are being held are, where the tender aged children. What do you have in store tonight?

O`DONNELL: Chris, I did find one facility today that reportedly has the girls, it has many girls, and it has some infants. And we know that because some diapers had been seen around there. There`s evidence of that.

But how can we be standing here in Texas, in the United States of America, and saying to the country we don`t know where the babies are. We don`t know where the girls are. That is a mystery to us because the government has made it a mystery to us. They will not tell us what they have done with the girls. They will not tell us what they`ve done with the babies. And the secretary of homeland security, who is supposed to know this, who is in charge of this, yesterday at the White House her answer was basically I don`t know.

HAYES: All right, Lawrence O`Donnell is in Brownsville, Texas, and he will be broadcasting his show, The Last Word, with Lawrence O`Donnell live tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

I`ll be there, as well, you should to. There`s lots more to cover here. Lawrence, thank you very much for joining me.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: And we will be back here live from McAllen, Texas tomorrow night with much more reporting on this important story. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.