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Government housing children in new 'tent city'. TRANSCRIPT: 6/19/2018. The Last Word

Guests: Efren Olivares, Jonathan Ryan, Ofelia de los Santos, John Sandweg

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: June 19, 2018 Guest: Efren Olivares, Jonathan Ryan, Ofelia de los Santos, John Sandweg

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Rachel.

We just got word of that story that Rachel was talking about and that is that the Trump administration has announced that they are now -- they now say that they are operating three facilities somewhere around here for what they`re calling tender-age children.

This is a very difficult story to process, it has been everyday. But now, the focus is finally on the people we`ve been wondering about the most, the babies. The babies.

There`s been a lot of questions about the girls but what about the babies? The Trump administration has decided to call them "tender age children."

The crisis here in our southern border is growing every day and it becomes more grim and more difficult to bear every day.

NBC News and MSNBC have sent dozens of correspondents to try to capture this story, to cover this story and we have been doing it from one end of the border to the other, we have had people in San Diego, all the way across the border to right here where I am tonight in Brownsville, Texas, on the east end of our southern border.

We also have correspondents in Central America tracking this story, tracking the story of how these immigrants are coming north, including the story of what are now thousands of immigrant children being held in some of these mysterious detention centers. One of them is right behind me. It`s one of the largest ones, the largest one for children. Some of these detention centers are in unknown locations.

Now, I`m right here in front of what they`ve now called Casa Padre, the largest detention center site of its kind in the nation. This is one of the rare facilities that reporters have been allowed to enter. But they have not been allowed to take photographs or speak to any of the children in custody inside this building behind me.

The only photographs we have of the inside of this building are government- issued and government-approved photographs, the photographs of what the government and only the government wants us to see. With all of this pressure mounting on this story, the presidents held an emergency meeting tonight on Capitol Hill with House Republicans. President Trump`s public position on the crisis is that he will stop arresting children and stop arresting babies and separating them from their parents only if Republicans and Democrats in Congress vote to pay for the Trump wall on the Mexican border.

In other words, the president is arresting children and arresting babies because Mexico refused to pay for his wall. One question that has continued to worry many observers of this crisis and continues to worry us tonight, even with this new reporting is, where are the girls? Where are the babies?

There`s been a lot of focus this week on where are the girls? And yesterday, the secretary of homeland security in charge of implementing this policy did not know how to answer the simple question "where are the girls?"

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: I don`t know. I am not familiar with those particular images. So, I have to --

REPORTER: You don`t know where they are? Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the young toddlers are?

NIELSEN: We have children in DHS care, both. But as you know, most of the children, after 72 hours, are transferred to HHS. So I don`t know what pictures you`re referencing, but I have to refer to HHS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I got off the plane here in Brownsville this morning with one mission above all others, which was to find the girls and I was told about one of the facilities that has girls in custody in Brownsville. It is a place where the secretary of homeland security or the first lady or the president can go tomorrow and see how the girls are being treated and listen to the girls` stories, the stories of how they got here.

I couldn`t do that today. The best that I could do was standout side and look at it and now show it to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Everyone has been asking, where are the girls? Where are the girls?

We`re told there are girls in this facility. This is Casa Presidente. There are also infant babies here, people who have been at this facility have told us they have seen diapers and this is a new development for this facility. This was teenage girls, teenage girls-only until recently.

But now that there`s the zero-tolerance policy and there`s been a big rush of babies now coming into the system and younger girls, this is where some of them are. We don`t know how many. It is a windowless facility as far as we`ve been able to see it from this angle.

But this is the one place we know that is housing girls, housing teenaged girls and housing infant babies and younger girls so we have found the girls but this is as close as we can get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Trump administration says that it is housing some children in what they want to call a tent city that was built last week in Tornillo, Texas. That`s about 800 miles northwest of Brownsville where I am tonight and about an hour south of El Paso.

NBC`s Cal Perry joins us live now from Tornillo, Texas.

Cal, what have you discovered there?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, about a quarter of a mile behind me is the tent city. We have just some aerial photos to go on about what it looks like, 18 to 20 tents fitting 10 unaccompanied minors in each tent at a time.

We heard from a local congressman here, his district, he said they`re possibly expanding out to 4,000 beds. Lawrence, we can`t get inside, we go to the road. We are escorted back by the border security. We saw some vans leaving.

We assume that was taking unaccompanied minors to dinner. We saw a group of children sitting in the back of that van.

By way of reporting, Lawrence, I landed here recently as you did, I came from London. I cover government strife around the world. It`s incredibly uncomfortable saying to you and the country on camera the American government is not letting us inside these facilities. The American government is not showing us inside these facilities. The American government is giving Jacob Soboroff or offering Jacob Soboroff photos from two years ago.

I`m used to saying these things in countries overseas. The thing that has always -- and this is by way of reporting -- the thing that has made America different than countries around the world is the fighting of individual liberties and its allies. And in the past year, Lawrence, that has gone away. The view from here is incredibly limited. We can`t get in, we will certainly try.

O`DONNELL: Cal Perry in Tornillo, Texas -- thank you very much for joining us tonight, Cal, with that report. Really appreciate it.

We are joined here in Brownsville, Texas, by Efren Olivares. He`s the director of racial and economic justice program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Also with us, Jonathan Ryan, executive director for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. And Ofelia de los Santos, a retired attorney working for the Catholic diocese of Brownsville as director of Jail Ministry and Immigration Services.

And, Ofelia, that place they`re calling Casa Presidente, you`ve told me there`s evidence there are infant babies there because there`s evidence of diapers going in and coming out of the facility.

OFELIA DE LOS SANTOS, CATHOLIC DIOCESES OF BROWNSVILLE, TX: Correct.

O`DONNELL: How long have we nobody that?

DE LOS SANTOS: That`s just been within the last month. After I talked to you, I made another call to a source that we have and there are 11 babies in Casa Presidente.

O`DONNELL: So, 11 babies. You also believe that there are young girls?

DE LOS SANTOS: Yes, there are, because at one time it was all young girls, 15, 16, 17-year-old. I know that for a fact and some have been moved to make room for toddlers and babies coming in.

O`DONNELL: And so, now, there`s a range of girls in age from infant babies up to teenagers.

DE LOS SANTOS: Diapered babies.

O`DONNELL: And is that the only facility we know about that has girls?

DE LOS SANTOS: No, the earlier facility, Colmes, Esperanza Colmes (ph), we went out there and did an interview with one of our volunteers, that has babies also.

O`DONNELL: And what do you think, if the first lady came down here tomorrow to see how the babies are being treated and how the little girls are being treated, what do you think she would discover if she went in?

DE LOS SANTOS: I`m not sure. But she can`t get in.

O`DONNELL: Well, I think if the first lady shows up, she will get in. You can`t get in, we can`t get in. It seems like no one lower ranking than the president or the first lady can get in. But I think if she knocks in the door, she might be able to show what`s happened.

DE LOS SANTOS: Well, I would hope she would find them in good health.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, the -- this report that we`re getting tonight, I like to get your reaction to this. They are talking about three facilities for what sounds like infant babies and toddlers.

JONATHAN RYAN, RAICES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: It`s mind blowing and the insidious part of this process requires one to take a step back and look not just at the facilities where these children are being held, many people can walk in and see bright bedspreads, can see an arts and crafts room and think OK, this is fine.

But what is behind those walls is a large-scale immigration deportation process that is being undertaken against each and every individual one of those children. They are being thrown into immigration court, in many cases with no attorney, and they`re asked to plead their cases. We have gone to --

O`DONNELL: Just to stop there for a second so the audience understands the scene we`re talking about. You`re actually talking about a five-year-old being in one of these judicial proceedings being asked to represent and answer for himself or herself.

RYAN: That`s exactly right. I myself have sat in court and seen children with their little feet dangling from the respondents` chair, not touching the floor. Little glitter shoes and a dress and a judge leaning over his bench in order to see her so as to speak with her.

All they can discuss is what is your name? That`s a pretty dress. But nevertheless there is a lot of money being spent by our government in the sole design of deporting each and every one of these children.

O`DONNELL: Do these judges actually think these are real fact-finding procedures when they`ve got a four-year-old sitting in front of them without an attorney?

RYAN: Well, I don`t have to tell you what I think. I know that one immigration judge recently testified that he believed that toddlers as young as three or four years old who received these know your rights presentations from groups like RAICES in these shelters are perfectly aware and equipped to follow along the proceedings. It`s absolutely absurd. It would be laughable if it wasn`t so sad.

O`DONNELL: And, Efren, the president and his administration are insisting now that what they`re doing now, what they`ve only started in April, late April and May, they were never doing it before, but they just started doing it. They`re insisting that this is the law and they have absolutely no choice.

They don`t explain why they had a choice before April and why they don`t have a choice now, but because they`re saying they don`t have a choice, they are now talking about building, opening new facilities for infant babies because they have never had to deal with this number of infant babies before because this is a new policy.

EFREN C. OLIVARES TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: Right. And it`s outrageous that in 2018, in America we`re talking about building internment camps, because that`s what these are. And when they keep claiming that the law requires family separation, as you point out, they don`t specify what law requires that because there`s absolutely no law that requires that. It`s a zero tolerance policy that the executive branch, the attorney general could rescind today with the stroke of a pen.

O`DONNELL: What do you think we should call these places? Because I`ve been in jails, I`ve been in prisons and people want to use a phrase like detention center. There`s a kind of -- it seems as though the language is being cleansed.

When you have cages, when you have locks and the conditions that I`m seeing in here, these are what would be considered jails in any other setting. What would you call them?

DE LOS SANTOS: I am jail ministry for diocese of Brownsville, and I`ve been assigned to minister to these children. So --

O`DONNELL: What do you think the right term is for these places?

RYAN: I think they`re jails. If you`re locked in a box and you can`t get out, you`re in jail. I think that anybody in that situation would feel that way.

O`DONNELL: But now, when we`re seeing these tent facilities, now we`re talking about something that actually is different from jail because it is a lower level -- it is less commodious for a jail. There`s no possibility of, say, air conditioning or different things that some jails have and so, these things start to look like camps, the kind of camps that live in infamy in our history.

OLIVARES: They`re internment camps. We saw the images of those tents in Tornillo, those are internment camps in Tornillo.

O`DONNELL: And, Ofelia, the knowledge that the president of the United States could stop all of this tomorrow, is that something that everyone involved in this struggle understands? Is that something that the people, the adults being held under these conditions understand?

DE LOS SANTOS: Oh, absolutely. I heard an interview earlier today on this very channel where the lady says she would ask Mr. Trump to soften his heart, to start thinking more humanely, that they are human beings so they understand where it`s coming from and who can stop it.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, the president is getting advice from people who have never been to these places, they are the ones with the strongest voices about how to handle this. If you could have a few seconds with the president, what would you tell him?

RYAN: I would challenge any person to step up and step in to one of these facilities. Step into court and if you dare, try to represent one of these children, one of these families in these cases. It won`t just change your mind. It will change your life to undergo that experience.

We work with many pro bonos and often times, those attorneys are conservative Republicans who seek to engage in this work and many times, these are some of the people whose minds are the most blown by these experiences because they see sometimes the first time in their lives a government that simply doesn`t make sense, that appears to be put in cruelty above justice for the mere sake of sending a message, a message of deterrence and a message of diswelcome, not just to these refugees but to all immigrants, all people of color, all minorities living in this country. Everyone understands this message. It`s not a dog whistle, it`s a blow horn.

O`DONNELL: Efren, what does it feel like for you people working on these issues year and year out, to now have the kind of attention, the country`s attention that the border has not had before?

OLIVARES: Well, it`s good that we are having this visit so that people who are interested in making the policy decisions can see what is really happening, the congressmen, the senators who were here this week and last week. It`s good to have the decision makers here so they can see it for themselves and not just, you know, be reading about it.

But hearing the stories from the parents who have been separated from their children is particularly heart wrenching, having to stop the interview halfway through because a mom cannot stop crying thinking of the prospect of perhaps not seeing her five-year-old daughter again.

O`DONNELL: It does feel -- seem like what is happening here is finally reaching into the parts of Americans all over the country.

Efren Olivares, Jonathan Ryan, Ofelia de los Santos, thank you all for joining our discussion tonight. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

We have, as just reported at the beginning of the hour, as Rachel tried to report twice at the beginning of the hour, that we`ve just learned new information from the "Associated Press" that the United States government is housing hundreds of babies and toddlers in three facilities somewhere in South Texas. Could be somewhere around where we are tonight.

Joining us from South Texas, from McAllen, Texas, is MSNBC`s Stephanie Ruhle.

Stephanie, what more do we know about this report?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, the fact that we`re even calling these detention centers "tender age centers", this is stunning. You and I came down here to look at this migrant crisis and when you`re in these parts, it feels more like a migrant issue, we need to address the border.

But what`s happening? To create these centers for babies, for toddlers, for kids under the age of five, this is not about politics. This is not about policy, Lawrence. It`s about humanity.

President Trump likes to call himself a patriot. To be a patriot is someone who vigorously fights and defends their country. This happening right now, if you`re a patriot, you need to stand up and fight for the name of America because American values and exceptionalism, we are the luckiest that we`re born in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and we take asylum seekers -- think about those moms.

Lawrence, you`re a parent and so am I. I have a five-year-old daughter at home, and when I left yesterday I thought, man, I`m not going to see her for two days. Think about those moms who travel the most treacherous path to asylum from Honduras, from El Salvador, from Guatemala and they make their way here knowing that it is going to be such a difficult run. And then the thought, explained to me the policy, who does it serve to rip these babies from their mothers` arms. I can`t imagine as a mother something worse.

If this is not an assault on humanity, I ask you, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump -- Ivanka Trump loves to Instagram beautiful photos of she and her children. Besides the pictures she posts and how she says she`s an advocate for women, a devoted mother, when you become a mother, you become a sister to all other mothers.

Those children are ours. And unless Ivanka Trump is going to stand up and do something, she no longer deserves the right to say that she stands with us, because this is a moment we must stand together as a nation, as parents, as humans with souls.

O`DONNELL: Stephanie, there are moments when the news, the curve of the news or what the country is paying attention to becomes what I might call a first lady moment. A moment for the first lady to step forward and take a roll in what the nation is going through. This certainly would be one of those for any of the previous first ladies. None of the previous first ladies ever had to deal with this because this policy has never been used before. This is uniquely a Donald Trump policy.

But what would it mean to the future of this policy if the first lady of the United States got on a plane and got down here and it would be easier for her to do than it was for you to do to get down here, to go into this facility behind me and see the children in there but more importantly I think for her to visit one of the secret facilities that is housing the girls and the now ultra secret facilities that are housing the babies, the babies that she now knows are being held in custody by her husband.

RUHLE: Can you imagine what it`s like for those little children? What I don`t understand more than anything is why? Who does it serve?

What forgotten Americans are going to have a better opportunity and a better life because we are seeing babies taken away from their mothers who are not hardened criminals? They`re mothers who are maybe going to fill some of those 6,000 jobs we have here in this country that we`re looking for people for.

I simply don`t understand this and I can hope that as terrible and scary a moment as this is, let this be a moment of opportunity whether it`s First Lady Melania Trump, whether it`s first daughter Ivanka Trump or all the former presidents or first ladies to come together and say we as a nation are better than this.

This is a chance, Lawrence, for us to say what`s happening right now cannot be a breaking point. It must be an opportunity or we must come together and rise up. If we don`t do this in the name of children, babies, then who are we as a nation, Lawrence?

O`DONNELL: It seems like this is a unique opportunity for our first immigrant first lady. This is a unique opportunity and a unique obligation for our first immigrant first lady to come down here, to pick up one of these children, to pick up one of these untouchable babies who no one else is allowed to touch and see what the power of her hug, immigrant to immigrant, could do for one of those children and what it could mean to this story and what it could mean to her husband`s understanding of what he has done here.

RUHLE: And the thing is, Lawrence, we don`t know Melania Trump very well. But if there`s one thing that I could say that I observe, she`s clearly a very devoted mother. Everything you see she does is centered around their son Baron. She`s very protective of him. That is what she does.

Before she was first lady, I have a 12-year-old son and Baron is 12. So, before they were in this spotlight, I used to see her around in New York, and I saw her with him all the time and this is a moment right behind me where this detention center is, we can`t even see the kids inside.

About two hours ago, there was an unbelievable rainbow and my team and I were in the car and we said you know who doesn`t get to see it? The kids inside. We have to fight for the future of these children. They`re not criminals. They deserve an opportunity, they deserve to be loved and cared about because that is what patriots and great Americans do and just good people.

O`DONNELL: Stephanie Ruhle, thank you for sharing your feelings about this tonight. Really appreciate it.

We`re joined in our discussion by John Sandweg. He`s the former acting director of ICE under President Obama. Also with us, Professor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, who is an MSNBC contributor.

And, John, could you tell us what the previous policy was in cases of these infant babies that the new administration is now planning to create new facilities for?

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, ICE: Yes, Lawrence, it certainly wasn`t take them away from their mothers. I mean, this is shocking to me.

Border patrol and ICE are proud law enforcement agencies that are good at getting bad guys. That`s what the agents signed up for and this president now has them ripping babies out of mother`s arms. That doesn`t make any sense to me.

But our policy was keep families together. Keep families together at almost all costs because once you separate those families, you run the serious risk that they never see each other again.

O`DONNELL: Tell us about that. Tell us about what is the likelihood of them seeing each other again, and what happens, what are the stories in which they end up not seeing each other again?

SANDWEG: Here`s the fundamental problem. When the children are separated from their parents they`re treated as unaccompanied minors. They go on a separate legal track than do the parents.

The parents can be deported very quickly. They`re cases are prioritized. They`re detained and they move through the system fast. The children on the other hand are treated as non-detained docket which basically means they`re not viewed as a priority. Their cases can drag on for months.

So, now you have the parent back in Honduras or Guatemala and the child can be in a child care facility somewhere in the United States thousands of miles from the border. It gets very hard for the federal government to coordinate and track the location of both people. Frankly, nobody`s had to do this before, it`s not something agencies are trained to do or equipped to do, and the scary part is it leads to long-term separation that can extend for years in so many of these cases.

O`DONNELL: There`s one estimate that the Trump administration has probably lost track of 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. Do you think that`s possible?

SANDWEG: It is possible. Now, in those instances, I think a lot of those kids are not in the worst situation, but I think what it highlights is how bad the federal government is at this job. I mean, not just tracking minors who are inside the United States. Now you have to figure out a way to do something never done before, which is track location of the parents who in most instances have been sent back to Central America.

Look, you can tell by the videos and images you`re showing and the scrambling that`s going on in the federal government, they weren`t prepared to implement this policy. If they weren`t even ready to build the detention facilities for the children, I don`t think we can expect they`ve put together the logistics necessary to track the movements of the parents so they can later reunite them with the kids.

I know they handed out a brochure today, but I would suggest that`s woefully insufficient and based on my experience. I really am worried that we`re going to be hearing about this story in months and years to come because these kids are not with their parents.

O`DONNELL: And, Victoria, we now know -- because the "A.P." is reporting tonight -- that what the administration is calling "tender age shelters", they have to come up with a euphemism, they have to come up -- and I`d like to know how long the meeting was where they came up with this phrase tender age shelters to describe the jailing of babies.

And we don`t know where those babies are, they`re somewhere in south Texas, somewhere around here, we don`t know where they are crying tonight, but it`s somewhere near here, and this is a whole new stage of this story.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, LBJ SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: It is. And if we think about when are these babies going to be reunited with their parents? These babies cannot fend for themselves and their parents may end up back in Honduras and El Salvador. And these folks who are back there, they don`t speak English. The minimum wage in El Salvador is $300 a month.

If we have trouble navigating the bureaucracy here in the United States, the immigration bureaucracy, how is a mother going to navigate the bureaucracy from afar in trying to reunite with her infant child. So, by separating out these children of all ages but especially the babies, this is putting us on a track to where we are separating out people for permanent, for life.

O`DONNELL: John Sandweg, as an expert in this field, what do you suggest that we be looking for in the way we cover it now given all the information we have as of tonight, including these three secret facilities we just learned about for the babies?

SANDWEG: Well, I think the key is going to be the weeks and months to come. Let`s hope this policy ends quickly.

Generally speaking, border activity is cyclical in nature. We are just winding down what I would call the high season for border activity. Meaning, it`s the spring and early summer where we see the highest level of traffic.

I would expect and hope that that traffic dissipates in the coming weeks and months but what I think the most important thing to cover long term is how is the federal government doing at reuniting these families? Are they making any effort to do that? And do they put in place efficient systems to work this?

I worry not only is this policy cruel and in my opinion does not border security, I`m for a secure border but this is not border security. But it`s also not well thought out and I worry that we`re going to feel -- we`re going to have kids stuck in this country for years to come with their parents somewhere else.

O`DONNELL: John Sandweg and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

Chris Hayes is going to join us when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And we are back live in Brownsville, Texas, joined by Gabe Gutierrez.

Gabe, the latest story of the night is this euphemistic phrase that they have come up with which they are now calling the tender age shelters in south Texas. This is the "Associated Press" reporting that the Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S. Mexico border to at least three tender age shelters in south Texas.

Now, you have been covering the story a long time. You have been covering for many years, in fact. You know it in and out. Have you picked up anything in the course of the last couple of weeks about these so-called tender aged shelters?

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No. We haven`t heard about anything like that until the AP report right now. But what we have picked up is a lot of concern of what is exactly happening to these young children.

And from my reporting today, we can tell you that these immigration courts right now are overwhelmed and they have been seeing over the last several weeks this increase in defendants that beforehand these judges just weren`t seeing. I mean, operation streamline started back in 2005. And there was this push that kind of streamline the immigration system to have more defendants in one particular court.

Well, today, we went to an immigration court hearing here in Brownsville, Texas. And one of our colleagues went to one yesterday in McAllen, Texas, and dozens of parents are there and they are led in shackles and they responding to the judge`s question in Unison. You feel you are just calling this inhumane referring to this mass trials.

So there is a lot of concern right now about whether this is constitutional. (INAUDIBLE) where the ACLU puts it.

Now supporters of this policy say that look, you need to streamline this process. You need to -- the justice department is sending more prosecutors to this area in order to ensure that these cases are dealt with in a straightforward manner. But there is a lot of question for what happens with the children. Now we are hearing from the AP report that these tenants -- that these shelters are now being -- are housing these young children, younger than four years old.

O`DONNELL: And we are joined now from McAllen, Texas, by MSNBC`s Chris Hayes who has been covering this story here on the southern border. Also joining us from McAllen, Texas, Maria Teresa Kumar, president / CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.

Chris, I want to get your reaction to this report about what they are calling the tender-age shelters.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It`s horrifying. It`s a moral abomination. It`s a procedural and practical abomination. You can`t stand up something like this that is actually going to care for kids at the rate they are doing it.

We knew something like this was coming. The question we have had from the beginning of this process is there is an infrastructure in place for unaccompanied minors since 2014 at least and that is largely kids 10 and up, lowest age 10. The new population are children under that age who for the first time are being put into this system because never before have they been ripped away from their parents. The question is where are they going?

There are some questions about, are they being put in foster care? We now have the glimpse of an answer. I think it is probably going to be much worse once we know the full scope of the answer.

And the thing that I would say here also is we are -- this is not stopping. I mean, we are standing here right now and there`s this idea of the deterrent. The links of the chain go all the way back to northern triangle on Honduras and Guatemala and people have made decisions to come here because they are facing the most imaginable sort of personal terror.

They are not going on that 1,000 mile journey for any other reason. What the Trump administration has entered into is a war of terror with the cartels in Central America in which they have now said we must terrorize people more than the cartels are terrorizing people in their home countries so they don`t come here. And that is a bidding were that is ghastly and a moral abomination and one that I pray that we cannot possibly win.

O`DONNELL: And Chris, I discovered what might be one of these tender age shelters earlier today because one of the witnesses who had been in and out of the shelter discovered there were soiled diapers and new diapers being purchased. But it is a shelter or jail, I think is probably the better term, that also housed older children and teenaged girls. And so, this is a mixed population shelter. I`m not sure whether these tender age shelters are exclusively for babies. I guess that`s something we are going to discover as this story develops.

But have you picked up as you have been covering this story any references that sounded like something like this was going on?

HAYES: We knew they had to be put somewhere. And so, the best guess of folks who had been talking was they were building out facilities. Again, this is scaling in real-time. This is, you know, this is the summer and lots of people are showing up and they are, again, they are choosing to exacerbate the problems of scale by the number of people they are entering into the system. They are taking this and they are producing a crisis by feeding more and more people into a system that is entirely unequipped to deal with it and feeding two-year-olds and three-year-olds and four-year- olds and five-year-olds into a system that has never, ever, existed for them to be received into it.

So this is a decision that has been made by the President of the United States and the people that work for him that are carrying it out to take this and create what is obviously now a very obvious humanitarian disaster and a practical one, too. I want to know whether these contracts have been vetted and who has them and who is caring for the children? And who is changing babies` diapers and who is giving them bottles and who is putting them down for naps and whether the capacity is there for people that are licensed by the state to be able to give them the care they need and even if they are getting the best care as the AP article notes, we turned away from orphanages and institutionalization for a reason. And that is entirely traumatic, long lasting and permanent trauma that we are imposing on this children who have been taken from their home to find some semblance of security in our country.

O`DONNELL: I want to go to Jacob Soboroff. I know he is there with you.

Jacob, you have been reporting on the border for years now. I want to know if you have picked up any clues that were sounding like there`s something out there called a tender age shelter.

JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Chris just hit the nail on the head, Lawrence. Inside this building that we are standing in front of 1,100 kids have been separated from their parents. I was inside the building and there are babies sitting by themselves in a cage with other babies.

Where are those babies going to go? Where are they going to put those babies when their parents are picked up and sent into a federal prison or a local jail and then deported and then they never come back?

You want to know what happens next? The babies don`t end up making it into a facility like this. The parents that would normally come to the babies don`t show up for asylum. They decide to run from the border patrol instead and the next chapter in the story, we are going to be seeing pictures of dead babies in the Arizona desert and in the south Texas brush. That`s what happens when you put deterrents in place and that`s what is going to happen next in the story.

You are going to have babies dying coming into the United States because families are scared to seek asylum because they don`t want those babies to end up in tender age shelters.

O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar, I would like to get your reaction to this new report tonight, about the so-called tender age shelters.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: These aren`t shelters, Lawrence. These are prisons for children. And then sadly, the American people have to be as outraged as I am right now.

I am a mother. I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and what we are experiencing right now, I cannot imagine not being able to sleep with my child. I cannot imagine that our government is using our tax dollars this way. I cannot imagine that there is any American right now that is not as morally outraged as I am.

I encourage people -- we, Voto Latino is organizing a march as called stopseparation.org this June 24th, this Sunday from El Paso to the first tent city because this is not acceptable on our watch. We have to make sure that we are present because what the President is doing is a policy that he did implemented because he is capricious, not because he had any alternative solution to actually have leadership in this world, to actually demonstrate what our country actually needs.

We can all recognize that there are issues that we need to address. This is not how you do it. You do not do it in the vulnerability of children. I want to underscore something that your guest said earlier. Some of these children will never see their parents again because as Chris mentioned ad underscore before, our system is not set up for this. Our system is not set up to actually address and channel and track children appropriately.

The fact that Jacob has seen there and actually has seen kids in cages, in cages, I don`t understand why the American people, I don`t understand why Congress is not acting. Mitch McConnell, this is on you. Ryan, this is on you. President Bush -- President Trump, this is on you. And Melania, Ivanka Trump this is a family business that you guys seems to be operating. I hope that you are having conversations right now very seriously because we are watching. We are organizing and this is not going to be OK.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, there is another interesting element of the AP`s reporting tonight. They are saying the government plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston where -- and this is the important part -- where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Now, these shelters do require some local licensing. There is some state licensing involved. That might be a new possible leverage point when this federal government is trying to create what are basically baby jails in Texas.

HAYES: I mean, I can`t stress strongly enough. I`m in contact with reporter with a lot of folks that are organizers and people who work on immigration, immigration lawyers. And the outcry over this is like nothing people have seen, right. So there is a moment right now of reckoning.

And here is what is going to happen when you talk about the obstacles that local leaders determine can put in the place of carrying out this policy, continuing in carrying out even now as we are speaking.

The Trump administration will double down and they will try to wait it out until it goes away. They are not going to lift a finger. They are not going to stop it unless they are made to stop it. That`s it. Those are the terms right now.

We are going to put babies in detention. And when they keep putting babies in detention, as Americans until some alignment of political forces in this country through constituent pressure and local leaders and elected officials in Washington say enough, stop, we cannot do this. This is madness. This is absolute madness. And unless and until that happens, they will keep doing it. That is very clear. They have made that very clear.

So local officials standing in the way of licensing of these facilities, political leaders of Washington, constituents who have been burying congressional offices with phone calls. I heard someone that say it is the most they have seen since healthcare, all that is necessary to be sustained or this will continue.

O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar, it seems that basically four the total will be secret baby jails in south Texas changes the nature of this story.

KUMAR: It is not going to end unless the American people stand up and make sure just take a page from the playbook of health care, flood your town halls this summer, talk to your representatives, make sure that they are calling. Male sure that they recognize that this is not who we are because we have to at the end of the day, we have make sure that we are present.

I encourage people to come to Tornillo, Texas this Sunday because it`s a march but it`s talking about who we are. Making sure these young people that these children know that they are loved, that they are cared for. That at the end of the say, whatever American government is doing they have gone rogue and we are going to make sure that we are present because these are not actually laws. These are policies that can be changed tomorrow.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, Maria Teresa Kumar, Jacob Soboroff, from McAllen, Texas, thank you very much for joining. I really appreciate it. And Gabe Gutierrez in Brownsville, thank you for joining us.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Congresswoman Norma Torres. She actually immigrated to the United States from Guatemala without her parents at the age of five.

And Congresswoman Torres, you have a unique history here that you bring to the story that we are covering here tonight and I would like to get into that. I first want to get your reaction to this breaking news report tonight that the Trump administration already has three secret facilities, some would say jails that it is running right here in South Texas where I am for babies. And that they are planning a fourth which they would like to locate in Houston.

REP. NORMA TORRES (D-CA), MIGRATED TO U.S. AT AGE FIVE: First of all, thank you for the opportunity, Lawrence, to share with you my experience in visiting the centers in San Diego. This is inhumane. It is critical that the American people stand up to this President, to this bullish way of trying to gain control of Congress over an issue that should be separate and apart in dealing with very small babies.

O`DONNELL: And tell us what you`ve been able to see. I know you have tried to see facilities on the California border. What have you been able to see?

TORRES: So we visited, first of all, a processing center where parents come in with their children. They claim -- you know, they are there. They ask for refuge. The refugee status is what they`re asking for, so they are presenting themselves. They are not trying to sneak over and under any wall. They have their children. So they invite them in to be processed, to show their identification. Then they`re placed in these very cold, freezing cells. Concrete walls. There is no natural light. There are giant fans that are blowing cold air throughout the cell because there`s a toilet in the middle of the room. And they are mixed in with other families. And the babies have nothing but an aluminum blanket to cover themselves with. It is unreal that these are the things that we talk about, that we shame other governments for doing, and yet here we are, President Trump doing the same thing.

O`DONNELL: About a dozen Republican senators have actually led by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah have actually written a letter to the President, asking him to immediately halt this new policy. And the Republican senators, in their letter, make it very clear to the President that they know that this is happening exclusively because of President Trump`s choice.

TORRES: It is absolutely exclusively the President`s choice. The zero- tolerance policy that he has come up with, I have no idea where he came up with this idea, but he has ushered it down to homeland security and to ICE and what they are doing is incarcerating toddlers. Toddlers are not a threat to our national security, and we should be treating them as babies that they are, and we should be providing them with the things that they need instead of putting them in iceboxes.

O`DONNELL: Tell us briefly, if you could, about how you made it to the United States when you were 5 years old.

TORRES: So as a little girl, you know, my parents didn`t see a future for me in Guatemala. My mother was very ill, couldn`t take care of me anymore, and they sent me to live with my father`s oldest uncle, somebody that I hardly knew. That was traumatic enough for me, leaving a loving home with my parents to come and live with my aunt and my uncle. But at least I was in a loving home. I didn`t spend time in a frozen cement cell with strangers that were making fun of me. That`s not what happened to me as a child.

And I`m so embarrassed and ashamed that our government -- that the American people are watching this, and all of us need to stand up because today is these toddlers, who is going to be next in the target of Donald Trump?

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Norma Torres, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD goes to Deacon Benigno Palacios, who has met some of the children in custody here in Brownsville, Texas, when they have come to his church. If you could speak to President Trump, what would you tell him about these children?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: If you could speak to President Trump, what would you tell him about these children?

DEACON BENIGNO PALACIOUS: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Deacon Palacios gets tonight`s last word. "He 11th hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

END