June 14, 2014
Guest: Judy Pino, Elahe Izadi, John Rowley, Kyle Kondik, Jessica Vale,
Nike Offenbac, Jim Wallis, Elahe Izadi, Judy Pino, Sam Cruz, Hector
Cordero-Guzman, Guillermo Diaz
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Who
decides the choices we face at the ballot box?
Plus, is sanctuary the only answer when Washington fails?
And remembering the incomparable Ruby Dee. But first, if hundreds of
suffering children can`t spur immigration reform, is there even a prayer?
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Few things in American politics
are more predictable than this. Incumbents win re-election. Especially
congressional incumbents in the House of Representatives, which is why the
political world was shocked this week when House leader Eric Cantor, the
second ranking House Republican was defeated on Tuesday by primary
challenger David Brat. A virtual unknown. An econ professor at Randolph-
Macon College who raised just $200,000 to unseat one of the most powerful
political figures in the country. Not only did Cantor lose, he lost big.
11 percentage points big. Cantor`s loss was the first time in history a
House majority leader lost in a primary. Immediately the political world
began looking for an explanation, and one of the first explanations that
has emerged for this historic defeat is about how the issue of immigration
played into the campaign. It seems that immigration had a critical role in
a Virginia primary. Virginia. Not some border state, Virginia. I mean
the last time Virginia was anything like a border state was during the
Civil War in the 1860s when it bordered the union and the confederacy. And
when I grew up in Virginia in the `70s and `80s, the immigrants we learned
about, well, they were the Jamestown settlers of the 17th century. But now
in 2014, immigration politics became part of Virginia politics, in a big
way. Last year there was Eric Cantor, seemingly supporting a pathway to
citizenship for undocumented children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R) VIRGINIA: One of the great founding principles of our
country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their
parents. And it is time to provide an opportunity for legal residents and
citizenship for those who are brought to this country as children and who
know no other home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, see, that moment right there, Cantor`s under-resourced,
but savvy challenger David Brat used that position to attack. Suggesting
an influx of more people would mean lower wages for working Virginia
citizens. Cantor countered. His campaign sending out a mailer that said,
in part, "Conservative Republican Eric Cantor is stopping the Obama-writ
plan to give illegal aliens amnesty." But on Tuesday, it was Virginia`s
seventh district primary voters who stopped Cantor`s plan to return to
Congress next year. The question of whether immigration affected Cantor`s
campaign drew this response from White House official Dan Pfeiffer who
tweeted, "Cantor`s problem wasn`t his position on immigration reform, it
was his lack of a position. Graham wrote and passed a bill and is winning
big." But Graham that Pfeiffer is referring to is Republican Senator
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who ran on immigration, faced a tough
primary and still won.
Now, as a political scientist, I`m wary of analysis offered too swiftly in
the wake of an election. It simply is going to take us more time to
disentangle the complicated factors that caused Tuesday`s electoral
outcome. But let me suggest this. Figuring out whether Cantor lost
because of his stance on immigration is less consequential than determining
what happens now to the ongoing stalemate in the national effort to bring
about immigration reform. With Cantor on his way out, will it take a
miracle to get this done? Because for some, a miracle seems to be precisely
what they need. Last week we reported on a story that has only grown this
week, the ongoing situation in Nogales, Arizona, where nearly 1,000
unaccompanied migrant children are being sheltered and are just now in the
last few days getting something like adequate supplies. Many of them
unable to bathe and sleeping under foil blankets on plastic cots during
their first days there.
According to a recent report by the ACLU, nearly 25,000 immigrants are
being housed in 13 private prisons commissioned by the Federal Bureau of
Prisons across this country and are, quote, "subjected to shocking abuse
and mistreatment and are discriminated against by BOP policies that impede
family contact and exclude them from rehabilitative programs."
But an act of God to resurrect immigration reform may not be that much of a
reach as religious leaders have been among those most vocally calling
attention to the need for some time. Last fall a group of immigration
reform activists and evangelical pastors met with President Obama in the
Oval Office to press the issue of immigration shortly after House Speaker
John Boehner said that there would be no immigration reform in 2013. And
Speaker Boehner kept true to his word. So in February catholic and
evangelical leaders sent an open letter to Congress that said in part,
"each day we witness the human tragedies created by our current system,
including the separation of families and the violation of basic human
dignity. Common sense fixes to our immigration policies are long overdue.
As a nation founded upon the principles of the rule of law and the
centrality of family, we can no longer delay fixing this system.
Religious leaders followed that letter up with several meetings with White
House leaders in Washington, D.C., to urge a move forward on immigration
reform. And in April, Roman Catholic leaders traveled to the border,
celebrated mass and offered communion to the still fenced separating the
U.S. and Mexico, to the people on the Mexico side. Now, there are those
who see Eric Cantor`s loss as a possible win for Speaker Boehner and are
pushing him forward on immigration reform. One faith leader writes, "But
now that Cantor is gone and with him his threat, we hope that John Boehner
will be free to act, to do what his head and heart tells him is the right
thing to do on immigration. Bible, badges and business have all been
pressing Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform as both a
moral and economic issue, one in the true spirit of America`s embrace of
immigrants and one, in which the gospel is at stake in how we welcome the
stranger. I`m pleased to be joined at my table by that faith leader Jim
Wallis, the president and founder of sojourners, a national Christian
organization committed to faith in action for social justice and also the
author of the "Uncommon Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a world
divided," which is in bookstores now. Jim, is immigration a moral issue?
JIM WALLIS, AUTHOR "THE COMMON GOOD": I love the way you contrasted
conventional politics with maybe a miracle and Act of God.
WALLIS: As you know, the heart of faith is to love God, and then right
away, immediately to love your neighbor as yourself. In Matthew 25, was my
conversion path in Jesus says "how you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the
naked, the stranger, the immigrant, those who are sick and in prison is how
you treat me." So evangelical, Catholics, (INAUDIBLE), Muslims across the
spectrum, have united together all across our boundaries because
Evangelicals realized how we treat 11 million undocumented people is how we
treat Christ himself. We brought the Gospel to the Congress. Now we`ll
see what they do. This is not only a moral issue, it`s a faith imperative
for us. How we treat the stranger is a matter of faith.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other thing that faith is, as you were talking about the
notion of the heart of faith, is the ability to believe in things for which
we do not currently have empirical evidence. You know, it`s part of why
the faith conversation can be a difficult one. At the moment, do you see
any empirical evidence that we are going to get immigration reform? Are we
really simply having to step out on faith here?
WALLIS: Well, Eric Cantor lost probably more because he was a character
from "The House of Cards" than the Congressmen even wanted him to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although the lead character in the "House of Cards" never
would have failed to spend as much time in the district, he would have been
WALLIS: Exit polls in the counter election show that most people who voted
were for immigration reform. I mean GOP pollsters this week show that most
Americans are for this, most Republicans, most Democrats, independents.
We`ve won the policy debate. Most of the country knows it`s a broken
system. It`s breaking up families, separating kids from their mom and dad,
it`s bad for the economy. And yet a small vocal minority is controlling
So this conventional political wisdom is a sickness in politics. And
what`s at the stake here, I think, is a fundamental fear. What I love
about your show is America is on this show. So my most important speech on
immigration recently came to my son`s fifth grade class. And so here they
are and I`m explaining immigration, the system in history and why we have
these people living in the shadows that are being abused and families
suffering. They said why don`t we fix this?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, right.
WALLIS: Why don`t Congress fix this? And well, I said, they were afraid.
What are they afraid of? I looked at my son`s fifth grade class, African-
American, Latino, Asian American, Native American, white, Somalis,
Australian, I said they`re afraid of you. They`re afraid that you
represent the future of America and they don`t think it`s going to work.
How`s it working? They said, oh, it`s great. It`s really cool. I said so
how do we convince America this is really cool? That`s at the heart of
this. The fear of a different kind of America.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so it seems to me that -- so I have a great deal of
comfort with someone saying our faith leads us to care for the stranger, to
care for the widowed and orphaned, that we have a responsibility across
ideological lines to bound together. But I have less comfort, for example,
with the U.S. Conference of Bishops going in and saying we have a faith
claim that says we should not have to provide birth control. So explain to
me the difference. If I`m watching right now and I`m not - I don`t align
myself with a faith, why should I feel comfortable with a faith community
engaging on the question of immigration if I don`t feel comfortable with a
faith community, for example, engaging on other things, on which I might
WALLIS: The faith we have to raise principals. When we endorse candidates
I think we`re in trouble. Or a piece of legislation. What are our
principals? On this issue we`re saying every child -- every immigrant is
is a child of God and these are people in the shadows. They`re being
abused. They can`t go to the doctor, they can`t go to the police. They`re
frightened. And it`s stories that are convincing us, the scripture
convinces and then our churches are full of these people. These are our
brothers and sisters. They are not them and us, it`s we know. And for me
I was in an orchard a couple of years ago and a mother told me how her
nine-year-old daughter went to the front door every night to welcome her
dad home. Then he got deported. And she still goes to the door every
night at 5:00.
HARRIS-PERRY: Looking for dad.
WALLIS: To welcome her dad home. And when I heard that, my son was 9. I
just thought how would my son feel? We`re being converted by the
Scriptures welcoming the stranger, but also the stories. So this isn`t for
us partisan, political. We`ll support any kind of bill. They have to fix
and heal a broken system here and that for us is a moral imperative.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate that distinction about the question of raising
the principals. Stick with us because we`re going to go deeper into some
of these stories and to the sense of urgency that is part of this. Stay
Coming up, you know him as Huck from "Scandal." Guillermo Diaz is going to
join us to talk about his powerful film in support of immigration reform.
But up next, an update on the hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children in
Nogales, Arizona. Don`t miss it.
HARRIS-PERRY: The story we brought you last week about hundreds of
unaccompanied minors being shipped to a detention center in Nogales,
Arizona, is far from over. The dire conditions at the facility are slowly
starting to improve as the children are now being provided with catered
food, on-site showers and vaccinations. Joining me now from the border in
Mission, Texas, with the latest on this developing story is NBC News
correspondent Mark Potter. Mark, you`ve been reporting on this continuing
issue of border children in Nogales and elsewhere. Bring me up to date on
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that the flow
continues. It is a 24/7 phenomenon here on the border, particularly here
in south Texas, the area known as the Rio Grande Valley from Brownsville up
to Lake Zapata. We`re sort of in the middle of that in Mission near
McAllen and people are just pouring across this border, most of them from
Central America, day by day, hour by hour. In fact this morning as our
crew was arriving here to set up for this broadcast, we saw a group coming
in. This is a county park right here and we saw a group at the top of this
road, they were walking up, unescorted. They are 17 people from El
Salvador. Mostly women and children, a couple of young men. And they were
walking. They said they had been in Mexico for nine days. They came from
small villages in El Salvador. They were escaping violence there. They
actually thought they were still in Mexico until we told them, no, you`re
in the United States. When they learned that, they just sat down and
waited for the authorities to arrive. That`s something that we see here
all the time. This is a smuggling operation. All these people are being
smuggled in. They`re being paid for one way or the other. And so you`ve
got the mix of a humanitarian issue and a smuggling issue and it`s all
coming together, and they are just pouring in here day by day.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, Mark, that - you just used a mix of the smuggling issue
and a humanitarian issue, it feels to me like even if I watch the images
there that you captured this morning of people crossing the border that
it`s a little bit of a Rorschach test. That, you know, what you see there,
whether what you see is an emerging humanitarian crisis or what you see
are, you know, law breakers depends a lot on where you sort of stand
POTTER: Absolutely. And that`s the problem here. It`s a political issue,
one way or the other. Black and white for so many people in this country.
But it`s a gray issue. These are people, they`re hurting and they`re
claiming that they`re all coming up because of violence in their country.
But there a lot of them are coming now because there`s an organized effort
to bring them in. In those countries, we are hearing from these people,
they are being told on television, around these town squares, everywhere,
that now is the time to come to the United States. This is the time to
come in. You`ll have a chance to stay and they are paying a lot of money
to do that. So there`s a mix of all those things you were talking about.
It`s not just one phenomenon, it`s all come together. That`s why we have
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Mark Potter in Mission, Texas, thank you for setting
the table for us. We`re going to dig into some of that complexity with the
table when we come back. But I appreciate you being there and for those
Coming up, an MSNBC original report. The man living in sanctuary and
unable to step outside of a church for nearly a month for fear of having
his family ripped apart. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama called the number of unaccompanied children
crossing the border a humanitarian crisis, which is why faith leaders are
imploring the president and Congress to help them. The leaders of the
National Latino Evangelical Coalition had this to say yesterday. "We stand
ready to assist the government with the overwhelming demand for
humanitarian aid. The growing concern around thousands of unaccompanied
minors has a ready response in linguistically capable and culturally
compatible community ready to help." At the table Jim Wallis, president
and founder of Sojourners, Elahe Izadi who`s staff correspondent at
"National Journal", Judy Pino national spokesperson at the Libre
Initiative, and Reverend Sam Cruz, professor of Church and Society at Union
Theological Seminary. So we were just talking about those images that we
saw from Mark Potter and the fact that they do constitute a kind of
ideological Rorschach test. What you see when you are looking at those
JUDY PINO, THE LIBRE INITIATIVE: That`s right, Melissa, and Mr. Potter is
absolutely correct, are they illegal immigrants or are they refugees? It
depends where you stand on the fence. But the truth is that our border is
porous. They are able to get in. And that is a problem because we were
told that the border was secure. And that`s what we`re seeing. That`s the
big struggle that we`re seeing on Capitol Hill to actually reach some kind
of consensus on what to do. Now, once they`re here, what do you do with
them? I`m an immigrant myself and I know the desperation that my parents
felt when they were trying to leave Cuba. And so I feel for these people,
especially when you have children involved. And obviously the conditions
that we`re seeing playing out are not optimal. But it is definitely a sign
of the times that it`s time to act. That our immigration system is broken.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this issue of it being time to act, this sense of
urgency, I wonder if that`s in part what the faith or what multiple faith
communities in this case working together despite ideological differences
might bring to this that we really cannot wait for another election cycle.
REV. SAM CRUZ, PROFESSOR, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I definitely think
that it`s time for the faith community, especially the Christians, to go
back to our prophetic traditions within the African American church and
Latino churches and demand that something happen. That something happened
that takes care of all these people that are being humiliated and
dehumanized. And we have to, unfortunately, we know that the Republicans
are not going to do anything about this, but also President Obama, who I
voted for twice, has continued to ask us to have patience and patience.
And six years have gone by and he has the power to take executive action.
And I think that that`s where the community of faith has to challenge him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s interesting, because part of what you said there
when you talk about the prophetic tradition is you move us beyond a sort of
-- I think sometimes when we think about religious traditions in the U.S.,
particularly a Christian tradition, is kind of a prayerful, but removed
idea. But when you invoke liberation theology of South and Central America
and of African-American traditions, that`s a lot more urgent. I mean it
sometimes has been connected with issues like civil disobedience, it`s been
connected with demands even on those who are friends, right, political
friends and allies.
WALLIS: Gabriel Salguero who wrote that statement I talked to last night
and they are there, they are present, they want to help, they said let us
help. The reason we`re involved in immigration reform as a policy issue is
because we`re involved on the streets in our congregations. These families
and these kids, they`re ours. And so, we didn`t just - just - on foreign
politics, we can`t help these people until we fix the system. Here`s what
I hear from Republicans. We will pass this. No one is saying it will
never pass, just not now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that because of President Obama?
WALLIS: When they say not now, well, they use lots of excuses. You know,
Obama, but when they say not now, what they`re saying is we`re willing to
tolerate the suffering that will occur today, tomorrow and the next day.
You`re right. We`re saying whatever your excuses are, Cantor, Obama, no
more excuses. This is a moral imperative now because of what`s happening
to people. Put people ahead of politics and finally decide this now, which
means, as you know, also, just make a vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, right, I mean the president also is not sort
of describing the fierce urgency of now in this moment. And you know, why,
you know, Jim initially suggested that part of the angst around immigration
reform has to do with shifting demographics within the U.S., this idea that
we are a browning or tanning nation in a certain way. And I guess I
wonder, though, because there isn`t any reason to think that immigrant
communities as a broad definition are going to be all Democratic voters.
We would expect both among Latino communities something like 60-40 voting.
And certainly when we start, you know, kind of broadening that out to - to
other communities that are immigrants, there is no reason to think if those
are necessarily Democratic voters that you`ll be bringing into the system.
ELAHE IZADI, STAFF CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, exactly, and
that`s the argument that pro-reform Republicans have made that look, the
future of our party depends on us doing something by 2016, but this
election cycle, 2014, there are very few Republicans who face a challenge
from the right in their primaries or in the mid-term elections when more
conservative voters come out because of their anti-stance on immigration
reform. And to the point about the religious communities, there was
actually a study that just came out this week from Brookings that found for
support - for not just immigration reform, but that one that includes a
pathway to citizenship is very strong among all religious communities
except white, protestant, evangelical Christians. It`s actually decreased
by eight percent in justice past year, so it makes you wonder how this
rhetoric is affecting these communities.
IZADI: And do they overlap with the south? I mean I also wonder if that -
because, you know, it`s one thing to have an identity community or faith
community but when it also overlaps with the geographic community, then it
becomes a constituency, right, not just a community. Stick with us. I
promise - there`s some, I know, there`s so much. But still to come, the
terrific actor who plays Huck on "Scandal" Guillermo Diaz is going to join
us live to talk about his new project aimed at supporting immigration.
Also, the story of a man living under his church`s protection to prevent
his family from being torn apart.
But first, as we go to break, take a look at the humanitarian toll, the
lack of immigration reform is taking on families in this scene from a new
documentary from the Evangelical immigration table called "The Stranger."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REGINA, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: They said, Mommy, can we go to a library?
I say OK, let`s go. But I don`t know if I`m coming back.
JESSICA, REGINA`S DAUGHTER: It is a constant fear of not knowing if she`s
all right while she`s driving.
REGINA: Carolina, the little one, she says, mom, I have bad dreams and
people take me somewhere else. I say why? Because you`re not here anymore
HARRIS-PERRY: Danielle Ruiz arrived in the United States 14 years ago.
He`s been a law abiding church-going hard-working member of his Tucson,
Arizona, community, but he`s an undocumented immigrant. And when in 2011
he was stopped by highway patrol, a long legal battle began, one which
culminated in May with a deportation order. Two weeks ago on this program,
we discussed Daniel`s story with Reverend Alison Harrington of Tucson,
Arizona`s Southside Presbyterian Church, which was providing Daniel with
sanctuary. But we wanted to know more. So msnbc.com reporter Amanda
Sakuma filed this original report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear Mr. President Obama, my name is Carlos Neyoy. I
am an eighth grader at Challenger Middle School in Tucson. I ask you to
please close my dad`s case so that he can stay in the United States.
AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC.COM REPOTTER: Carlos Neyoy`s worst fear came true
three years ago when his father, Daniel Neyoy-Ruiz was pulled over by
highway patrol. No ticket was issued, but like many undocumented
immigrants, Daniel was caught up in the border patrol`s dragnet. With
nowhere else to go, Daniel turned to the church.
SAKUMA: We`re standing here in front of Southside Presbyterian Church here
in Tucson, Arizona, where they`re leading a movement to offer sanctuary to
undocumented immigrants who are under threat of deportation. Daniel has
been holed up here inside of the church since May 13th when federal agents
issued a final order of deportation against him.
(on camera): Daniel, if you had a chance to talk to President Obama, what
would you say to him?
DANIEL NEYOY RUIZ: [speaking Spanish]
MARGOT COWAN, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL RUIZ: It`s not good enough to say we
won`t come to the church and drag him out. We should hope that that would
never be an option for officers of the United States. Daniel Neyoy is an
integral member of the Tucson community. He`s one of us. He deserves to
stay. Our community would be outraged if law enforcement officials came
into the sanctuary of the church to arrest Daniel.
SAKUMA: Southside Presbyterian has a history of offering sanctuary to
immigrants. The church spawned a nationwide movement in the early `80s
taking Central American refugees who were fleeing from violence in their
REV. ALISON HARRINGTON, SOUTHSIDE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: Right here at
Southside Presbyterian Church we are in the birth place of the sanctuary
movement, and so it`s part of our legacy that we would offer hospitality to
someone who is in fear of being separated from their family.
SAKUMA: The room where Daniel has been living with his family was Reverend
Alison Harrington`s old office. But for nearly a month the cramped space
became a makeshift bedroom for Daniel, his son Carlos and his wife, Carla.
(on camera): So have you and your mom lived here this entire time too?
CARLOS NEYOY: Not me. I go to my grandma`s sometimes to clean house,
check on it.
SAKUMA: This is such a small, small space.
SAKUMA: Carla, what are you most afraid of?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: [speaking Spanish]
SAKUMA (voice over): The family`s regular home is along the outskirts of
Tucson, across town where border patrol cars are known to frequent street
corners. Their house sits on a dusty path nestled in between the homes of
Carlos` extended family. For the last three weeks, their home has been
(on camera): What does family mean to you?
NEYOY: [speaking Spanish]
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is msnbc.com reporter Amanda Sakuma. Nice to
have you, Amanda.
SAKUMA: Thank you, Hi.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, I understand there`s been a major development in
Daniel`s story, even while you were out there in Tucson. So, sort of tell
us what happened next.
SAKUMA: Yes. Just hours after we met with Daniel at Southside
Presbyterian, we received word that ICE, immigration and customs
enforcement had granted him a one-year renewable stay of deportation. And
what this means is that he`s able to seek employment and provide for his
family. And there is a joyous reunion. We met with them after they found
out word and it was absolutely fantastic. They were so excited. And he
was going back to seek his old job. And now if he`s ever pulled over ever
again for a minor traffic infraction, he`s able to present some sort of
permit for them.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is obviously like the best kind of Father`s Day gift.
But as I talked with Reverend Harrington about it a couple of weeks ago, it
feels like the starfish story, you`re throwing sort of one back. Is there
a way in which this is a larger movement or is this just this one church?
SAKUMA: No, this is not an isolated position here. There`s actually a
huge movement that`s been growing in the religious community to prolong
this legacy of the sanctuary movement. And it`s happening in many
different ways across the country. We`re seeing in Chicago, for example,
there`s a mother who sought sanctuary for over a year in order to keep
united with her eight-year-old son at the time. And we`re seeing many
different ways in Philadelphia, for example, they`re working to separate
the cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration officials in
order to keep their families together, in order to keep their communities
and congregations together.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jim, is this the answer to what faith communities can do
while they are trying to get the government to act?
WALLIS: I know and love Southside Church. I`ve been there before. They
have been doing what Pope Francis just said we should do. He said we must
protect the children of God, especially the most vulnerable. And so,
indeed, that`s what we`re doing all over the country and that`s what`s
brought us into this. We sent up a tent outside the capital to fast during
December. A congresswoman came one day, she was on one side of me, a
mother on the other side. And the mother talked about being separated from
her ten-year-old daughter. The congresswoman began to cry because she had
a ten-year-old daughter too. Two women stood and they embraced and they
wept. And I said congresswoman, how can we get this to happen across the
street? She said, Jim, there are so many layers between this tent and the
Congress. How do we get these stories in front of them? That`s what we`re
doing in the faith community.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that it makes a difference. Jim, thank you for being
here this morning. And Amanda Sakuma, thank you so much for bringing us
the story of Daniel and his family and a little bit of good Father`s Day
news for us. There`s more of Amanda`s reporting online at msnbc.com.
We`re going to be right back with more on the issue of immigration.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the 2010 census form, the most recent one, is person one
of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, no or yes, with a request to get
specific as to country of origin. Then it asks what is person one`s race.
You notice that none of these options include Hispanic, Latino or Spanish
unless you choose it to write it under some other race. So why am I
bringing this up? The Pew research center reported findings last month
that showed that millions of Americans counted in the 2000 census changed
their racial or ethnic identity from one census to the next. The group
doing so the most, Hispanics and Latinos.
As (INAUDIBLE) of "The New York Times" noted, an estimated net 1.2 million
Americans of the 35 million Americans identified in 2000 as of Hispanic,
Latino or Spanish origin changed their race from some other race to white.
Now, we have known that one can be white and Latino or black and Latino or
white or black and not Latino at all. This isn`t something new. Latino
identity is statistically independent race. Our question today is whether
these self-identifications have political meaning and consequence. Joining
the table now is Hector Cordero-Guzman who is the professor at Baruch
College School of Public Affairs. Welcome.
HECTOR CORDERO-GUZMAN, PROFESSOR, BARUCH COLLEGE: Good morning, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: What should we make of this? I s this just us attempting to
map a complicated world identity onto the binary that is America?
CORDERO-GUZMAN, PROF., BARUCH COLLEGE: I think that we`ve been struggling
whether it`s the question or whether it`s the people or whether it`s the
way we look at race. And I think there`s a little bit of everything going
on, but the emphasis has been on the people. As if the people changed, as
somehow that suggested there`s more assimilation. It`s a question that is
imprecise, it`s a question that has changed from time to time. It`s a
question that has involved many different groups on many different points
in time and we`re struggling with where Latinos fit in this kind of
American binary as you pointed out. And many Latinos rather than marking
white or marking black or marking some other race, and the census was
confused about it and they were claiming that Latinos were confused about
race when in fact Latinos were very clear that when you use the American
binary, they don`t necessarily feel like they fit anywhere in the main
categories now. When you look at Latinos in some of the countries of
origin, there is colorism, there`s race, there`s racism and there`s a
history of anti-blackness, if you will, in many Latino-American countries
and that translates into the American reality of race also in interesting
HARRIS-PERRY: No, this is the reason that I wanted to inject this in the
conversation just briefly is because you hear a lot of this kind of common
wisdom is the Republican Party is setting itself up as a party that will
not tan well with America. And yet these data suggest well, but maybe
America will shift its very understanding of race.
PINO: I don`t know. I have a very interesting perspective when it comes
to this study. I think a lot of Latinos - I mean there`s even a struggle
between my Latino and my Hispanic, let`s start there.
PINO: But a lot of Latinos or Hispanics, they correlate being white with
being Anglo, or being American. So, maybe when you get to this country,
first of all, you say, I`m Hispanic, but I`m not Puerto Rican or Mexican or
Cuban whatever also it says on the census. I`m Guatemalan or I`m an El
Salvadorian. And ten years later, now you`re assimilated and now you feel
American. I`m white. That`s my perspective.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the achievement of whiteness -- and that`s kind of an
odd way to put it, but it`s the achievement of whiteness, the choice of
whiteness, is that a political -- so part of what I`m hearing you it`s a
cultural socio-historic reality mapped on from one`s country of origin, but
is it also, in this case it`s a political reality. It`s about to achieve
Americanness is in part to achieve whiteness.
CRUZ: I think that it probably doesn`t even mean that much in the sense
that in Puerto Rico the majority of people when there`s a census, they
declare themselves as white. When they do the census analysis here once
they have moved for the mainland, 50 percent declare themselves as black
when they understand what white means in the United States context. So
white means something very different. And it`s unfortunate that the
article in "The New York Times," such a prestigious paper, had a shoddy
reporting because I think in my cynical and suspicious perspective, it`s a
white projection -- a projection of white anxiety because they want to
whitewash Latinos to make us the new model minority.
CORDERO-GUZMAN: But that`s real - the key point. I mean there is
demographic change going on in this country. There were 14 million of
Latinos in 1980, 50 million now, projected anywhere between 100 and 150
million in 2050. One in four Americans are going to be Latino. And part
of what this study and the coverage of this study suggests is the anxiety
about that. As if somehow now Latinos being white is going to save America
from being a white minority country.
CORDERO-GUZMAN: If that`s like a problem.
CORDERO-GUZMAN: OK, so let`s start there, it`s not a problem. The country
is going to change. Let`s embrace diversity, as opposed to try to fight it
and let`s try to understand people`s identity more complex ways than try to
fit them into very narrow box.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. Stick with me, everyone. Hang on for just a
second. Coming up, you know him, you loved him, maybe even fare him a
little bit - Huck from "Scandal" Guillermo Diaz is coming to Nerdland right
HARRIS-PERRY: The effort for comprehensive immigration reform is getting a
big boost from one of the world`s wealthiest tech titans, Facebook founder
Mark Zuckerberg. Here`s backing an immigration advocacy group that
launched a new cable ad campaign on Tuesday. And add - about $250,000 for
two ads from Zuckerberg`s group Forward or fwd.us. Zuckerberg`s group is
also supporting welcome.us, Welcome Us, a group putting PSAs - putting out
PSAs in June`s Immigrant Heritage Month. Also, Zuckerberg is partnering
with our friend, Michael Skolnick, who is executive producer of five short
videos directed by celebrities such as Entertainment Tonight correspondent
Roxie Diaz, Naya Riviera from Glee and also as part of this project, Huck.
Yes, "Scandal" star Guillermo Diaz who plays a member of an Olivia Pope`s
crisis management team, directed his own welcome.us short "Valley of the
Undocumented." Here`s a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the valley of the undocumented we fear the mornings
before the sun rises when our moms go to work on rich homes, hold our
mothers long, long time at the door. Scared that this will be the day that
they will be ripped from us unjustly because they were taking a break from
serving the rich to make a white lily prom corsage for our sister.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And joining me now from Los Angeles is actor and director
Guillermo Diaz. So nice to have you here.
GUILLERMO DIAZ, ACTOR, "SCANDAL": Hi.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, tell us a little bit about "The Valley of the
Undocumented." I watched the whole thing. It`s very powerful. Why was it
important for you?
DIAZ: You know, I was asked to do this piece. They came to me with this
idea. And, you know, my parents are Cuban, they`re immigrants as well. I
was just really passionate about it. You know, when we were -- we filmed
all these different families. And to see, to go into their homes and see
how much they were like our families, like people that we`re, you know,
we`re lucky enough to be born in this country and not have to go through
the struggles that these families are going through. And it was just - it
was so moving and I had never really sort of, you know, like seen it up
close and seen how hard working and how passionate and how patriotic these
families were, and how much I think they deserve to be here. You know, I
mean I feel like some of them were more hard working and excited about, you
know, making a difference in their lives and making a better life for their
children and for themselves more than people that were born here, you know,
and have been here forever.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, look, we`re obviously on the eve of Father`s Day,
but your piece, "The Value of the Undocumented" is very much framed as the
kind of the dreams of our mothers and what our mothers want for us and from
us and that fear of losing one`s mother. Why was that aspect of it
important to you?
DIAZ: You know, it`s the mothers, I think, that kind of pulls at all our
heart strings, right? I mean when you think of your mom, and some of these
dreamers were, you know, in their early 20s and even younger. I put myself
in that position. I can`t imagine being that age and having the
possibility that my mother could be, you know, ripped away from me and
moved to another country and then you`re just kind of left there. I think,
you know, it was a way to show people, you know, this is a possibility.
This could happen. And look who it`s happening to, to these women. That
are - women and men, you know, mothers and fathers that are here working so
hard and making a living and going to work every day and their children are
doing wonderfully. I mean they`re all in school. The families that we
went to. You know, a couple of the girls are premed from one of the
families and they`re just involved in all these extracurricular activities.
And they`re just - they are prospering and doing so well. So the thought
of them being, you know, separated from their families, it`s devastating.
It`s sad, it`s scary. So we kind of wanted to shine a light on that and
show the world what is happening and what can happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: It occurs to me that as you`re talking a couple of times you
talked about basically empathy, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Getting to know people, humanizing that experience so that
folks aren`t just strangers or sort of pawns in a policy debate but are
actual folks to us. And obviously this is one important part of it. Do
you have other ideas about how we can build that sense of empathy across
communities so that we do know one another`s stories?
DIAZ: Yeah, I think, you know, we`re in a time and an age where we have
all this social media. I think people just talking about the subject, just
bringing it up and posting different stories and, you know, these PSAs,
hopefully that will start to make a difference and people will, you know,
kind of see themselves in these stories and think, you know, this is
something that`s really moving me or that I want to help with. Maybe it
will get, you know, some young people in school and college that want to
sort of come out and help and do something, and volunteer. And, you know,
hopefully all of that will make a difference.
HARRIS-PERRY: Guillermo, I almost hate to do this because we have been on
a very serious topic this entire hour, but Nerdland will not let me rest
unless I ask this final question. It`s a silly one. But are you aware
that we in Nerdland are massively obsessed with "Scandal?" That we spend
an hour of our Friday morning meeting discussing the show from the night
before that we await Kerry Washington`s every tweet and we spend - kind of
these elaborate vanities, in which the gladiators come and engage the nerds
and fixing the latest Washington scandal.
DIAZ: I heard, a little bird told me that you guys are big fans. That`s
HARRIS-PERRY: We are big fans and we appreciate, Guillermo, that both you
and Kerry very much in the tradition of Ruby Dee, who we lost this week,
are showing how artists can be engaged in the meaningful issues of our
DIAZ: Good, good. It`s my pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Guillermo Diaz in Los Angeles.
DIAZ: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much for joining us. Also thank you here in
New York to Hector Cordero-Guzman and to Reverend Sam Cruz. I`m sorry, we
didn`t get back - and Professor, I`m actually hoping that you will also be
willing to write a piece about this for our MHP show site. Because you
have - even what we talked about in the break, I`d like to be able to share
Coming up, what Eric Cantor`s loss tells us about the Democratic process
and remembering Ruby Dee and her ground-breaking role as an actor and
activist? There is, as always, more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
We begin this hour with the chaos engulfing Iraq and growing concern about
how the United States should respond. The Sunni insurgent group known as
the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria or ISIS is closing in on Baghdad after
sweeping across Syria and seizing control of several major cities from
Iraq`s Shiite led government.
Before leaving Washington Friday, President Obama said the U.S. is weighing
its options, but made clear that putting boots on the ground is not one of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not be sending U.S.
troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team
to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security
forces. The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a
military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives
us some assurance that they`re prepared to work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel filed
this report this morning from Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We are now in the
city of Kirkuk. This is the oil-rich capital of the north, home to about
15 percent of all of Iraq`s known oil reserves. All of the different
factions in this country have long wanted to control Kirkuk. Until a few
days ago, there were Iraqi troops here, but now, this city and the oil
fields are being controlled by Kurdish militias, by the Kurdish Peshmerga
The dynamics in this country are shifting and changing as ISIS militants
continue to march on Baghdad.
(voice-over): Iraq`s second biggest city, Mosul, is now under Islamic
Sharia law. Militants from the al Qaeda offshoot ISIS decreed all women
must veil. It outlawed freedom of religion and banned other armed groups
from entering the city.
Mosul was one of the first cities occupied by U.S. troops a decade ago.
American officials said democracy would then spread from here. Not this --
and the men the united states trained to fight the ISIS assault, they`re
still surrendering. With no army protection, hundreds of thousands of
civilians are leaving Mosul.
This family, all 12 of them, walked 20 miles to escape Mosul. Now, this
tent is their home.
Omar blames the U.S.-backed Shiite prime minister, saying he alienated all
Sunnis in the country, made them feel second class.
(on camera): Volunteers and aid workers are building tents as fast as they
can. There has been a massive wave of people fleeing their homes. The
fear here is that this is just the beginning.
(voice-over): Kathy Robinson from UNHCR says the displaced, hundreds of
thousands need food and shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s dusty, it`s hot. There`s nowhere to stay,
there`s nowhere to go.
ENGEL: But this conflict may have changed. The Shiite majority awoke.
In the holy city of Karbala, where Shia Islam was forged in battle 13
centuries ago, volunteers signed up for a new war.
Shiite clerics called the faithful to arms. And promised those who died
fighting ISIS, a place in paradise.
(on camera): There is concern all over the world about what is happening
here in Iraq, so much so that today Iran`s president said his country would
consider working with the United States to fight terrorism in Iraq.
Richard Engel, NBC News, Kirkuk, northern Iraq.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was NBC`s Richard Engel in Iraq.
We turn now back to politics at home and the political surprise of the year
thus far. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor`s loss of his re-election bid
What was really shocking was how he lost his seat. He lost it in a
primary. And primaries are supposed to benefit establishment benefits.
Cantor is the establishment candidate. I mean, as majority leader and a
potential future speaker, he basically is the establishment walking around.
Was the establishment -- no, the majority leader -- no majority leader had
ever lost a primary before Cantor. Now, where you might actually
anticipate this kind of total upset is at a convention or a caucus where
the number of people who show up is very, very small and more dominated by
the party`s most activist, ideologically-driven members.
Consider 65,022 people voted in Tuesday`s primary for Virginia`s seventh
district seat. That`s less than 14 percent of the district`s registered
voters. But at the nominating convention that Virginia Republicans hold
for statewide races, just 2,700 delegates participated this year. Those
delegates easily supported the establishment candidate for Senate, Ed
Gillespie, a former chairman who will be the GOP challenger to the sitting
senator, Democrat Mark Warner in November`s election.
But remember when I told you conventions are right for fringe candidates?
Virginia Republicans learned their lesson from 2013 when E.W. Jackson won
the nomination for lieutenant governor, beating out six other candidates in
a convention ballots lasting nearly 10 hours. Between 8,000 and 10,000
delegates voted in that convention, still a fraction of those who voted in
the seventh district primary this week.
That is how the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor went to a man
who says things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E.W. JACKSON, FORMER VIRGINIA GOP LT. GOV. CANDIDATE: Planned Parenthood
has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was. And the
Democrat Party and their black civil rights allies are partners in this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The convention is also how super conservative gubernatorial candidate Ken
Cuccinelli easily won his spot at the top of the ticket. And that was no
accident. Party insiders had fought tooth and nail over whether to
nominate by convention or by primary in the governor`s race.
Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling had been plan a run for the
governor`s mansion for years. He had carefully worked within the state
party to set up a primary for the 2013 race where he would have had a much
better chance of securing the nomination than in a convention.
In 2011, the state party obliged, voting overwhelmingly to switch to a
primary for statewide races. But the right wing saw the same opportunity
to bend the rules in their favor. So, when several conservatives and
supporters of Cuccinelli were elected to the state party board in early
2012, they held a do-over of the vote.
They fought to keep the primary intact and so did Eric Cantor, fearing the
same kind of right wing upset that this week in fact swept him from office.
But the party voted to hold a convention, a move that would ultimately
secure the nomination for Cuccinelli. In the game as old as politics, if
you can`t win the game, change the rules.
Joining me now is John Rowley, who is Democratic strategist, media
consultant, and president of Fletcher Rowley Media, Elahe Izadi, who is
staff correspondent at "The National Journal", and Judy Pino, national
sportsperson at the Libre Initiative.
So, conventions or primaries as the best way to get a truly representative
JUDY PINO, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, THE LIBRE INITIATIVE: Well, as you can
see with Cantor, nothing is set in stone, right? So, I think it really
goes back to the power of the people. If the people feel that you`re a
flawed candidate, they`re not going to vote for you and that`s what we saw
here. Cantor neglected his base to a certain extent, he wasn`t focused on
grassroots efforts, and they came out and they let him know that.
I don`t think whether primaries or conventions really made a difference in
this case, as you saw.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it upturned some of our initial expectations. But as
much as I -- I mean, I love the idea of democracy as being the power of the
people and I`m still such an optimist for the capacity of kind of populist
movements. But on the other hand, the fact is the rules of the game do
matter in terms of who we even then get to choose. Our choices are set up
And I`m wondering if there`s something that we learned from this Cantor
moment about, you know, how primaries operate or even potentially how
conventions might operate to get us the sort of candidates that we want in
ELAHE IZADI, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, first, we have to establish there`s a
huge difference between a primary voter in a Republican primary and general
election voter. In Virginia, you can vote for a Republican candidate in
the primary regardless of your party identification.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, in fact, some people initially thought that the
Democrats had come out, voted in the primary in order to get Cantor out and
there`s not much evidence of that.
IZADI: No, there isn`t. And that`s apparently what Cantor`s camp is
trying to push. That`s the case, but that`s an important point to make. I
think the big takeaway from this race is that even in a primary where
establishment candidates thought that they would be better off and they
would be safer, even then you can upset in a populist, grassroots sort of
So, I think that`s going to put the scare in a lot of establishment
candidates who thought if we control it, if we go to primary or even
conservatives, it gives them hope that even if we don`t have conventions,
where it`s more limited involvement, we can still upset such an
establishment candidate who spent $5 million to Brat`s, David Brat`s,
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it does feel to me, like, particularly for insiders, for
folks who are campaign strategists, you know, going into a midterm and
eventually into a presidential election year, I mean, studying the rules of
the game is the job of strategists, right? It is in some ways an argument
about why Hillary Clinton didn`t win the primary -- the nomination for the
Democrats was that maybe they hadn`t quite figured out that winner-take-all
system and the proportional representation of the votes and conventions
So, if you are running candidates right now, what do you take away from the
Cantor loss? What is the rule of the game story that you would take away?
JOHN ROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, there are a lot of takeaways. I
mean, Will Rogers had a saying a long time ago you run for office in one of
two ways. You either run unopposed or you run scared. And political
elections are brutally final. It`s obvious that Cantor was very focused on
his national footprint as opposed to the footprint he had in the district.
And he`s kind of -- he was living, thriving and ascending by the Tea Party
sword and now, he`s died by the Tea Party sword, at least in the short
HARRIS-PERRY: But if you are Eric Cantor, you`re the second most powerful
Republican, and you are running against an econ professor from Randolph-
Macon with $120,000, aren`t you basically running unopposed? I mean, I get
why he would think he was running unopposed.
PINO: And a 44-point lead in the polls.
But I think there were a lot of mistakes. Number one, you didn`t engage
the grassroots. Number two, you spent a million dollars kind of elevating
your opponent, who nobody knew about until -- you know, until you mentioned
him in your ad.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what I`m wondering. Is the biggest story that we
learn here that when you say your opponent`s name over and over again, you
give them a certain level of credibility?
ROWLEY: I don`t know if that`s as much. I think the -- Cantor was in the
national media as well advancing a lot of different things which almost
ended up being millions of dollars of advertising against himself stirring
up the base. I think we have to differentiate between Democratic primaries
and Republican primaries. One thing we have going on is establishment
conservatives, which that means a lot of the political advisers and
consultants on the Republican side are confounded by how to deal with the
Tea Party and the war that`s going on within the Republican primaries right
IZADI: And it`s also interesting to note that in this race, these large
Tea Party national organizations stayed out of it. They weren`t funding
Brat. I mean, he did have a platform that Laura Ingraham, conservative
talk show host, had. But they stayed out of it so this was really a
grassroots movement. This wasn`t funded by some outside group.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on the one hand, I hear you all saying grassroots. Part
of what I wanted to do is draw attention to just how few people voted. I
mean, certainly more than in a convention, but how should I understand if
I`m a Virginia voter, how should I understand the context in which such a
small proportion of people make this choice and now, I no longer get to
vote for Eric Cantor if I wanted to?
IZADI: Yes, it was a very small proportion, as you mentioned, but turnout
actually increased this year as opposed to the last primary. So, if we`re
talking 65,000 people, that`s still a very small number if we`re talking
about power of the people. Who are these people? It`s not the entire
PINO: But there`s something to the said to the notion that over 700,000
people in that district, only 65,000 showed up to vote. What if they were
overconfident, just as Cantor was overconfident. The truth of the matter,
you can`t be overconfident. You have to be either with your people, in
order to make a difference and sure to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stick with me because I want to think a little
more about this and also about the ways in which money played a surprising
role here. Not what you thought you couldn`t just buy this election. It
turns out the more you spent, the more likely you were to lose.
More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes we simplify electoral politics down to thinking
that whoever spends the most wins, and often it`s true. But it`s not
always true. Look again at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor`s surprise
loss to college professor Dave Brat in the primary this week. Cantor spent
more than $5 million ahead of the primary. As of May 21st, Brat had spent
Now, you may have seen some politicos having fun with the numbers
breakdown. For example, that Cantor spent more at steak houses than Brat
spent on his campaign. A more telling breakdown is to ask how much
candidate spent per vote. Cantor spent about $173.92 per vote. Brat spent
about $3.40 per vote -- $3.40. That`s a good deal on a vote.
So, to Cantor`s $173.92 to Brat`s $3.40, let`s figure out why it is that if
you spent more, you got less.
Joining us now from Washington, D.C., to explain just why this happened is
Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He`s also
the managing editor of the newsletter "Sabato`s Crystal Ball".
Thank you for joining us.
KYLE KONDIK, MANAGING EDITOR, SABATO`S CRYSTAL BALL: Hey. Thanks for
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, I love that this is going to be the battle
of two college professors. I basically am more into this race than any
race I`ve ever been into before, as a result. But tell me how in the world
does this happen? How does Cantor lose?
KONDIK: I think there`s a combination of factors and I think the panel
touched on a lot of them. I think primarily Eric Cantor neglected his
district. The fact that he`s House majority leader, I kind of wonder if
some of these politicians who are in high-ranking office in the House or
the Senate, I kind of wonder if -- I think those positions used to be
positions that the voters wanted because they knew that those people could
bring back pork to the districts and, you know, as the profile of the
member is raised, the profile of the district of the state is.
But in recent years, we`ve seen really high-ranking members either do
poorly in elections or loose. Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader,
lost in 2004. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, barely won in 2010.
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, has a very tough
race this time.
And, of course, now, we have the House majority leader losing a primary for
the first time ever.
I just wonder if voters don`t really care about that kind of seniority any
more and I think they used to.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I love that you bring up this kind of institutional
question of the death of earmarks potentially meaning the death of why it
would be meaningful to have that national leadership, because this is a
kind of one off historic moment, maybe it`s just about Cantor but it led me
right back to like political science 101 and thinking about Gary Jacobson
and how he talks about what congressmen do, right, how they run for re-
On the one hand, you have his insight that spending more for incumbents
actually makes them more likely to lose because an incumbent who spends
more is obviously facing a real challenger.
So, Jacobson tells us that for incumbents, votes and victories decline as
the level of spending rises. But also, that they used to bring home the
bacon. If there`s no bacon left to bring home, what is the thing that you
can frank out to your constituents.
KONDIK: Well, I mean, the thing that you can do for your constituents is
basically do the basic constituent services stuff that members of Congress
do. I mean, people are always asking congressmen for help with one small
thing or another.
One of the things that I think sort of trickled out after this election was
that a lot of people voted against Cantor because they tried calling the
office for some small reason and never got a call back and that sort of
thing. To the point about the spending of money, I do think the point
raised by the panel that Eric Cantor probably raised the profile of Dave
Brat by naming Brat in campaign ads, I think that`s probably right. In
fact, this is not just something that happened in this race. A member of
Congress, a freshman, was telling me a couple of weeks ago that he actually
thanked the leader of the other party for running ads in his district
because he thought it helped get his name ID out even though the ads were
HARRIS-PERRY: Kyle, stick with me for a second. I do want to come back to
you for a second, John, because there`s a sore loser law basically in
Virginia that keeps Cantor from being able to run in the generals.
But earlier today, on my colleague Steve Kornacki`s show "UP", Michael
Steele suggested another role for which Cantor might run. I want to play
that and then ask you what you think about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: The what next is always the big play
in Washington, what do you do next. With the upcoming presidential
election there`s a lot of interest in Eric Cantor serving as national
chairman of the RNC, Republican National Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If you were advising Cantor, would you suggest that?
ROWLEY: Well, it`s interesting. He`s got probably three choices.
Something like the RNC, come back and try to beat the professor or the
Democrat that wins that seat or go into lobbying and try to make a million
dollars in the next couple of years.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I think you can make a million dollars in a couple
weeks in lobbying.
ROWLEY: That`s probably not a bad move for him. I think if he wants to be
back in office, to try to become a senator or congressman again being the
RNC chair is probably not the best path for that. So, I think he`s done a
lot of soul searching. You know, he`s done a lot of looking in the mirror
in the last couple days, I`m sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Elahe?
ROWLEY: Yes, and I also wanted to touch on another point with constituent
services. There was another primary that same day down in South Carolina,
Lindsey Graham, we talk about the role immigration reform played in
Cantor`s race. You can`t find a more pro-immigration reform Republican
than Lindsey Graham and he is excellent at constituent services. He knew
what he was doing. He basically took a position on immigration reform but
he knew how to campaign in his district for sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: I also am wondering, this is part of my interest is whether
or not South Carolina has more of an interest in having a national profile
than Virginia. There`s a way where South Carolina is under that guys of
the southern backward state and so part of what they`re doing is saying,
no, that`s not who we are. Look at our growing economy, look at our
I just wonder if that sort of national versus local might play differently.
ROWLEY: I think it`s much more about the personalities. These races are
matchups and I think Lindsey Graham probably had done a lot better job over
time, saying close to his electorate and being connected, and Cantor was
much more focused on this leadership track of flying around the country,
helping other candidates, meddling in Tea Party primaries as of -- on his
path to becoming speaker of the House.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, stay with me because I want to ask you --
and, Kyle, also stay with us because I do want to ask you about Brat next,
and sort of now that he`s done this thing, what happens for him. Is he
ready for the primetime of this big race? When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: College professor David Brat appeared on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN"
after his primary victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Here`s his exchange with my colleague, Chuck Todd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: Let me ask you about something like, a
foreign policy question, arming the Syrian rebels. Would you do -- would
you be in favor of that with the U.S. military helping to arm the moderate
DAVID BRAT (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Hey, Chuck, I thought we
were just going to chat about the celebratory aspect. I`d love to go
through all this but my mind --
TODD: No, I understand that. But I want to just get a sense of --
BRAT: I love all the policy questions, I`m happy to do them, but I just
wanted to talk about the victory here and I wanted to thank everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s my colleague Chuck Todd going I`m going to get
the sound bite of you saying this about the Syrian rebels. He`s like hmm-
mm, not today, no you won`t.
Do you think that evidence is that he`s really ready for primetime or that
PINO: Well, I mean, if he wasn`t ready to answer this question, I don`t
know. I can`t tell you that. But I do know that he got elected by the
people in that district. The district got a lot more conservative
throughout the -- since the last election and so, I think that that
contributed to him winning the election.
Is he ready? We`ll see if he`s ready.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kyle, let me ask you because, you know, we were talking
about Lindsey Graham and that he was able to take a strong stance on
immigration, and nonetheless, survive in part because of constituency
service. But I`m also wondering, if Brat actually -- I mean, we`re making
-- oh, he`s a college professor. Bu, you know, I know some college
professor, they`re smart people.
But are we maybe downplaying that he was in fact a pretty strong
KONDIK: So I think the key thing for Brat is, is he going to make any
really big mistakes, kind of Todd Akin style mistakes? And so far, he has
not really done that. I mean, you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That was his moment. Chuck Todd could have Akinned
him there and he was like, no, you`re not going to Akin me.
KONDIK: Yes. I mean, I think -- you know, he looks a little weak in that
segment but that`s not enough to look really bad in a district that Mitt
Romney got 57 percent in and is probably would like to vote for a
Republican in the general election.
As to Graham, I wanted to make a point that we were talking about how
Lindsey Graham survived on a day that Eric Cantor didn`t. One thing going
for Graham is that he had a big field of opponents, all of whom were fairly
weak. I think that if one of South Carolina`s members of Congress, house
members or Tea Partiers had run against him, they probably could have
forced him into a runoff.
Graham got 56 percent. You needed 50 to clear the runoff threshold, and
then maybe he would have been in real trouble. I think the quality of the
opposition helps explain Graham`s victory more than anything else.
HARRIS-PERRY: More than Graham himself. In part the opposition, we talked
about this previously but I want to come back you, Elahe, on this and that
is that David Brat was running, but he was running with at least a little
bit of national profile provided by Laura Ingraham. I want to listen to
what she was saying and that this idea that this wasn`t even about Cantor
or any of the Virginia specific things that we talk about, but actually
about a national trend.
Let`s listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO HOST: Because we`re slowly losing her country.
INGRAHAM: Because the establishment has had its way for election cycle
after election cycle have kicked the electorate to the curb, sold out our
values, misrepresented our views, looked down upon the very people who send
them to office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s not an argument against the Democratic Party,
right? That is an argument against the Republican establishment.
Do you think that even though the vast majority of incumbents are winning
their primaries that there really is that kind of sentiment that could
shift the American political system?
IZADI: I think there certainly is that sentiment and you can see that in
Congress as for people angling to see who`s going to be the next majority
leader. The person out in front is Kevin McCarthy, he`s currently the
whip. And I was speaking with some more conservative House members this
week who were really upset that the result of this election, Eric Cantor`s
defeat, would potentially result in another establishment person being the
House majority whip who is potentially even more to the left on immigration
reform than Eric Cantor was.
So, there`s definitely this sentiment not just out in the country but in
the Congress itself that they are very frustrated with leadership. And the
most shocking thing about all of this is that at least for a lot of
members, Eric Cantor is the person who would put John Boehner in check. He
would come back from the White House with a deal and Eric Cantor would say,
no, no, no, and this is the person who lost his seat.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is John Boehner happy that Eric Cantor lost?
ROWLEY: I think there are lots of laws of unintended consequences here, I
mean, on both sides. The I mean, from -- to have the Tea Party majority
leader get Tea Party primaried and the Democratic schadenfreude thing
that`s going on here, I don`t know you should be so happy.
I think you`re going to have Republicans at the legislative, Senate and
congressional level around the country, even more afraid if that`s possible
of their Tea Party shadow in these primaries. If we`ve got gridlock now, I
just can`t imagine it`s going to get even better now that they`re even more
scared of being -- if this guy can be taken out at a Tea Party challenge,
anybody could be in a Republican --
HARRIS-PERRY: Are Democrats happy about this? I just thought cable news
was happy there was a political story, like I didn`t know -- I didn`t know
there was an actual part -- because it`s not clear to me that there is a --
you know, that either Boehner or the left should be pleased with this
outcome in some way.
ROWLEY: It may be bad for everyone really. If you care about advancing
any agenda, especially a tough one like on immigration or, God forbid,
passing a budget next time. So --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I guess the one group it`s good for is college
professors, because there`s definitely either an economist or a sociologist
is going to the House of Representatives.
Kyle Kondik in Washington, D.C. -- thank you so much. We`re obviously
going to be watching this race very closely and hope you`ll join us again.
KONDIK: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here in New York, thank you to John Rowley and Elahe Izadi.
And also, thank you to Judy Pino. I hope you all comeback.
Coming up, remembering Ruby Dee. She was an extraordinary actor and
But, first, my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives held its first
hearing on House Bill 351, a bill that would ban Ohio women from using
insurance of any kind to cover an abortion. The bill makes no exceptions
for cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy threatens a mother`s life. It
would only allow women to use insurance to end ectopic pregnancies, cases n
which the embryo implants outside of the uterus. The bill would also
prevent public employees or those or Medicaid from using insurance coverage
to pay for certain contraceptives.
And the Ohio legislator who sponsored the bill has a questionable ideas
about one in particular. So, I thought I`d send them a letter to help
clear things up.
Dear, Ohio State Representative John Becker.
It`s me, Melissa.
Now, your bill broadly defines abortion to include, quote, "drugs or
devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum." And in
your testimony during last week`s hearing, you said you didn`t intend for
birth control pills to be included in that definition.
Now, I`m not exactly sure how you make the distinction, because according
to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you know,
doctors, the pill can, in fact, impede the fertilized egg from attaching to
the uterine wall. I am not saying that to give you any incentive for
banning insurance coverage of birth control pills too, but just to point
out the tip of the iceberg of what you don`t know about the very health
choices you are trying to restrict with your legislation. Because you also
went on to defend urban of intrauterine devices commonly known as IUDs
based on your belief that they fit into your scientifically specious
definition of an abortion.
You seem to think it was perfectly reasonable to justify, codify your
belief into law by saying, quote, "This is just a personal view. I`m not a
Well, I`m going to give you some credit there. At least you know enough to
admit that you`re not a doctor.
And yet you insist on playing one in the Ohio assembly, because you are
using your power as an elected official to insert your personal views right
in the middle of women`s private medical decisions and the very least you
could do when making laws to constrain women`s health choices is to get
your facts straight about women`s health.
So, please allow me to enlighten you because I`m not a medical doctor
either, but I do have the sense to read and research the facts. For
starters, no matter what your personal views are, an IUD is not equivalent
to an abortion just because you say it is. An IUD is a device that when
used as a form of long-term contraception is most often used to prevent the
sperm from reaching an egg.
Of the two different kinds of IUDs, just one of them is used to prevent
implantation of a fertilized egg and neither of those uses scientifically
qualify as an abortion.
But more importantly, by banning IUDs from insurance coverage, you are
preventing women from accessing what according to the CDC is one of the
safest and most effective methods of contraception.
What`s more, by blocking coverage for women on Medicaid, you are taking
away a critical family planning option from women who are most at risk for
unintended pregnancy and least able to afford the cost of their
reproductive health care.
And when you propose a bill that could reduce a procedure that could
potentially save a woman`s life to whether or not she can afford to pay for
it, you`re doing something much worse than just playing doctor. You`re
playing with women`s lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, five women
were raped within 36 hours. That is including one woman who says she was
gang raped by four officers at a police station because she refused to pay
a bribe in exchange for her husband`s release. These women were assaulted
just more than two weeks after young cousins were raped and then hanged in
the region inciting local and international outrage and calls to action.
In the call to action extends to countries across the globe, including
regions with the highest recorded rates of rape like North America and
In Liberia in December 2012, a young teen named Olivia Zinnah died from an
infection and extensive injuries she sustained when she was raped at the
age of seven. Olivia`s story was not an isolated one. When she was
checked into JFK hospital in Liberia, she was one of several girls to be
treated for sexual assault.
In fact, according to a 2011 report by Doctors Without Borders, 92 percent
of girls and women being treated for rape in Liberia facilities were under
the age of 18. And many women and girls don`t even report that they were
sexually assaulted because of shame and from threats from their
Olivia`s story is detailed in "Small Small Thing: The Olivia Zinnah Story",
a documentary that premiered in New York City last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of them threaten the children so much that if
you say it, I will kill you, I`ll kill your mother, I`ll kill your father.
And it remains in the child`s mind. They would never even say the correct
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now are Jessica Vale, the director of "Small
Small Thing", and Nika Offenbac, who produced the documentary. So nice to
have you both here.
JESSICA VALE, DIRECTOR, "SMALL SMALL THING": Thank you.
NIKA OFFENBAC, PRODUCER, "SMALL SMALL THING": Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was saying in the commercial break how difficult I found
this film to watch, but realizing that Olivia`s lived experience was so
much worse, that I at least owed it to her to bear witness. What more can
we do beyond bearing witness in this moment?
VALE: Well, I think like you said, one of the first things people need to
do is actually be willing to watch it and learn about her story and talk
about her story. You know, I think past that there`s some action that
needs to happen in Liberia to prevent these things from happening further.
OFFENBAC: Yes, it`s a very complicated problem to prevent sexual assault
against women and also children. But the solution to the issue in Liberia
has to be Liberians. So if people want to get involved and do things,
there`s a number of organizations you can find through our website who are
working on the ground.
One is heal.org, which is actually trying to build a DNA lab to process
evidence and help educate people to collect evidence. And the other is
more than me, which is currently building a boarding school for young
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to pause on what you said about collecting
evidence because I think this is important for folks who haven`t seen the
film, that one of the things that you highlight in the film is the
difficulty of what we think of as -- what we think of as traditional here
but are nontraditional police services in actually collecting any data and
in fact having any evidence.
And so, then all of these odd gender dynamics come into play about who is
believed and understood. So, I want to watch Olivia`s mother here talking
about that issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does your family still believe the rape was a lie?
That happened to Olivia?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m a woman and it`s a girl who has been assaulted and
so our voices are insufficient in this case.
VALE: Right. And one thing also that we realized through making the film
is that Bendu (ph) was also raped in the conflict. I remember when we
first heard that, I couldn`t even believe that. The amount of children
this has happened to. To have Bendu deny it or not come forward because of
the pressure from her family and then to admit to us that she had also been
through the same thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I both couldn`t believe it and absolutely could believe it
when I saw that, both because we know the ways in which rape is used
against women in war as a tool of war, but also because one need not go as
far as Liberia to see the intergenerational consequences of silence around
rape and sexual assault. It is -- it is a truth right here.
OFFENBAC: Yes, and I think -- I mean I think that`s what really resonates
with people when they see Olivia`s story. There`s a commonality in it.
When rape is used as a tool of war, it becomes embedded in society as a
norm. And I think that`s kind of what we`re seeing 10 years on in Liberia
and that`s the issue that needs to be addressed there.
But it just comes down to gender politics around the world. We have the
same thing here to varying degrees in the U.S. The difference is we have a
functioning legal system. We have a medical system. You know, we have
infrastructure to communicate and offices to communicate to help address
the issue and in Liberia those doesn`t exist.
HARRIS-PERRY: I felt one of the bravest and most difficult choices it
seems that you all made as filmmakers was the point at which you decide to
trigger to figure out something about the perpetrators. As compelling and
difficult as Olivia`s story is, I think we want to identify with -- we can
see and love the victim, but trying to understand the perpetrators of these
kinds of crimes. So, tell me what you learned when you asked the men about
their acts of violence.
VALE: It was so important for us to understand where they were coming
from. It was very easy to point the finger and say, well, these men are
evil, they`re doing these terrible things to our women, but there`s reasons
for it. And, you know, one of them is because of all of the decades of
civil war. Rape was used as a weapon to terrorize villages, to assert
power, and a lot of these men now, in fact most of them, there`s 85 percent
unemployment there, are left without any counseling. A lot of them are
And we talked to the one ex-combatant who said that he beats his wife, he
gets flashbacks in the middle of the night, nightmares, but there`s really
nothing that he can do. There`s no one for him to talk to.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, I just -- when you say that sentence, there are
reasons for it, you don`t in the film suggest that the reasons are based on
the behavior of victims in any way but that there is -- it is the violence
and the posttraumatic stress and the -- as you said, the cultural
contributions of violence towards women and girls.
I want to just very quickly listen to an elder in the community saying that
what he needed was proof. Just so we have a sense of how that language
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, they are waiting for proof since last October, but we
have been at that point in the documentary seeing the brokenness of this
its girl`s body. And I kept thinking, what more proof could you possibly
VALE: Right, except that they believe that her injuries were the result of
witchcraft, and they believe that very strongly. And they were very
willing to talk to us.
You know, we walked in. We made friends with the entire family. They sat
down and said, sure, we`ll talk about this because we don`t think that it
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much for the film. Like I said, it`s very
difficult and yet extremely important to watch. And I appreciate we think
a lot about sexual assaults here in the U.S., but also continuing to think
about the vulnerability of women and girls globally.
And I thank you for your work. And to Jessica and to Nika, I appreciate
you being here.
The documentary again is "Small Small Thing" and you should watch it so you
know what all of that is about. You can go to the Web site
smallsmallthing.com, to see how you can buy a DVD or watch the film online.
Up next, we will remember Ruby Dee.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last night, theaters on Broadway dimmed their lights in
honor of a performer who passed away this week.
Award-winning actor and activist Ruby Dee died Wednesday night at the age
of 91, surrounded by loved ones at her home in New Rochelle, New York.
Broadway`s tribute was fitting for the performer who first launched her
career as an actor on the stage. Her list of credits spans more than 60
years including theater classics like the glass menagerie and the best
known works of William Shakespeare in which she became the first African-
American woman to have lead roles at the American Shakespeare festival.
In 1959, Ruby Dee originated the role of Ruth Younger, alongside Sidney
Poitier, in Broadway`s premier of Lorraine Hansberry`s American theater
classic, "A Raisin in the Sun."
Beyond her work on stage, this legacy as a performer reached the widest
audiences through her work on screen when she reprised her role in "A
Raisin in the Sun" on film two years later, it was in an America where
complex fully realized portrayals of African-Americans on screen were few
and very far between.
And Dee`s performances on film and television particularly during the
turbulent 1950s and `60s when African-Americans were struggling for
recognition revealed the dignity and humanity of black life. She appeared
in more than 50 films including a role in 2007`s "American Gangster" that
at age 85 earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting
It was one of the long list of accolades, one during her acting career,
including an Emmy, a Grammy, and two Screen Actors Guilds Awards. Even her
prolific and impressive acting resume represents only part of Ruby Dee`s
life work because her artistry stands alongside a lifetime of activism, a
lifelong commitment of fighting injustice that brought her from the
forefront of the civil rights movement, to fighting apartheid in South
Africa to a 1999 arrest outside of New York police headquarters while
protesting of an unarmed immigration, Amadou Diallo.
Throughout all of it, the years spent in performance and in protest, Ruby
Dee never stopped playing one of the defining roles of her life, a co-star
in an epic love story that spanned six decades alongside her husband,
actor, writer and director Ossie Davis who passed away in 2005.
Over the course of their 57 years of marriage, Dee and Davis were not only
partners in love but also in art and activism. It seems only fitting that
the couple who shared billing in 11 plays and five movies during careers
were brought together by their love of theater when they met on Broadway in
1945 and shared the honors and recognition of their talent when Dee and
Davis jointly received the National Medal of Arts in 1995, a SAG Lifetime
Achievement Award in 2000, and Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.
The two stood together throughout their long years of activism, including
serving together as masters of ceremonies at the 1963 march on Washington
and suing in federal court to ensure voting rights. Both Dee and Davis
viewed their work as activist as an extension of their work as performers.
Said Dee in 2006, quote, "We use the arts as part of our struggle."
For six decades these twos American icons shared with us their life, their
love, artistry and dedication to justice. And they have left an
unforgettable legacy that will no doubtful fill the hope Ruby Dee shared
when asked by NPR host Michelle Martin in 2007 how she wanted to be
remembered. She said, if somebody could think of me and feel encouraged,
I`d like to be remembered in those little flashes of moments that we
remember each other that pick us up from some moments of despair. That`s
how I`d like to be remembered in the recollection to make the moment more
bearable if not enjoyable.
We will remember you, Ruby Dee.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you again tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to
have a spirited conversation on the world`s most famous car chase or car
follow. You remember it. Twenty years later, what have we learned since?
But, right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" with
my guy, T.J. Holmes.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.