JUDY WOODRUFF: We will get into the politics
behind the president’s rhetoric later in the
But, for now, let’s examine the underlying
policy the White House says is at issue.
As we just heard, the White House says the
president’s attacks on Cummings were, in part,
driven by the congressman’s criticism of the
administration’s immigration policies.
Here is an exchange from a House Oversight
hearing on child separation at the border
earlier this month.
This is Cummings and Kevin McAleenan.
He’s the acting U.S. secretary of homeland
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: You feel like you’re doing
a great job, right?
Is this is what you’re saying?
KEVIN MCALEENAN, Acting Secretary of Homeland
Security: We’re doing our level best in a
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: What does that mean?
What does that mean when a child is sitting
in their own feces, can’t take a shower?
Come on, man.
What’s that about?
None of us would have our children in that
They are human beings.
We’re better than that.
And I don’t want us to lose sight of that.
When we’re dancing with the angels, these
children will be dealing with the issues that
have been presented to them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As Lisa noted in her tape,
the president’s acting chief of staff says
Cummings’ claims are false.
So let’s examine the facts, what we know and
what we don’t, about the current conditions
on the southwest border.
I’m joined now by Ali Noorani.
He is executive director of the National Immigration
It’s an immigration advocacy group.
Ali Noorani, welcome back to the “NewsHour.”
ALI NOORANI, Executive Director, National
Immigration Forum: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as we have been hearing
and reporting, the president’s chief of staff,
acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is saying
what Congressman Cummings said is, we heard
him say, illegitimate, lies, when he talked
ant the conditions of families and children
on the border.
Is there evidence one way or another about
ALI NOORANI: So the Department of Homeland
Security has an Office of Inspector General.
This lives within DHS, but doesn’t report
to the political structure of DHS.
So, it is an independent, unbiased investigation
They found, among other things, that — when
they did inspections earlier this year, they
found one cell that had 71 men that should
have only had 41.
They had one cell that was 50 — stuffed with
50 women, when it should only have 40.
Two of the five facilities that were examined
over the course of their investigation were
not providing children clean clothes or opportunities
to take a shower.
As the vice president said, this is tough
stuff, but the administration is clearly not
living up just to humanity and treating people
JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, I want — Ali Noorani,
I want to air a portion of an interview that
my colleague William Brangham did.
This was in late June.
This was with an American attorney who had
been to the border detention facilities.
She saw for herself some of the conditions.
Here’s part of that interview.
WARREN BINFORD, Willamette University: We
have children caring for other young children.
For example, we saw a little boy in diapers
— or he had no diapers on.
He should have had a diaper on.
He was 2 years old,.
And when I asked why he didn’t have diapers,
I was told he didn’t need it.
He immediately urinated.
And he was in the care of another child.
Children cannot take children.
And yet that’s how they’re trying to run this
The children are hardly being fed anything
nutritious, and they are being medically neglected.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So she’s testifying or saying
in an interview — and she had given a number
of interviews where she shared this information,
and yet the pictures, video hard to come by.
ALI NOORANI: And what we have right now is
this really, really incredibly ugly political
debate, by and large, driven by the White
House, that is trying to lead the American
public not to remember what they’re seeing
and what they’re hearing.
So, over the last two years, we have traveled
to nearly three dozen cities across the country,
from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to other conservative
In every single community, what they’re asking
for, what are the practical and pragmatic
solutions that treat people humanely and keep
us safe as a nation?
People are tired of the political rhetoric.
And they see what’s going back and forth.
And they’re asking, OK, who’s going to actually
fix the problem?
And, right now, the administration is not
fixing the problem.
Congress in the supplemental budget gave the
administration about $4 billion to hopefully
fix the problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just briefly, I want to
come back to, again, the specifics of what
Mr. Cummings said in that exchange with Kevin
McAleenan, when he said children sitting in
There’s a story in The New York Times.
This ran out on June the 21st, I think.
It said, among other things: “Children as
young as 7 and eight, many of them wearing
clothes caked with snot and tears, caring
for infants they have just met.
Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves
in their pants.”
My question is, how do we know this is true?
ALI NOORANI: So we know it’s true, by and
large, because of the OIG report.
I think Republicans and Democrats…
JUDY WOODRUFF: The same…
ALI NOORANI: Office of Inspector General report.
I think that’s what we’re depending on as
an advocacy organization.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a government organization.
ALI NOORANI: They are sending experts into
the field to do these investigations.
What they are putting out there is not colored
by one political stripe or the other.
They’re saying, these are the facts on the
Our detention facilities as a nation are not
living up to standards.
Congressman Cummings, Chairman Cummings, in
his role as Oversight, he — it’s his job
to challenge the administration on what they’re
doing, what they’re not doing.
And it’s that Office of Inspector General
report, those are the facts of the case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why isn’t there more — why
aren’t there more pictures, more video of
ALI NOORANI: Well, this administration, to
a large degree, even the previous administration
— the Obama administration did open their
This administration is really holding close
what is happening in these facilities.
You see reports of children being moved from
facility to facility, being lost.
The lack of transparency leads to a lot of
questions in voters’ minds, OK, what is going
And, again, who is actually solving this problem?
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about conditions right
Here we are, July, the end of the month of
Much of this testimony came about a month,
Have things gotten any better?
Has it changed?
ALI NOORANI: So, because of two factors, we’re
starting to see numbers at least plateau of
individuals crossing the border to apply for
The first factor is the nearly 30,000 enforcement
officials that Mexico’s put at their southern
border and the northern border.
The second factor is the summer.
We always see the numbers drop over the summer.
So we hope that, as the numbers start to plateau,
and the $4 billion given by Congress to DHS
and HHS to actually address the problem, we
will hopefully see — we won’t be seeing pictures
and sights and sounds of children sitting
in feces, or we won’t be hearing those stories.
We should — as a nation, we should be treating
people and children humanely.
And now DHS and HHS have the resources to
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have a sense of how
this controversy is going to affect how well
these migrants are treated by the United States,
whether there are better conditions or not
Do you have — and you talk to two people
who work on immigration issues all the time.
ALI NOORANI: So, over the weekend in The New
York Times, there was this incredible set
of reporting by Sonia Nazario.
She’s the author of “Enrique’s Journey,” which
is one of the landmark books in the space.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
ALI NOORANI: And she reports from Honduras
of how the situation continues to get worse.
One of the organizations there, an NGO called
Association for a More Just Society, they’re
actually losing their foreign aid from the
U.S. because of the Trump administration’s
So, as an administration, as a nation, we
are not actually addressing the problem in
Honduras or are making the problems worse
over time along the border, because we don’t
— we’re not putting immigration judges that
are free of political influence by DOJ.
We are not, as of yet, improving facilities.
Hopefully, that will change.
So there are a lot of factors, a lot of things
in control of the administration to actually
address this problem.
And up to this point, they have not taken
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meantime, as we know,
tightening asylum, the interpretation of asylum
laws, the agreement with Guatemala.
ALI NOORANI: Right, between alleged — or
claiming that Guatemala is a safe third country,
which is clear, absolutely not, but then also
requiring asylum applicants to remain in Mexico.
And you — we’re seeing stories of men, women
being extorted and subject of violence while
they’re waiting in Mexico.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ali Noorani with the National
Immigration Forum, thank you very much.
ALI NOORANI: Thank you.