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Trump faces stiff criticism over border policies. TRANSCRIPT: 06/18/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Ginger Thompson, Beto O`Rourke, Mona Hanna-Attisha

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 18, 2018 Guest: Ginger Thompson, Beto O`Rourke, Mona Hanna-Attisha

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. I`m very, very, very much looking forward to seeing you from McAllen. Thanks. Much appreciated.

Thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.

I`ve got to tell you we have two very, very, very good guests joining us on this show tonight. A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who cracked open a huge new window into the biggest story in the country right now. An absolutely shocking report. She`s going to be joining us here in just a moment.

We`ve also got a second guest here tonight who is a legitimate American hero. She is someone who broke open another one of the biggest stories in the country but she did it not as a reporter but as a doctor. Her story is amazing. She`s here tonight for the interview.

You heard Chris Hayes just say that his show tomorrow night is going to be live from near the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas. We`re also going to be joined tonight by a congressman who`s now running for Senate in Texas who represents a border community and who has been leading the political response to what`s been happening on the border, including an incredible march that happened yesterday on that tent city, that tent encampment that they have put up near the border to house kids.

So, we have a lot to get to. Lots going on.

In April, President Trump issued a proclamation calling for National Guard troops to be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border. He did not order National Guard troops to the border. He didn`t direct them to go under his own authority. He didn`t federalize them.

National Guard troops are still under the control of the governors of all 50 states. But Trump issued this proclamation, telling the governor to send their guardsmen. And lots of governors did. And National Guard troops from states all over the country have gone on these domestic deployments down to the border region because the president asked.

It has not been entirely clear what National Guard troops can effectively do at the border that border patrol and local law enforcement can`t do. There`s not that clear a mission for these National Guardsmen and National Guardswomen begin sent from all over the country.

Just a few days ago, had this headline: Trump ordered troops to the border but they`re doing busywork. So, President Trump sending National Guard troops to the border has not been a rollicking policy success. Nobody really knows what they`re doing there. It`s also not the most controversial thing in the world either. National Guard troops, they do get called on to do all sorts of stuff. There have been previous instances of previous presidents sending National Guard troops to the border for specific deployments to help with specific stuff.

Today, though, the governor of Massachusetts, who is a Republican, he announced today that he is rescinding his previous decision to send Massachusetts National Guard troops down to the border in response to President Trump asking. Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, again, a Republican, announced today that he is canceling the Massachusetts national guard border deployment.

A statement from the governor`s communications director said, quote: Governor Baker directed the national guard to not send any assets or personnel to the southwest border today because of the federal government`s current actions which are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children. Governor Baker had previously criticized the Trump administration`s new policy of taking kids away from their parents at the border. He was asked about it in a radio interview last month, at which point he said he had a huge problem with that.

But it was not until today that he really decided to put his state`s money where his mouth is. And today, he ordered a stop on the planned deployment of Massachusetts National Guard troops under his control. They will no longer be going down there to participate. So that was Massachusetts today, where there is a Republican governor.

In Colorado today, where there is a Democratic governor, Governor John Hickenlooper there signed an executive order which bans any state resources from the state of Colorado from being used in support of the Trump administration`s policy of separating these kids. Quote: No state agency may use any state resources, including but not limited to moneys, equipment, or personnel, for the purpose of separating any child from his or her parent or legal guardian on the sole ground that such parent or legal guardian is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. No state agency may use any state resources.

This executive order today says, quote: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security`s policy and practice of separating children from their parents while arriving at the southern border is offensive to our core values as Coloradans and as a country.

Now, as a practical matter, were significant state resources from the state of Colorado being used before today? To help effectuate this Trump administration policy of taking kids away from their parents? I have no idea.

Just like we don`t know if those Massachusetts National Guard troops who would have been sent to the border, we don`t know if they would have been doing anything other than busywork behind the scenes in their now canceled deployment.

But with what these two governors did today and actions like these from these two governors, from these two different parties, these two different states, you can see the same dynamic at work, right? You see these governors looking for some way to actively disassociate themselves from this disaster on the border. People are no longer content just to say, yes, I disagree or to criticize it.

People, particularly ambitious people, ambitious politicians, now want more than that. They want to be on the record as having taken whatever action they could to stop it. However distantly they might be connected to this policy, they want to make sure they are pulling themselves back from it, doing what they can to not just criticize but undermine this policy, to ensure that they can`t ever be blamed for having played some small part in it, canceled deployments and executive orders.

Like you saw today from Massachusetts and Colorado, those are the manifestations out in the country, out in the states today. But those efforts by those governors to get the stink of this policy off them, that follows a little bit the same pattern of what`s been happening in Washington on this. I mean, the president is still trying to create an alternate reality in which the country somehow blames Democrats for his administration`s new policy. Despite the fact that Democrats are unanimously against it and it`s his policy, he came up with it, and it`s brand new.

That alternate reality has a little bit of competition from several other Trump administration alternate realities that have also been simultaneously floated by the administration. Senior Trump administration officials have variously tried into sift that there is no policy of separating kids from their parents at the border. Like this statement last night from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The administration has also gone through a little spasm now of trying to blame their new policy on an old court ruling, a long-standing legal imperative that long predated the Trump administration in which they lament. That excuse suffers from the obvious short coming that if there really was some long-standing law or court ruling that required this policy, how is it possible that no previous president, no previous administration ever felt compelled by that law to do what the Trump administration is doing now?

But they`re trying to come up with some way to talk about it, right? That keeps the stink off of them.

It`s interesting, though. With all the chaos in Washington around this, denying it and blaming other people for it and lying about the origins of this policy, you shouldn`t let that fuzziness in terms of the way it`s being talked about politically, don`t let that fuzziness, that deliberately created ambiguity about the origins of this policy create any doubt in your mind as to whether or not this policy actually is in effect.

It is in effect. It is a new thing. It`s something no other administration has done. And the talking about it in Washington is wobbly as heck and getting wobblier every day, especially today.

But on the ground, the policy itself is in effect and importantly we now have very clear evidence that it is accelerating. On Friday night on the show, you might remember we talked about the initial data we had from homeland security about the number of kids taken from their parents between April 19th and May 31st. That`s when we had data.

Friday night, we were able to report that between those two dates just shy of 2,000 kids, 1,995 kids had been taken away from their parents between April 19th and May 31st. We now have a new set of data that extends the time frame through this weekend. And this is for the time period May 5th through June 9th.

Homeland Security now says that in that period, 2,342 kids were forcibly taken away from their parents. And I know that just sounds like a jumble of numbers and dates, but what that means, bottom line, is that as of last month, the Trump administration was taking away an average of 46 kids per day from their parents. Now, as of this month, they`re not taking 46 kids a day away from their parents. They`re taking 67 kids a day away from their parents, 46 last month, 67 this month.

So, given the mess they have made of this in Washington and the fumbling, bumbling, cannot get their story straight, do not know what to admit messaging disaster they have got on this in Washington, on the ground, it`s straightforward. This is in effect. It`s getting bigger and faster all the time. Forty-six kids a day last month, 67 kids a day as of this month. They are scaling up.

This weekend all over the country, we saw Democratic lawmakers turning up at immigration detention facilities trying to use their status as lawmakers to get access to some of these facilities, to try to see firsthand what`s going on there. Yesterday on Father`s Day, there was a march on a facility in Tornillo, Texas, where they`re holding kids essentially in a prison camp, holding kids in tents. They didn`t announce until Thursday that they had picked this site for a kids` prison camp.

But then by the very next day, by Friday, it was open and already accepting hundreds of kids. The sudden opening of that facility, the sudden publicity that that is where at least some of these kids will be held led to this march yesterday, which included a number of elected officials, most from Texas. But Congressman Joe Kennedy was there as well from Massachusetts.

"Texas Tribune" ended up getting still images, as you can see, shot by one of their photographers. You can sort of tell these were shot from a distance. These are some of the only images that we`ve got of these kids inside these camps and jails, in this case this tent city.

Even as members of Congress and senators have been demanding entry into some of these facilities and some of these facilities have started doing limited guided tours for select reporters. But nobody`s been allowed to freely cover the conditions here or to talk to the kids. There are no cameras inside.

We have been getting increasingly rich and emotionally resonant eyewitness reports from reporters who`ve been able to get in. From some advocates who`ve been able to get in to try to provide services or legal representation for some of these kids. But there hasn`t been any footage.

Then today, there was a little bit of a breakthrough. There was a lot of anticipation around the White House press briefing today. Press briefing is always a spectacle now. But on this issue of taking kids away from their parents, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders had been getting particularly beat up in that briefing room about this policy.

Reporters had come at her on this very aggressively, about the administration not telling the truth about this new policy, not coming up with a justification for what they`re doing that seems to fit the magnitude of the trauma that`s being inflicted on these families and on these little kids. I mean, last week, we had reporters saying to Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the briefing room, come on, Sarah, you`re a parent.

And whatever you think of the White House spokesperson, that doesn`t make it easy, right, for somebody who`s handling a White House press briefing. Nor is it easy when everybody else in the administration that you`re supposedly speaking for has a different explanation for what`s happening, right? There`s Kirstjen Nielsen saying it`s not our policy yesterday and then today saying it`s Congress`s policy and there`s the president saying, yes, it`s the policy but it`s the Democrats` policy. And there`s the attorney general saying, oh, yes, it is our policy. It`s for deterrence, we`ve put this in place for a good reason.

I mean, all these different explanations and denials and excuses and lies would make it hard for any White House spokesperson to come one any sort of coherent answer to what you knew would be incredibly difficult questions from the press about this policy today. And then on top of that, by the time the press briefing was due to start today, all the living first ladies of the United States, every one of them, from Melania Trump to Michelle Obama to Laura bush to Hillary Clinton to Rosalynn Carter, they all put out statements by today in their own ways and their own language, their own emphasis, their own styles, but all of them criticizing this policy and saying it had to end.

When`s the last time all living first ladies of the United States criticized a current and new administration policy? That is an unusual moral chorus in this country for anybody to try to sing against.

So, it was clear that the press briefing wasn`t going to be fun today for the White House. And then as the day got longer today, you could just feel Capitol Hill, specifically you could start to feel the Senate starting to just curdle on this.

I`ll give you a Democratic example and a Republican example. Here`s a sample from the Democratic side first.


SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: I would welcome the resignation of all those in this administration who have lied for the president in terms of whether or not there is actually a policy to separate children from their parents at the border. We all know that is happening. And to lie about it just compounds the problem. So, all the people who have continued to lie for the president, I would welcome all of their resignations so this country can have a fresh start.

REPORTER: Laura Bush compared the policy of having these camps and having these --


REPORTER: -- places, likened it to the internment camps that used to happen -- or that there were in the United States from before. Do you think that it`s similar to that? Do you see --

HIRONO: I think the fact that Laura Bush called attention to that and the fact that 120,000 Japanese-Americans were -- let`s not use the term intern. They were incarcerated. They were put in places with barbed wire and guards with guns. That`s what happened in this country. And we`ve been saying this should never happen again. But it is happening again.

REPORTER: What would your message be to your Republican colleagues in the Senate who have said they oppose the idea of separating children from their parents?

HIRONI: Many more of them should speak up. And you know, I hate to call them what they are exemplifying, like gutless wonders. They need to step up and act like decent Americans who understand the history of our country and the role that immigrants have played. Not to mention, this is a party that continues to talk about how family unity and all of that is so important. The word hypocrisy doesn`t even begin to describe the fact that more of them have not come forward and spoken out against this very cruel, unnecessary decision by the administration to rip apart these families.

REPORTER: Thank you.


MADDOW: That`s what it sounded like from the Democratic side today, just to sample, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono.

Here`s a sample of what it sounded like from the Republican side today.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I`ve had many conversations with many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see what we could come up with, but the fact is the administration has the authority to fix this immediately without legislation. Nevertheless, there is -- well, there are multiple groups working on possible legislative fixes.

REPORTER: Secretary Nielsen today said that Congress alone has the authority to fix it.

COLLINS: That is not the case. Otherwise, how could the previous two administrations have rejected this approach? That`s amazing that she said that.


MADDOW: That`s amazing that she said that. She doesn`t mean amazing in a good way.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine talking about the Trump administration homeland security secretary.

I don`t know how the Trump administration thought it was going to go when they started wholesale removing children from their parents forcibly against the will of the parents and the children. It`s not clear how much thought went into this at all. "New York Times" now reports that parents separated from their children are in some cases being deported without their children, even though that is not supposed to happen. They`re being separated from their kids at the border. The U.S. government is keeping their kids and deporting the parents.

"The New Yorker" today has a devastating report which appears to show that there`s no actual plan that the government is even trying to implement to get kids and parents back together in any sort of systematic way.

Quote: No protocols have been put in place for keeping track of parents and children concurrently, for keeping parents and children in contact with each other while they are separated or for eventually reuniting them. No protocols have been put in place for eventually reuniting parents with their children.

So, it`s not clear how much thought went into this, full stop. But the policy is accelerating. Right? The outrage is snowballing to the point of avalanche. The White House and the administration clearly have no idea how to talk about this, how to answer any questions about what it is that they`re doing. And then today, a remarkable thing happened. As the White House press briefing was set to start, we got what may turn out to be the straw that broke the camel`s back.

In the White House briefing room there`s all those seats where reporters sit waiting for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to come out. There`s a previously scheduled White House briefing today. They`re all sitting there waiting for her.

Reporters in the room all at the same time start getting the same alert in their e-mail inboxes on their phones. They all started clicking on the same link. They all started listening to a recording that had just been published by "ProPublica".

Through all of the swelling outrage over this policy with even Republican members of Congress saying I can`t believe this is happening, I can`t believe this is being handled this way, with politicians around the country joining marches, signing executive orders, canceling troop deployments, doing anything they can to distance themselves from this -- as the national attention and outrage focused on this policy has built to a roar, all of this time there`s been no footage, right? There`s been distant telephoto lens still images.

There`s been written descriptions from reporters or to camera descriptions by reporters of what they`ve just seen but they can`t show it to you yourself. All this time we have been left to imagine what it must be like, what those kids must be going through, until today. At "ProPublica" they finally published the first direct footage of what is actually happening in there. And as all those reporters were sitting there in the White House briefing room, they all started clicking on the same link. They all started listening to they`ll at once.

And then everybody else in the country started listening to this all at once and the "ProPublica" Website crashed and the direct links to the audio started circulating as a secondary backup so more people could hear it while "ProPublica" tried to deal with the traffic. And while the reporters were sitting there waiting for the White House press briefing to start, while they`re listening to this thing that was just published by "ProPublica", the White House press briefing got called off, at least for then.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not be appearing in public and answering anything about this today. Instead they put the homeland security secretary on a plane from New Orleans to have her come face those questions herself because this suddenly today became something that the White House communications shop could no longer handle in its tiny little hands.

That audio and the reporter who broke that remarkable story is here with us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Ginger Thompson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who spent 15 years at "The New York Times" as an investigative reporter, as a Washington correspondent, as the Mexico City bureau chief. She`s now at "ProPublica". And she is the reporter who obtained the first recording today from inside a customs and border patrol detention facility since the Trump administration started implementing this new policy of taking kids away from their parents, which they`re now apparently doing at a rate of nearly 70 children per day.

Thompson said she obtained this recording from a Texas lawyer who in turn says that she got it from a client who says it was recorded last week in a detention facility. Now, on this recording you will hear kids crying here. You will hear kids crying for their mothers and their fathers. You will hear workers talking to them and trying to sort of figure out what to do with these kids.

And you will also hear one very persistent, sort of heartbreaking persistent 6-year-old girl from El Salvador whom "ProPublica" has identified by name and what she is asking for here is for someone to please call her aunt. She`s 6 years old. She has memorized her aunt`s phone number, and she`s trying to get an adult, any adult, to help her, to call her family, to call the number she has memorized because she knows surely she should be picked up. She should not be there alone.


BORDER PATROL AGENT: Where are you from?





UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to go with my aunt --

BORDER PATROL AGENT: You`re going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.


CONSULAR WORKER: I`m going to take you to speak to the person from your consulate, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: At least can I go with my aunt? I want here to come - -

I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house.

BORDER PATROL AGENT: She`ll help you call your aunt, if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I have her number.

BORDER PATROL AGENT: OK, so she`ll help you right now so you can talk to her.




UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Are you going to call my aunt so that when I`m done eating, she can pick me up?

CONSULAR WORKER: When you get your food, I`ll come back so that --

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I have her number memorized 34, 72 --


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to go, too.

CONSULAR WORKER: Where is your mother?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: In someone else`s house.

CONSULAR WORKER: Where is your mommy?


CONSULAR WORKER: Where your parents? Your mom?

You`ve come with your dad? And you`ve come with your mom.

And you? With your mom too?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: She came with her dad.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Are you going to call my aunt so she can come pick me up?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: And then, so my mom can come as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: First with daddy.

First with daddy.

CONSULAR WORKER: Do you have the number?



UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: My mommy says I`ll go with my aunt, and that she`ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible, so I can go with her.


MADDOW: Remarkable audio today published by "ProPublica".

Joining us now is Ginger Thompson. She`s a senior reporter with "ProPublica" who today published that first footage, audio footage from inside one ever these detention facilities where kids are being taken away from their parents and then processed by workers who don`t seem to quite know how to do it.

Ginger, thank you for being here.


MADDOW: It`s hard to hear.

THOMPSON: Yes, it is.

MADDOW: So, how did you get the audio?

THOMPSON: So we got a call from long-time sources of mine on the border about the fact that a civil rights attorney had a tape. And I called the attorney, talked to her about the tape. She described what was on it and told me how she had gotten the tape and that she wanted to share it. The lawyer did, because she felt that these were the voices that were sort of missing in this debate.

MADDOW: Absolutely. Literally missing.

THOMPSON: The children.

MADDOW: Yes, we haven`t heard from any of them.

THOMPSON: The people who have the most at stake in this debate. And so, she shared it with me, and then we talked about the best ways to use the tape. And we decided to use the whole thing.

MADDOW: Is it illegal to have a recording from inside one of these facilities? I`m struck by the fact there`s so much attention to what`s going on there. And the thing that has been missing is anybody being able to talk to these kids, any moving images of what`s going on there is, any footage from the inside that`s not taken by the authorities.

THOMPSON: Well, it`s unclear know that authorities in these centers can`t have telephones or people who work in these centers with these children, right? But I think that what we have seen is that the administration when it tries -- when it offers to take the public into these places those situations are very scripted, very controlled.

So, reporters have only been allowed in without cameras in most cases or very limited cameras. They`ve not been able to talk to people who are detained in these facilities. So, for the public access to these facilities has been very controlled.

MADDOW: You -- we were able to focus on one kid in particular, a 6-year- old Salvadoran girl. You were able to track down her family members in part because she -- it`s a heartbreaking thing, that she`s 6 years old, she`s got this number memorized and that`s essentially her lifeline to the outside world. Are you able to tell us anything about her status?

THOMPSON: So she apparently has been moved out of the border patrol facility where this recording was made and is now in a shelter that is run by Health and Human Services, where she says that she has a bed, she`s got good food. But she still feels very alone and authorities --

MADDOW: She`s 6.

THOMPSON: She`s 6. And authorities there have said to her that there`s a chance her mother could be deported without her. So she`s still quite traumatized.

MADDOW: That is -- I mean, part of learning that there are parents who are being deported without their kids. I mean, that`s the U.S. government taking kids from their parents, keeping them.

THOMPSON: That`s right.

MADDOW: And forcibly sending the parent away.

THOMPSON: That`s right.

MADDOW: And there does not -- as far as we know, reporting from the "New Yorker" today suggests there is no -- it`s not that things are falling through the cracks or there`s a patchwork system here that`s not always working. It seems like there is no process for reuniting parents and kids once they`re separated.

Is that true?

THOMPSON: Well, from what I`ve heard from advocates and lawyers, this is not unusual, that a parent`s case will move through the system very quickly. They will be deported. And their children are here.

And then bureaucratically the system has to figure out how to put those two people back together.

MADDOW: Because they go by different agencies. They`re certainly obviously in different geographic --

THOMPSON: I`ve heard of separations that go on for months. Months and months.

MADDOW: Ginger Thompson, senior reporter with "ProPublica" -- congratulations on this scoop. This is serious stuff. Thank you. It`s really good to have you here.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Congressman Beto O`Rourke yesterday led a march to the Tornillo, Texas, makeshift campsite for separated kids, kids that have been taken away from their parents. It`s near his El Paso, Texas district.

But Congressman O`Rourke, if he gets his way, will be representing all of Texas soon. He`s running for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas that`s currently held by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

Congressman O`Rourke, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Nice to have you here.

REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

MADDOW: I know where you were yesterday and you`re here in New York today. What were you hoping to achieve with this Tornillo march on Father`s Day?

O`ROURKE: You want to bring this to everyone`s attention because some people say this is not us, we would never do this, this isn`t America.


O`ROURKE: But we`re doing this right now. It`s being done in our name. And this is America.

And so, with 24 hours` notice, we asked people to come out, bear witness in Tornillo, not an easy place to get to. More than 1,000 came from not just El Paso and Dona Ana County in New Mexico, but from all over Texas, Salt Lake City, Denver. Joe Kennedy from Boston, Massachusetts.

And they were there to make sure that we could answer this question. Who is this country? In a better way than we are right now. We`re not a country that is going to take kids from their parents after they have survived a 2,000-mile journey, fleeing the most brutal, the most violent, the deadliest countries in this hemisphere if not the planet.

We`re a country that`s going to make sure we follow our own laws. There`s a lawful way to petition for asylum. And this young mother I was telling you about earlier who survived the journey from Honduras with her 7-year- old daughter in the McAllen border control station they said why didn`t you cross at the port of entry? She said, I was scared. I didn`t know where to cross --

MADDOW: And the key point there is that the administration saying, if you want to apply for asylum and you cross at a point of entry, you will not be separated from your parents. We`re only separating parents and kids if you cross in the wrong place.

O`ROURKE: Except now at the ports of entry, like at Hidalgo, Reynosa or Ciudad Juarez, El Paso, there are customs officers who were standing at the international line not allowing you to set foot on U.S. soil so that you can lawfully petition for asylum, creating, the perverse incentive to cross in between the ports of entry.

We`re literally saying there is no more room in the United States.

MADDOW: They`ve closed the ports of entry and then told people, unless you come from the port of entry, we`re taking your kid.

O`ROURKE: It`s catch 22. What do you do?

And if you have just survived that, if you know you are prey to the cartels in Reynosa, Matamoros or Ciudad Juarez, or you`re just going to have to find some way to get to this country, you`re going to get to this country, that`s what I would do for my kids. That`s what almost any human would do.

And we`re punishing people, we`re prosecuting them for being human and then taking their kids from them at their most vulnerable, their most desperate moment.

Later that day, we went to a detention center where we met a man who`d fled Guatemala with his 12-year-old girl, hadn`t seen her in six days, through tears, through this Plexiglas window we could barely hear each other through, he`s asking me, where is she? Then he says deport me, I know I`ll be killed just make sure she stays here in this country, I want to make sure she stays here and she`s OK.

So that`s why we marched on Tornillo. We`ve got to be there. We`ve got to own this. We`ve got to make there better. We`re introducing legislation tomorrow that ends family separation in the United States. Make sure that we honor not just our own laws.

We have asylum laws on the book, but our best traditions, our best interests, who we are, at least who I tell my kids we are. We still have the chance to get this right. It`s still within our power to do this.

MADDOW: You are running for Senate, and your opponent, the incumbent Senator Ted Cruz put out a statement today saying that he also supports ending family separation and blaming Democrats for the policy, saying if Democrats would only stop playing politics, the problem could be solved.

On the one hand, I feel like if you and your opponent are both propose an end to this policy, then maybe we`ve got a toehold here. On the other hand, it seems like this is the same line that`s being used by the president, who`s justifying retaining the policy while saying that he hates it even though he`s the one who invented and implemented it.

O`ROURKE: Yes. This, to be clear, was a decision by President Trump implemented by Secretary Nielsen. There should be no mistake about it. This is unprecedented.

One hundred percent of those young mothers, those young fathers with their young kids at our international border, where we connect with the rest of the world are being arrested, prosecuted like common criminals for a misdemeanor offense and having their children taken from them. And not knowing when and this is important if they will ever see those kids again, and we know there are parents who have already been deported back to their countries of origin without their kids, not knowing where their kids are.

The president today, tonight right now, this second could make the decision that we are going to end this practice and honor our own asylum laws and do the right thing. Failing that, Congress must act. We have a bill tomorrow introduced in the House. We want Republicans to join us as well, that ensures that we keep families together, that those families that do have to be separated for whatever reason are at least tracked so that we can rejoin them again at the end of their legal process.

And that if you have a credible fear of returning to your country because they cannot protect you from death, from violence, from your child being raped or pressed into gang service, that you find a home here. That`s our story, right? For more than 230 years.

The O`Rourkes found a home here. The Gonzalezes found a home here. The Lees. The people of the planet when there was nowhere else to go came here and made this country great. And we`re about to lose it forever.

MADDOW: Are you confirming the reporting in "The New Yorker" today that there isn`t -- there isn`t a protocol, there isn`t a system set up to track parents and children concurrently once they have been separated? Are you confirming that?

O`ROURKE: After we met that young mother with her 7-year-old daughter who had been arrested hours before and in hours were going to be separated, they didn`t know that. I went to the processing center where you can see the kids in a 20 by 20 foot cyclone-fenced cages. Given a tour by someone whose job title includes consequence delivery, and I asked her, can --

MADDOW: The job title is consequence delivery?

O`ROURKE: Consequence delivery.

And I said, how do you track these kids and these parents? She said we`ve got an alien number that we assign to that parent and that child. That alien number stays with them as long as they`re in the custody of Customs and Border Protection.

Mind you, that parent`s about to be in the custody of Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. That child will go over to Health and Human Services.


O`ROURKE: And I said, does the A number follow them there? She said I don`t know.

It`s kind of like Secretary Nielsen tonight when asked about that said, you`ve got to ask the people at HHS, that`s not our job in our department. This is our job as Americans in this country. We`ve got to get it right.

MADDOW: Congressman Beto O`Rourke of Texas, thank you for being here.

O`ROURKE: Thank you. I really appreciate it. Yes.

MADDOW: A lot more to come tonight still. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Honestly, the Trump administration has brought with it a number of shocks, things that somehow just feel hard to process. And we are living through these things. And so, we don`t disbelieve that these things are happening. But they are shocking. So much that it`s almost surreal. There`s sort of an element of pinch me, is this really my country?

One of those things early on was the Muslim ban. President Trump really was elected president after calling publicly for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering this country. When he got elected after proposing that, that proposal became policy with a list of mostly Muslim countries from which people are not allowed to come here anymore.

Then there`s another one. We`re living through a crust of new moral outrage now over another one of these, the hallmarks of the Trump administration, the newly barbaric treatment of parents and young kids at the border. Immigrants have never been treated awesomely at the American border, but there is now this newly barbaric policy of taking screaming kids away from their parents with no plan for how to get them back together.

It`s sort of destabilizing to us as individual people. And I think to us as Americans overall to have things like this happening that we sort of keep telling each other this isn`t really happening. Being dislocated and shocked by radical things happening in our country offers a challenge to each of us which is that we sort of have to find a way to keep our bearings, to like remember where the horizon is sometimes, right?

Here`s one way to keep your bearings in one small way. You know the Flint water crisis? Overwhelmingly a terrible news story, right? The emblematic environmental and public health disaster of our day. An entire city`s children lead poisoned when state-appointed emergency managers switch the city`s water source without taking proper precautions or proper treatment, thus turning the very plumbing of the city of flint into a lead delivery device for its people.

The reason we know about Flint and the person who pulled the plug on that story, the person who made it start to stop happening, that person is an Iraqi American, an immigrant, first generation, who more than anyone is the biggest hero of that crisis. In the summer of 2015, she was a pediatrician at a public hospital in Flint. She`d seen reporting about high levels of lead in the water. People started talking about it.

But this wasn`t, it turns out, a slow creeping problem where flint, this poor city, had bad infrastructure and it was growing into a long-term problem. What happened in Flint seemed to have happened suddenly, seemed to have been caused by a specific policy change, and nobody in charge was getting it. The state was denying it. County was denying it.

But this one doctor decided they at least had to know if it was hurting kids, the kids who she treated as a pediatrician in the public hospital in town. She set up a study and started testing kids` blood samples from before and after Flint changed the source of its drinking water. She got no funding for this study. She and one other researcher and residents, medical residents, just took it on on top of their other work.

They looked at all the lab results they had access to. They went through an academic and medical approvals process to get access to even more lab results so they could get a big enough sample size so they could make sense of what was happening. And that is when they realized what they got. That`s when they realized they had proof that something absolutely terrifying was happening.

And the state was like, oh, no, you don`t. That can`t possibly be true. And the county was like oh, no, you don`t, you shouldn`t talk about this anymore.

And when the hero of this story, this first-generation Iraqi-American immigrant doctor, gave a press conference to alert everybody that you guys, Flint`s kids are showing elevated levels of lead in their blood, this is real, nearly twice as many kids as before the switch, when she did that, even the freaking medical school that she was associated with was like hey, doc, we love you but we can`t stand next to you on this, we don`t want to be associated with this research, OK? Too scary to say something that big.

But this doctor went ahead anyway. And that is ultimately what pulled the plug. That is how this country started to reckon with the fact that an American state had poisoned one of its own cities.

Now, that pediatrician is still there. The damage to Flint`s water was done and is not yet fixed. The damage to the people of flint was done and has not yet been fixed. But she`s still there and she`s trying to fix that too.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is here tonight for our interview. She`s here next.


MADDOW: You think you know what happened in the Flint water crisis? You don`t. But you will soon, because of this. It`s called "What the Eyes Don`t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City". Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint. She is the big hearted local pediatrician who is the person who shook the denial off the Flint story and made people finally face what was going on there.

Dr. Mona, congratulations on this book. Thank you for being here.

DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, PEDIATRICIAN, HURLEY MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It`s good to be back.

MADDOW: I wanted to ask first of all about why you wanted to write a book about this? The reason I wanted to ask you is you are busy. Not only were you busy before Flint water crisis. Since then, you got a lot of national attention, a lot of national accolades, and you got a big platform you`ve been using for good but you`re still trying to fix Flint.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes, I`m still a pediatrician in Flint. I decided to write it for three reasons, one when I started to write the book, I knew we would need a vehicle to shine a spotlight back on Flint.


HANNA-ATTISHA: The nation`s attention would fade yet our crisis would be ongoing and our needs would be ongoing. We needed a reminder that Flint is still here. Flint is still filtered and bottled water. You need to pay attention to Flint.

The second reason is I wanted an immigrant story of an Arab-American that wasn`t about war and terrorism.


HANNA-ATTISHA: That was about immigrant coming to this country fleeing tyranny and oppression and dictatorship, coming to this country for freedom and oppression. I was that little brown girl and I acclimated to this country and I achieved the American Dream, what are we losing out of right now.

And then I also wanted to write the book as a way to give back, part of the proceeds go to our Flint Kids Fund. And we have a lot of long term work to do and I want to make sure that we are able to do that long term work for our kids.

MADDOW: I think about the original iteration of freaking Muslim ban and Iraq being one of the countries that they initially proposed.


MADDOW: And you and your family would have been barred from coming to this country.

HANNA-ATTISHA: I wouldn`t be here.

MADDOW: As a threat to this nation.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Absolutely.

MADDOW: And Lord knows what would have happened to Flint by now.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Absolutely.

MADDOW: In terms of what`s happening in the city right now. There are a little bit of burst of national publicity recently when the state announced it wasn`t going to support bottled water. What`s going on right now in terms of people`s actual access to drinkable water?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes, so it`s being supported by nonprofits, like the United Ways, some churches are providing bottled water. But the recommendation is still to be on bottled water or filtered water. We are doing massive infrastructure work.

We`ve replaced about 6,000 of our led pipes we have about 9,000 to go. This is amazing. No other city is doing this right now. But until that infrastructure work is complete, people need to stay on filtered and bottled water.

MADDOW: The way we got to the story in the first place on this show way back in the day, was that we had been covering the emergency manager law in Michigan where your locally elected officials can sort of be pushed aside, taken out of all decision making process and the government, the governor specifically can say we`re not going to recognize the results of your local elections anymore, we`re going to do it our way because we know what`s best.

That was part of the Flint water crisis story because it was an emergency manager who was in charge when the switch was made. How`s democracy? And how was -- and that`s a big part of how you tell the story about what went wrong.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Absolutely, absolutely. Kudos to you, Rachel, because you were the first to elevate that issue of democracy. You were on the Flint story when it was an emergency manager story before it was a water crisis story. So thank you, we would be nowhere without you.

But, yes, in 2011, Flint lost democracy overnight. We had a state appointed emergency manager in charge and their only job was austerity, to save money no matter what the cost. And it was too expensive, I guess, for us to get Great Lakes-treated water. Instead, we started getting water from the Flint River and it wasn`t treated properly.

So, all of this happened because of usurped democracy. It was taken away from people. And at one point in Michigan, half of our African-American population was under emergency management compared to 2 percent of whites and that doesn`t sound democratic --

MADDOW: Which means you don`t have power to elect your local elected officials. You don`t have power to make local --

HANNA-ATTISHA: You can`t hold them accountable either.

MADDOW: Mona Hanna-Attisha is the author of a new book called "What the Eyes Don`t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City" -- you give me hope.


MADDOW: Great to see you, my friend.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you so much.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: At this time on Friday night`s show, I broke the news that I planned to spend most of the weekend in a canoe for the first time in my life. I`m here to report back on this breaking news. It worked. I got the canoe, Susan paddled me around because I couldn`t really make it go.

So, there you go. Closing the loop on that story. Now I`m a canoe owner.

All right. I want to tell you that ahead tonight on Lawrence`s show, one pioneering U.S. lawmaker who was among the first people in elected office to knock on doors and demand answers and demand access on the border for this policy of separating kids from their parents is U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He`s been at this from the very, very beginning. He`s going to be joining Lawrence tonight. You will not want to miss that.

But that`s does it for me tonight. See you again tomorrow.


Good evening.