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Governors push back against Trump's policy. TRANSCRIPT: 6/19/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Dahlia Lithwick, Jonathan Blitzer

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 19, 2018 Guest: Dahlia Lithwick, Jonathan Blitzer

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Well done, my friend. Thank you. And thank you for being there covering this.


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

All right. We`ve got a lot to get to tonight. At this time on last night`s show, this time last night, we reported the new news that the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, had canceled a National Guard deployment to the border from his state in protest of President Trump`s new policy of separating kids from their parents at the border. Massachusetts canceling a National Guard deployment.

We also reported last night at this time on another new action taken by the Democrat governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, who signed an executive order yesterday insisting that no Colorado state resources could be used in any way to support that new Trump administration family separation policy.

So, we broke the news of both of those actions by the two different governors at this time last night and that was sort of an interesting pair of actions. You got a Democratic governor in the middle of the country, you got a Republican governor on the East Coast, both of them popular governors, both of them ambitious, both of them deciding to take an additional step beyond just saying they disagreed with the policy of taking kids away from their parents.

They both decided on the same day that they need to move on beyond just criticizing the policy to instead start taking actual overt action against it.

Well, that was yesterday with those two governors. Now, today, they apparently bust open the flood gates. Today, the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, took the same action as the Colorado governor and said no state resources will be used from New Jersey to support the family separation policy in any way.

Then, the governor of Delaware, John Carney, announced, quote: today, we received a request to send Delaware National Guard troops to the southwest border, under normal circumstances we wouldn`t hesitate to answer the call but given what we know about the policies currently in effect at the border, I cannot in good conscious send Delawareans to help with the mission. He then referenced President Trump`s current inhumane policy of separating children from their parents.

And then over the course of the day, all these other governors announced variations on the same theme, Democrats and Republicans. Governor Larry Hogan in Maryland is a Republican. He announced today that he is pulling all members of the Maryland National Guard from the border. There are current Maryland National Guardsmen there now, he is calling them home today. Quote, until this policy of separating children from their families has been rescinded.

Another Republican governor in New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, announcing that the New Hampshire National Guard actually hasn`t yet been asked if they would send National Guardsmen and women to the border, but the governor says, quote, if asked, he would refuse. Governor Sununu saying today in a statement, quote: I will not send our New Hampshire troops to the southern border to separate families.

Also today, the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, came out and said she will not send Rhode Island National Guard troops.

The governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, said that he will not send Connecticut National Guard troops. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said that he will not send New York National Guard troops. Like Governor Hogan in Maryland, Governor Ralph Northam in Virginia and Governor Roy Cooper in North Carolina, they also announced today that -- it wasn`t just that they wouldn`t send National Guard in the future, they are actively taking National Guard personnel from their states who are on the border right now and they are calling them home. They are rescinding their orders, they are bringing those National Guard troops and materials home from the border, and there is no ambiguity as to why the governors are doing it.

The governor of North Carolina, Governor Cooper cited, quote, the cruel policy of tearing children away from their parents. The governor of Virginia, Governor Northam says, quote, as long as the Trump administration continues to enforce this inhumane policy, Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that could actively or tacitly support it.

So, this is just a 24-hour snapshot of what`s going on right in the country, started as a little trickle last night, the interesting governors from a couple of disparate states from two different parties deciding to make a -- you know, a slightly more than symbolic statement against the Trump administration`s family separation policy. That was the trickle last night. Today, it is this flood of governors all over the country.

And realistically speaking, sending home National Guardsmen and National Guardswomen from all these states, from their border deployments, it`s probably not going to make a material difference on the border. It`s not going to make a material difference as to whether or not this policy of taking kids away from parents is able to go ahead. But the fact that all of the governors are doing this and all in a rush shows you the eagerness that these states have, that these governors have to try to make sure they are on the record as more than just condemning this policy, they want to be on the record, they want to be known in history as public officials who actively opposed it.

That`s basically what is going on in the country right now, as the program itself is getting bigger and faster. Around 50 kids are taken away from parents every day as of last month. Right now, it`s around 70 kids every day being taken away from their parents.

And as 70 kids are being taken every day, yesterday 70 kids, today 70 kids, tomorrow 70 kids, and as this program gets bigger and bigger and moral outrage over this policy swells and spreads, all different kinds of Americans are trying to sort of do what these governors are doing, looking for ways they cannot just express their dismay or their criticism or their disagreement or their outrage, people are looking for ways to try to stop the policy, to try to stop what the administration is doing.

How can I do more than just express my upset? You saw it from these actions taken by these governors. You can`t use my state resources. You can`t use my state troops. You can`t use my state helicopters at the border. You saw today from these governors.

Saw it also from these three random moms in Columbus, Ohio, who decided that even if it was just them and no army, they -- they didn`t have any troops to order anywhere, these three moms decided that they could still do something and so, they decided they would go to the office of their senator, Rob Portman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, everyone. This is Merrill Lehman (ph). I`m here with -- do you want your last name used?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With Sarah Boyd and -- Danielle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I`m Danielle Carlo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, we`re inside of -- as you could see, sort of the anteroom of Senator Portman`s Columbus office and we`ve been here, what, since about 3:30, asking the senator to respond to pretty specific questions we had that people have been asking him for days and days, what he was going to do specifically to address this immediate need to remedy the problem of children being taken from their families.

So, I don`t think we have much time. I think the police are coming up soon. But the answer that we got was not satisfactory. People in similar horrible situations like Holocaust survivors, I`ve seen talk about how now even at age 80 and 90 and even having been transferred from their parents to -- to loving foster homes to try to, you know, avoid being killed by the Nazis, never got over being separated from their parents. That they suffered with ongoing and long-term psychological harm because of that.

And so, we don`t want to, as parents, allow that and sit back and feel like we haven`t done our part. Though, you know, I`m here with two other moms, Sarah, who is there and Danielle who is there. And myself, and we are all feeling that we are in a position that we -- we can do this. That even if they come and arrest us for trespassing because we`ve overstayed our welcome in their office, that our children will not be removed from us and put in wire pens, wire cages.

And so, you know -- and, you know, we have the money and resources to be able to get out of that situation in a timely fashion. And so, it`s sort of the least we can do and we told them we expect Senator Portman to do more.

My understanding is that our colleague who was trying to come up with us, another mom we were going to be -- four moms is being arrested right now in the lobby. She was trying to get up with us and stayed in the lobby because they wouldn`t allow her. So, we`re assuming that they`re coming to get us soon.

So please, everyone, you know, don`t think about us, just focus on spreading the word and making sure that everyone gets out and votes in November and that Senator Portman understands that his time for opinionating has long passed, he needs to do something.


MADDOW: It looks like the police ultimately did show up and arrest people at Rob Portman`s office today in Columbus. There were other people from the local Indivisible group protesting outsides while those three moms sat in, in Portman`s office and they were arrested today.

There were protests against the family separation policy today in Philadelphia, lots of people turned out in Philadelphia, where Vice President Mike Pence was giving a speech. There were protests against the policy in New York City today and into tonight. In Washington, D.C. today, dozens of clergy members spoke outside of the headquarters of Customs and Border Protection.

In El Paso, Texas, at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center there, which we`re going to be talking about later on with the reporter who has been there over the last couple of days, a whole bunch of people today in El Paso braved the heat to protest this new policy of the Trump administration taking kids away from their parents. And in the Congress today, the Republican-controlled Congress, any proceeding on any topic today was likely to turn into a discussion if not ultimately a righteous denunciation of this new policy.

Here is a little sample which we got today from Congressman Elijah Cummings and a hearing that was supposed to discuss, a hearing that Republicans called, of course, to discuss Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. This is instead what Congressman Elijah Cummings wanted to talk about.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: We now have reports that parents are being deported but the Trump administration is keeping their children here, 2018, in America. We do not need legislation. This is a policy -- and understand this -- this was a policy invented, implemented and executed by President Donald Trump.

We need you. Those children need you. I`m talking directly to my Republican colleagues.

We need you to stand up to President Trump. We need you to join us in telling him that we reject this mean policy. We need you to tell him to abandon this policy. We need you to remind him that this is a United States of America, and it is a great country, and we need you to stand up for those children.

We sent letter after letter, letter after letter asking these committees to investigate the Trump administration`s policy which is now resulting in child internment camps. That`s what I said, child internment camps. But we have got no response.

Even if you believe immigration should be halted entirely, we all should be able to agree that in the United States of America, we will not intentionally separate children from their parents. We will not do that. We are better than that. We are so much better.

We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view. What country is that? This is the United States of America!


MADDOW: Congressman Elijah Cummings today in Congress, and that is what it is like in Congress right now. I mean, Congressman Cummings is his own thing. He is a very powerful speaker.

But this is the level of outrage that has been summoned by what the Trump administration has started doing on the border. But they want this. There is this tension here in terms of what the administration is trying to pull off here.

It`s not that they didn`t know it would create outrage to start ripping 2- year-olds away from their parents, right? It`s not like they are trying to assuage people`s concerns about this policy.

I mean, there`s a reason the president went out of his way today to deliberately describe immigrants as an infestation in this country. They infest our country -- he said today. White House knows what that means, right?

White House adviser Steven Miller explained to "The New York Times" in a new interview how much the Trump administration loves the outrage over this. How much they are in fact banking on it. How, in fact, that is the point of what they are doing.

Steven Miller telling "The Times," quote: You have one party that`s in favor of open borders and you have one party that wants to secure the border. All day long, the American people are going to side with the party that wants to secure the border. Not 55-45, not 60-40, 70-30, 80-20, I`m talking 90-10 on that.

In the Trump administration`s political view, in their strategic world view, anybody who complains about this policy or expresses outrage or hurt about the policy is exposing themself as a wuss and what the American people will vote for at the ballot box is harshness toward immigrants and they want it to be seen as unconscionably harsh. The more unconscionable, the better, because the more outrage and protest they stir up, the more strongly anti-immigrant they will be seen. And they think that is the best political issue they`ve got bar none.

"Washington Post" White House reporter Philip Rucker told my colleague Nicolle Wallace this afternoon that he visited the White House today and he was able to see their delight over all of the outrage that has been generated by this policy. He told Nicolle today that -- he told them, quote, they are digging in and they are defending this, not only publicly, but privately. I was at the White House talking to a few senior officials who said there is very little unease inside that building, inside the White House about what is playing out.

They love the controversy. They want this. They love the upset. They are generating it on purpose, because they think it redounds to their political advantage.

I mean, we know statistically speaking that the whole deterrence here is bullpucky. It`s not changing the number of people who cross the border illegally or who turn up and apply for asylum or whether or not they bring their kids. It`s not having any deterrent effect whatsoever. All it`s doing is showcasing unbelievable cruelty on the part of the U.S. government and that`s by design, because they want the upset.

This is strong man tactics. This is authoritarian tactics, right? This is -- we`ve seen this in other countries. We are having it in ours now.

Now, whether or not they are right about the American people and how we will respond to that political provocation, will soon be proven. We`ll all get a chance to say so in November.

But in the meantime, while these kids are having lives ruined, while these kids and parents are being irrevocably changed and damaged by what the Trump administration is doing, let`s get very practical here. The expression of outrage from all sorts of different people in the country now are necessary obviously and you couldn`t stop them if you wanted to, but they`re not sufficient. The Trump administration is actually feeding on them. They want this. They see the expressions of outrage and they think that means they are doing it right -- the louder the better. And they see that as more and more of a reason to keep this controversy going, to keep this story alive.

That rarifies their decision, not proves to them that they have been doing the right thing and they`re approaching it the right way. I mean, under normal circumstances, under normal non-authoritarian politics, right, you get disgusted rebukes from bipartisan governors all over the country, you get rebukes from every living first lady of the United States, including the current one? You get horrified criticism from even all over the right, from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page and freaking Ralph Reid, right, from high ranking officials from previous administrations that were criticized for their harshness toward immigrants.

I mean, under normal circumstances, under non-authoritarian circumstances, right, and a non-authoritarian calculus, those kind of reaction take you aback maybe, right? Maybe it might cause the administration to tap the brakes a little bit on what the administration is doing on the border.

Those normal dynamics are not at work here. They want what they are getting here. This is part of what they are aiming at. You know, I remember as a little kid, I grew up in the San Francisco bay area. But we didn`t grow up in San Francisco. So going to the city was like a treat and still like an exotic thing.

And I remember being a little kid and being with my parents, and taking a tourist-like tour of the cable car system. So, it`s not like we just went for a ride on a cable car as public transport. But we did a tour where they showed you how everything worked. They show you -- cable cars are weird and they showed you the gee wiz ancient technology that run those things.

It has stuck with me for approximately 40 years now how cable cars stop. It turns out, and I remember this from being in like freaking kindergarten when I did this tour with my parents. It turns outs there are three different ways that they brake a cable car, that they slow it down. The first way they try to slow it down is that the conductor guy or whatever they call him has got a pedal and that person uses that pedal to essentially brake the way that a car brakes. It`s like a steel shoe that presses against the cable car wheel. And that`s the first way they try to brake the cable car.

So, press the paddle, little steel shoe presses against the wheel and it slows down. If that doesn`t work, San Francisco is very hilly, if that`s not enough and they need to go to the second tier level of braking, instead of the pedal, they can pull up on this big track brake level, and that brings wooden blocks to press against the tracks to try to help stop the car, literally made of wood. That`s option two. That`s pretty dire.

But the third option if all else fails and the cable car -- and you press the pedal, not enough. You pull the lever to make the wood thing squeezed the rails not enough, cable car is still going and they really need to stop that thing. There is one more way you can brake the cable car -- is this big piece of metal that they just drop down a hole.

It`s an 18 inch steel wedge that they just drop through the bottom of the car and it sticks into the streets and essentially hits the rails and ba- boom, that is going to stop you if nothing else.

On this unprecedented runaway accelerating policy of taking little kids away from their parents and not giving them back, so far, that little pedal with the steel brake shoe isn`t working, the little squeezy things are not working, is there an option to throw down a steel shaft and bring this thing to an abrupt halt? Is there an emergency brake on this thing?

Yes, there is. It is a braking system we`ve had to use a few times in the past year. We have seen it work time and time again on these kind of issues that President Donald Trump has chosen to campaign on and has chosen to pursue as president, specifically because of the outrage that those policies generate.

When outrage against the policies actually fuels them as actually seen as a benefit to make this administration want to do them even more and double down, how do you stop those policies? There is a way. That`s next.


MADDOW: It`s happened over and over again throughout the presidency. The ban on Muslims entering the United States, all three versions of the Muslim ban have been invalidated by the courts. The president`s out of the blue announcement that he was going to ban transgender people from the U.S. military blocked in the courts. That handmaid`s tale policy where teenage girls being held in immigration custody, federal custody, were being physically forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, that was blocked by the courts. When the Trump administration decided that they were going to kill off the Dreamers and they were going to terminate the DACA program, courts blocked that.

Can the courts block what the Trump administration is doing on the southern border right now? All of the political outrage in the world they see as all of the more reason to keep this going. They want that. They see that as politically to their advantage.

They think the American people at heart when we go vote in November are racist and anti-immigrant to such a degree that even if we say we`re really opposed to this policy, honestly, we`re going to side with the strong man on an issue like this because at heart, we`re a country that is anti- immigrant. That`s what they`re counting on politically. We`ll find out if they are right.

Between now and November, they see people`s outrage and disgust and protest over this as a sign that they`re doing the right thing. So, in that environment, is there a path through the courts to stop what they`re doing with this policy. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced that New York state wouldn`t be sending national guardsmen to the border and protests of this new policy, the governor also announced that within the next two weeks, New York state will bring a lawsuit against the federal government to try to stop this policy in court.

In federal court in Washington, D.C. today, a different lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman who crossed the border from Mexico last month, the government seized her 7-year-old son. Her lawsuit filed today demands that the U.S. government let her boy go, that the court issue an order prohibiting the U.S. government from separating that boy from his mother. She`s suing for damages and for pain and suffering.

And then there is the ACLU case. The first time the reality of this new policy really started to generate headlines and concern was when the ACLU filed a lawsuit, a federal lawsuit in California on behalf of a 7-year-old girl who`s taken away from her mother, and a 14-year-old boy who was taken away from his mother. That case went to a fairly conservative judge. He was appointed by President George W. Bush. That judge two weeks ago said no when the Trump administration asked him to dismiss the case.

That ruling a couple weeks ago that he would let the ACLU case go ahead in issuing that ruling, the judge`s language was stark. He said the allegations at root of the lawsuit, quote, describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child. Such conduct if true is brutal, offensive and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.

That was just the initial ruling by that judge a couple of weeks ago when he said he was going to dismiss the case. He was going to let it go ahead. That was June 6th.

We`re waiting to hear from the judge on I believe two issues. Number one, will he expand the lawsuit so it doesn`t just apply to the two little kids and their mothers, it applies to all parents and kids who have been split up that way by the U.S. government at the border? Second issue we`re waiting to hear from him on is, will he issue a nationwide injunction to bring this policy to a halt nationwide? That would be a radical thing, but in talking about the alleged behavior by the government here, the judge seemed pretty fired up.

The personal and political outrage on this issue is not just blooming, it is growing ravenously. With every day citizens and members of Congress and governors and churches and advocacy groups and schools and random moms in Columbus, Ohio, today scrambling, trying to find any way they can to intervene, to throw themselves in the path of what the Trump administration is doing to these kids.

The one weird trick we all have to understand about our new nationalist authoritarian politics from the White House is that the Trump administration sees that as good. They see that as helping them. They see that as fuel for this policy and encouragement to double down.

In that environment, when outrage is what they want, what is likely to work? Because on so many other issues, it has been the courts. Should we expect that on this issue it could be the courts as well?

Joining us now is Dahlia Lithwick, senior -- excuse me, legal correspondent and senior editor for

Dahlia, thank you for being here.


MADDOW: What do you make of the chances of this policy being blocked or altered in court?

LITHWICK: Well, I think that that ACLU suit that you just described, that was kind of surprising language. We should note that was a George W. Bush appointee who wrote it. And for him to allow this suit to go forward, for him -- you know, the decisions he`s now making about certifying the class and about the nationwide injunction, OK, that`s interesting.

But what was amazing is that he utterly rejected Justice Department`s argument that this suit should go away, he actually on this issue of why is Secretary Nielsen continuing to call this not a policy, that`s because in this lawsuit, they have to keep taking the position it isn`t a policy. So, that`s interesting.

MADDOW: So if in terms of the legal approach to this, they need to technically deny it as a policy?

LITHWICK: Absolutely. That`s what at the heart of -- I mean, what`s amazing in their pleadings and my colleagues at "Slate" have written the spots off of this, is that they kept taking the position this isn`t a policy, this is a discretionary decision that the attorney general can make by himself.

Well, if it`s a discretionary decision as they say, can`t Donald Trump pick up the phone and say stop it, Jeff? So, that`s part of the reason you`re getting these sort of two sides of the mouth analysis. It is a law, it`s not a law. It`s a policy, it`s not. It`s a discretion.

MADDOW: Fascinating.

LITHWICK: So watch that because this is going to turn out like the travel ban, where things that are said, they are just blurted out, oops, John Kelly said it was a policy, oops, Steven Miller is saying it`s a policy. That can affect the way a judge thinks about this question of, are they lying to me when they say it`s not a policy.

MADDOW: When we look at the legal vulnerability of this policy and I`m trying to think about this sort of big picture. I mean, I think the outrage and the sort of moral upset that this has caused the country, all sorts of different kinds of people and walks of life and persuasions.

And I know the polling that says the Republicans like it and stuff, we`ll see how that wears over time. But I think that people need to -- in that kind of volatile environment, we need to have a realistic sense of how likely it is that the policy will get blocked.

Do you think that ALCU suit is the right one to watch, the one that was filed today, the New York state one that was threatened today by the governor, are there other things that potentially have legs? Are there others we should be watching?

LITHWICK: I think they have legs and I think that the claims at the heart of the ACLU suit that we`re talking about, that there is a Fifth Amendment, due process right not to have your family sent away. My God, Rachel, if you read the allegations, if you read what has been put into evidence, these are moms who are seeking asylum, who were thought they were crossing lawfully, who didn`t see children for months and months, and undergirding this whole thing and I think you touched on it in the last segment, is this talk about, maybe they`re just not fit moms.

You know, maybe everybody is bringing their kids across the border. It`s either a gang member or they`re -- you know, not to be reunited, all of this talk we`re now hearing about foster care and adoption, that is bubbling up --

MADDOW: Because we`re taking the kids and not giving them back?

LITHWICK: Because we`re taking the kids and I think that the judge was just affronted by even the implication that these are bad moms and therefore they should lose custody. I mean, this is a core constitutional right to have your family together and whether you are an American citizen or resident or not, those rights are your rights. So, these are shocking, shocking claims that are made.

I do want to say one thing -- I think we have to just remember Korematsu. We have to remember that the Supreme Court and others have blessed appalling things in American --

MADDOW: Yes, Japanese internment in the Korematsu case.

LITHWICK: Yes. And that courts are by and large small C conservative institutions and there is this paradox that we`re hoping that they turn out to be nine Thurgood Marshalls, you know, that they all just wave the flag and say, this is wrong.

I could tell you in the next week, we`re going to get the travel ban decision and we`ll figure out very quickly whether the U.S. Supreme Court is willing to say this is nuts or whether they are willing to say, ah, by the third iteration, not so bad. You kind of spit shot shine the worst off of it and I can live with it. That`s what courts can do.

MADDOW: Courts have incredible power here and there is reason to have faith in them and also reason to be realistic.

LITHWICK: Afraid so.

MADDOW: Dahlia Lithwick, legal correspondent and senior editor for `Slate", and always a voice of reason -- thank you, my friend.

LITHWICK: Thank you.

MADDOW: Good to have you here.

All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Let me read you something. On May 5th, this year, just after midnight, a 37-year-old woman named Ana and her 5-year-old son tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. They were caught scaling a fence in El Paso. They spent the night in a holding cell at the U.S. Border Patrol station with other mothers and children, about 25 people in all.

On the afternoon of their second day in detention, two male agents entered the cell. They didn`t say anything, Ana said. They just walked over and grabbed my son. It felt like he was stuck to me. He clung to me and cried and screamed. They had to pull him away.

She pleaded with the agents to tell her what was going on. The other women in the cell were too stunned to speak. Then, in the next few hours, the agents started taking other children too.

Nearly six weeks later, Ana has not seen her 5-year-old son. Shortly after the border patrol agents took him, she signed a voluntary departure order which fast tracked her for deportation. She thought that would allow her to see her son sooner. Instead, she was charged with illegal entry.

She was moved to New Mexico for a few days and then she was moved back to Texas. Yesterday in Texas, at an immigration processing facility in El Paso where Ana is now waiting to be deported, she met a reporter for the "New Yorker" magazine named Jonathan Blitzer who wrote this story.

Quote: During the first 12 days in federal custody, Ana had no idea where her 5-year-old son was. She stopped eating. She could barely sleep.

She cried constantly. No one could give her any information about her child. She did not have a lawyer to help her press the point.

By the time she arrived at ICE facility in El Paso on May 18th, she had become so upset that she had trouble speaking. Jonathan Blitzer reports, quote, Ana seemed dazed. She told me, I don`t care if they deport me, what hurts me is my son. I need to be with him.

Jonathan Blitzer at "The New Yorker" is the same reporter who yesterday was first to report that there are, in fact, no government procedures, there are no official procedures in place for giving the kids back after the Trump administration has forcibly taken them away from their parents.

Again, remember, they are doing this at a rate of about 70 kids per day now. They are taking 70 kids. No plans to give them back. No procedures to make sure they give them back.

Jonathan Blitzer was first to report that in the national press. But it is actually been hiding in plain sight. Its absence is evident in plain sight.

If you look at homeland security step by step guide that they`ve just released for parents whose kids seized because of this new Trump administration policy, you could see the document here, next steps for families. And if you need the extra gut punch, they include a little imagery of a parent holding a child`s hand since they are not allowing that any more.

But this is their new guide. Quote: step one, you`re currently in the custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection. You`ve been charged with the crime of illegal entry into the United States.

Step two, within the next 48 hours, you will be transferred to the custody of the U.S. Justice Department and will be presented before a judge for having violated this law. While this process is occurring, your child or children will be transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where your child will be held in a temporary shelter or hosted by a foster family.

And then finally, this is the last bit: DHS and HHS can take steps to facilitate reunification with your child or children.

That`s it. They can take steps. What they mean by that there is no steps. There is no next -- there is no step -- there`s no next step, right? There is no government procedure in place for reunifying these kids with their parents. There`s no plan for that.

A homeland security official was sent out to speak with reporters about the policy today. That official told reporters in response to questions, quote, I don`t know how many of the separated kids have been placed or reunited with parents. This policy is relatively new. We`re still working through the experience of reuniting.

In other words, no, we haven`t even thought about that. Just taking the kids away for now and we`ll just keep them for now.

Jonathan Blitzer first report on this yesterday that there is no procedures in place for giving the kids back, that report mentioned in "New Yorker" mentioned a local advocacy group who is trying to help reunite kids and parents, a group called Kids in Need of Defense.

This report today about Ana and her five-year-old boy, that one mentioned she and the other women who`ve had their kids seized and have no information about where their kids have been taken, those women being held in El Paso called another local advocacy group, one called Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.

As the country recoils in horror at this policy, you are seeing protests against it, especially today. But when it comes to direct action, trying to stop the harm that`s currently being inflicted on these little kids, Americans are increasingly also scouring the reporting that`s out there now about who is actually helping, about who is actually trying to get kids back to their parents.

And honestly, it`s these little advocacy groups, these little legal aid groups that people are reporting on because the by line are El Paso and Brownsville and all these places. It`s these little immigrant support groups, these service -- these little service organizations, these local immigrant support groups who are lifting this moral burden for our country right now. They are doing the work, these local advocacy groups of trying to restore kids to their parents -- parents who are desperately trying to pry their kids loose from the U.S. government that took them.

It`s the local legal aid and advocacy groups. And as Jonathan Blitzer reports from El Paso, it is mostly the parents themselves who are being forced to try to locate their kids on their own, because the Trump administration built the system to take kids and they`re do so now at an accelerating of almost 70 a day, but as they take more and more kids, they still apparently have no plans for returning them.

So, how do we find out who is doing that work then? Is there a way that Americans who are mad about this policy can offer practical help to get these kids returned to their families?

Hold that thought.


MADDOW: Jonathan Blitzer has reporting today at "The New Yorker" about a young mom named Ana who had her five-year-old son taken from her last month at the border by the U.S. government. Ana and other women who are incarcerated in El Paso right now, who are trying to find and get back their kids before they are deported so they are not deported without their kids, Blitzer described these women as reaching out, getting a phone number and reaching out to a local group, a group called the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center to try to get help to get their kids back.

Blitzer writes that there is not much that this lawyer could legally do to reunite Ana with her son. So, the lawyer decided that what she would do is she would try to put pressure on Ana`s deportation officer to please hold off on deporting Ana until Ana could be reunited with her child.

The lawyer told Blitzer, quote, there is no set policy for how to do this. It depends on who the individual deportation officer is.

So this is what it comes down to now. There is no policy for reuniting the kids with their parents after they`ve been taken. According to lawyers who were working on these individual cases, it`s ad hoc. It comes down to the individual personality of lower level immigration officers just deciding whether or not a parent ever gets to see his or her child again. It`s hard to believe.

Joining us now from El Paso is Jonathan Blitzer, staff writer with "The New Yorker", who`s been doing some great reporting these past few days.

Mr. Blitzer, thank you for your time.


MADDOW: So, the ad hoc nature of the advocacy here seems to be a product of the ad hoc nature of the policy. What I`m sort of inferring from your reporting is that every parent trying to find their kid and get reunited with her kid is going about it by whatever means they can. There is no -- there`s no process, there`s no surefire way to do it, is that right?

BLITZER: That`s right. Everyone is improvising. The parents who are in detention who are commiserating amongst themselves to try to get information, sharing numbers that they`ve used to locate their kids, trying to kind of counsel each other through the hardship of it all, advocates who are trying to be creative about working backwards when they`ve got a parent to use information about the parent`s immigration case, to try to piece together where the kid might be, applying pressure on individual officers at ICE, or people at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is the Department of Health and Human Services to try to facilitate these reunifications.

But, yes, as you say, the point really is that everyone is just scrambling tooth and nail to kind of find some way of connecting parents and kids before the parents are deported the office of refugee resettlement which is the Department of Health and Human Services to facilitate the reunification. But as you say, the point is that everyone is just scrambling tooth and nail to find some way of connecting parents and kids before the parents are deported and the kids remain here in the U.S.

MADDOW: Have you -- since you`ve been reporting on this, have you seen an influx of national resources really from anywhere in terms of people trying to get down there and provide effective advocacy? Is this really local groups, existing local groups that are trying to pick up the slack and upscale to meet this big new need from this big new policy, or are they getting new resources there to try to help?

BLITZER: It`s an interesting question. It`s hard for me to tell exactly kind of what the national scope of all of this attention has allowed local advocates to do. There`s obviously a handful of local advocates who are really in the trenches. There are a number of national organizations, you mentioned one earlier, Kids in Need of Defense, there`s the Women`s Refugee Commission, then there are, of course, groups like Las Americas or the Florence Project in Arizona that have done more local work.

These groups have done this work for a while. They`ve been toiling pretty much in obscurity until the current moment, and I think the -- all of the national attention has certainly helped them. It`s also helped them coordinate. I think one thing that is happening, because so much of this is ad hoc, as you say, is that lawyers are developing strategies for figuring out, A, where kids are and, B, how to put kids and parents in contact.

So, in some ways even aside from the resource question, there is just the strategy question. There is just the question of, OK, what is a template we might use to try to work efficiently through the government bureaucracy to connect these parents and kids?

And so, I am seeing as advocates continue to do this work, they`re learning for each other and that at the very least is helping them work more quickly. But, of course, resources are strained, it takes individual advocates oftentimes days just to work on individual cases and obviously, you mentioned the scale of what`s happening. You`re talking about dozens and dozens of cases a day nationwide and the stakes couldn`t be higher.

MADDOW: Jonathan Blitzer, staff writer at the "New Yorker" doing very incisive -- well, reported work -- thank you for helping us understand it. I really appreciate you being here.

BLITZER: Thanks for having me.

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


MADDOW: This just in. We opened the show by talking about all the governors who are ordering their states` resources cannot be used to help President Trump`s family separation policy at the border. Top of the show tonight, we talked about a whole bunch of governors all of a sudden rescinding their National Guard deployments to the border in protest of the family separation policy.

Well, since we have been on the air this hour, we`ve got a new one. It`s Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf who now says this: while Pennsylvania proudly sent troops to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico for disaster relief and I believe we need to protect our borders from real threats, I oppose state resources being used to further President Trump`s policy of separating young children from their parents.

So I think that means we can add Pennsylvania to the ballooning list of states whose governors, Republicans and Democrats, are not just criticizing Trump and the Trump administration over this new and unusual policy on the border, this appears to mean that we can add Pennsylvania to the list of states where they are moving beyond criticism and trying to figure out how to take meaningful action.

I`ll be right back.


MADDOW: We`ve been talking about this story all night but the "A.P." has broken new news. This has just come out from the "Associated Press". This is incredible.

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children -- to at least three -- put up the graphic of this. Thank you. Do we have it? No.

Three tender-age shelters in south Texas. Lawyers and medical providers just -- I think I`m going to hand this off -- yes, sorry.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" where he is live in Brownsville, Texas.