All-Star Panel: What is the best way to deal with border crisis?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What that means is – it means that if an immigration judge determines that they face a credible threat of death upon their return to their home country, then -- again, I'm not an immigration judge, but it is likely that the immigration judge will find that that person should be granted humanitarian relief.

It is our view, that it's unlikely that most of those kids will qualify for humanitarian relief and don't have a legal basis for remaining in this country. They will be sent back. Nobody should make any mistake about it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The first statement from the White House press secretary there was today, the second one July 7, saying kind of two different interpretations of what they think a judge may or may not say or do with the Central American kids who are on the southern border, some 50,000 plus. Just moments ago the Homeland Security secretary was up on Capitol Hill, and he was asked about this bipartisan effort to change the law that essentially would mean that the border patrol could turn away these folks on the border as opposed to the law now that says they have to take them in. Take a listen.



JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's not part of the supplemental request. I said all this publicly at the hearing.


BAIER: OK, so basically he said it's not part of the $3.7 billion request. It's not in there. What does all of that mean? Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online, Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. I mean, it seems, Jonah, that they don't really want to change this law right now, at least that's what it seems like.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Right. And I'm of the opinion they don't need really to change this law.


GOLDBERG: They need to do something. And it seems to me that they don't want to change the law and they don't want to do anything else either. They basically are seemingly content to let the crisis continue to use it as some sort of political wedge in order to get the supplemental that actually doesn't deal with the crisis. It just alleviates the conditions that these kids are under, which I think is an understandable and desirable thing to do. But it is not something that actually fixes the problem. And I can't quite get my head around why these guys aren't interested in fixing the problem.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, because I think a lot Democrats don't want to change the law for humanitarian reasons. They see these children as being more like refugees actually than children that should be turned around at the border, which is essentially what it sounds like Republicans want to do. Senator Cornyn is talking about introducing a bill that would change the law --

BAIER: He will do it tomorrow with Cuellar, the Democratic representative.

POWERS: Yes. They will treat the children just like Mexican children are treated, meaning they will essentially turn them away at the border or they'll put them before a judge. So it's an entirely different process.

So I think it's unfortunate. I was with Brit. I met a lot of these children. I think it's unfortunate HHS will not provide more access to these children, because I do really believe if people could have seen what we saw and saw these children that there would be a lot more compassion and a lot more concern for them and more of a sense, like I said, that they are really refugees and they need asylum.

BAIER: For the people in these border towns and concern in these different states that are taking these kids in, what do you say?

POWERS: Well, the kids are really being taken in by organizations that have contracts with HHS. There's about 60 organizations throughout the country.  So --

BAIER: So why do they need $3.7 billion?

POWERS: I think that's more also to deal with deporting them and to deal with issues on the border. I think that was the administration's original position on this, right? But I think that -- look, it's a real problem and we're not dealing with this properly. We need to have a better process for dealing with people that are flooding into our country. I wouldn't disagree with that. I'm just saying I think the answer is to give them asylum, treat them as refugees, not to turn around children at the border and say go back to what you're trying to flee.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think there are two separate issues with two separate answers. The one issue is controlling the border and not creating a magnet for the continuation of this catastrophe. The second is treating the kids who are here humanely, the best way that we can. For the first, there is no other answer than to send them back. To put them on buses, to have them come back to Central America, at which point it will be understood that you're putting all your kids in danger for no reason.

BAIER: Address Kirsten's statement about refugee status and they're going back to this place that has a murder rate of one out of 14.

KRAUTHAMMER: If that's the case, if you want to deal with these humanely, if you treat them here as refugees you're essentially saying everybody who wants can come in. We should send buses to pick them up in Central America so they are not going to die on top of Mexican trains.

POWERS: That's ridiculous.

KRAUTHAMMER: We cannot do that it as a country, open up our borders up because of miserable conditions in certain countries. Otherwise, the Congo would empty and end up here where conditions are even worse.

It seems to me if you want to deal with the humanitarian issue, and I'm prepared to spend a lot of money on this, then perhaps we ought to think of doing it in country. You return them, you spend a lot of money, you set up the same centers that you saw in Virginia or elsewhere, perhaps in country with American personnel, American money. If you want to help them against the gangs, you can help either the government if it isn't corrupt to the point where it won't deal with the gangs, or if you're really serious about this, send National Guardsmen who'll protect the villagers. But the idea that you're importing the problem into the U.S. is to me unacceptable because in the end it means that we don't have a border.

POWERS: So we don't take refugees anymore? Just so I'm clear on that, this is a country that cannot handle 60,000 refugees? That can't seriously be your position. And just so we understand, every single one of these children had horror stories about what they fled from. And I've heard a lot of conservatives say, oh they have been making up the stories. They've been coached. Every single one of them should be in Hollywood because they were sobbing, crying, hysterical telling these stories.

KRAUTHAMMER: Wait a minute. We have criteria and we've had them for 50 years, that determine who is a refugee and what do you need to show to be a refugee.

POWERS: Under what circumstances are these children not refugees?

KRAUTHAMMER: -- advance refugees. The whole idea of holding a hearing is to determine if they are. And unless you believe that every single one is one who shares these stories that you heard, it would seem to me that a sovereign country would return those who don't meet the criteria. That's what our law says and it's a humane law that has served us well for a long time.

BAIER: Let me bring in Jonah.

GOLDBERG: Two points. I agree with Charles in this sense. There has to be some limiting principle here, right? The average American makes, I don't know, $50,000 a year or $40,000 a year, is a global one percent. Right -- and if the argument is that people come from poor and violent places --

POWERS: It's not about poverty.

GOLDBERG: But that story keeps changing. I have no doubt the people you met with --

POWERS: The story doesn't keep changing. The U.N. did a study on this, where they interviewed these children. This has been out for everybody to read.


BAIER: Let him finish his point.

GOLDBERG: The headlines from Central America, and I went back and looked at headlines going back to the mid-1980s have been war-torn, civil war, violence. It's being going on for a very long time. My only point is your argument about who we should let in isn't an argument simply about 60,000 kids. We have to know what the limiting principle is, otherwise it's simply an argument against border themselves.

BAIER: Let me ask you this, should we accept everyone from Syria? That's a refugee status. That's a violent place.

POWERS: These are false paradigms. I think we should allow refugees from different countries and we should have a systemic plan for it. But we have a crisis of children coming from across our border. And when you have children coming across your border, then I think you have to deal with that crisis. These are false choices --

BAIER: I want to play one sound bite. Governor Heineman from Nebraska, here's what he had to say about this whole thing as it's developing for his state.


GOV. DAVE HEINEMAN, R - NE: A couple days ago Senator Johanns found out that 200 illegal individuals had been sent to our state. No one has notified us of that. So I have been on the telephone the last couple days to the Department of Homeland Security, referred me to the secretary of Health and Human services. We want to know the names of those individuals, who their sponsor is. Is their sponsor legal? What communities did you send them to? Why are they conducting a secret operation essentially transporting them all over the country, and now we learn to Nebraska, and the federal government won't tell us what's going on?


BAIER: And for that, he's saying he didn't even know they were coming.

KRAUTHAMMER: We have got to have rules. This can't be done in secret highhandedly by the administration. Of course, you have to let the governors know and you have to let the communities know. But it seems that to me if this is a crisis and it's a terrible tragedy, there's only one way it stops, when buses are returned. You can put nurses on the buses, you can put social workers on the buses, you can put all the money in the world you want, all the food you want, you can put National Guardsmen who'll protect these people on the buses. But unless the buses are returning to Central America, it will empty into Texas.

GOLDBERG: One quick maybe a consensus point here. One of the things, if Kirsten is right, and they should all be refugees --

POWERS: I didn't say all of them. I said most of them. That's why most of these kids are coming --

GOLDBERG: If they should all be taken in, and if Charles is right, I think one of the things that we're witnessing is that after years of absolute neglect on the immigration issue and duplicitousness and disingenuousness by political elites about immigration, the lack of trust and good will about what to do in situations like this is basically at zero. And I think a lot of what we're seeing today is Obama reaping what he has sown with how he has treated immigration for the last three years.

BAIER: Next up Bowe Bergdahl back on duty. We'll see how that plays with the panel next.

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