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Meet the Press Transcript - July 6, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

DAVID GREGORY:

Next on Meet the Press, chaos and desperation on the border with Mexico. Emotions are high as protesters attempt to turn away thousands of children attempting to enter the country after a traumatic journey from Central America. This morning I'll ask Secretary of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson about what the White House plans to do to fix this problem, what the President's called a humanitarian crisis.

Plus, terror alert: security tightened around the world for direct flights to the United States. Are changes in store for security at airports here, as well? And a second Supreme Court defeat for the president on Obamacare this week. The roundtable debates how the rulings could dramatically affect the political landscape in this election year.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good Sunday morning. On a holiday weekend, a lot going on. This immigration crisis involving desperate children crossing the U.S. border. It's a staggering problem, and so are the numbers. Check this out. More than 50,000 children have been caught since October of 2013. That is more than double the year before, just to give you some sense of how desperate this situation is. Miguel Almaguer joins me from Murrieta, California. It's a town that has been a flashpoint in this story so far. Miguel, good morning.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

David, good morning. This is the holding facility in the city of Murrieta. It is a flashpoint for this community, a symbol that has galvanized two opposite sides.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

These are the faces of the desperate and the scared, just some of the now thousands of unaccompanied minors packed into 100 overwhelmed temporary shelters dotted across the country.

MALE VOICE:

Go back home!

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

A group of them greeted with signs of anger, what some call hate, as protesters turned away busloads of immigrant families from a southern California border patrol station after they were caught illegally crossing the U.S. southern border. Their journey Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Sonia Nazario, says is perilous.

SONIA NAZARIO:

Many of these children are coming. They don't have any money, so they come the only way that they can, which is gripping onto the tops and sides of these freight trains that travel up the length of Mexico. There are bandits alongside the rails who will rob you and rape you and sometimes kill you.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

Nazario would know. She's made the journey, spending three months on and off, riding on top of seven freight trains up the length of Mexico, researching for her book Enrique's Journey.

SONIA NAZARIO:

I think most Americans have no idea what these children are fleeing, the level of violence, that it's really-- they have to leave or-- they've been threatened many times by the narcos. They have to leave or they will get killed.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

For women, young mothers like Esperanza, the trip is just as dangerous. (VOICE) "Thank God nothing happened to me," she says. With her six-year-old son, Edwin, Esperanza traveled 17 days by foot from El Salvador before she reached the Texas border.

"I thank God Immigration caught me. Thank God we're here and we're okay. I wanted a better life for my son." With so many now here, the question is what does the future hold for these families? Alan Long is the mayor of Murrieta, the town where protesters greeted those buses.

ALAN LONG:

How come now? How come so many? And I think what's happening is, down in a less desirable area of the world, you have a lot of crime, poverty. And people are trying to flee to the greatest nation in the world. Can't blame them for that.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

In a letter he sent to the president, Long blames Washington for what's happening in Murrieta.

ALAN LONG:

People are at a boiling point and they're tired of inefficiency at the federal level.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

And on this Fourth of July weekend, the nation that asks the world to give us their tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free finds itself in a crisis where the problem is growing but the answers are not.

(END TAPE)

MIGUEL ALMAGUER:

This morning, there are no children at this facility, but the mayor says that will change. They expect waves of children to arrive here in the coming days. And when that happens, protesters say they'll be back. David?

DAVID GREGORY:

Miguel Almaguer for us this morning, thank you so much. Here now is the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Mr. Secretary, welcome to Meet the Press.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Good morning, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

You heard the mayor of Murrieta, "Why now? Why so many?" Is part of the answer that the administration, through some of its executive actions, have said, in effect, "Look, if you come, we're going to let you in?"

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

First of all, David, the reason we're seeing this influx has to do primarily with the conditions in the three Central American countries that they're leaving from, the push factor.

DAVID GREGORY:

More than-- and it's double, though?

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Could it be 90,000 this year?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Honduras is in a really bad place right now. El Salvador, Guatemala. The push factor is what is driving this recent influx. In addition, we know that the smuggling organizations, the criminal smuggling organizations, are putting out a lot of disinformation about supposed 'free passes' into this country that are going to expire at the end of May, at the end of June. "Just give us your money and we'll get you into the country by the end of the month." It's like a used car salesman saying that the sale's going to expire at the end of the week.

DAVID GREGORY:

But that's not all misinformation, Mr. Secretary. There is deferred action on some children, passed in 2012, that will allow some children of illegal immigrants to stay.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Well, that's the point we keep stressing. The deferred action program is for kids who came to this country seven years ago. It's not for anyone who comes to this country today, tomorrow or yesterday. And the legislation that the Senate passed, which provides for an earned path to citizenship, is for those who were in this country in 2011. It's not for those that are coming here today.

DAVID GREGORY:

How many-- the numbers, again. I mean a year ago it's 26,000. It's double that. Could it get up to 90,000 this year?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

I believe we're going to stem this tide.

DAVID GREGORY:

I know, but my question is how bad could it get? How many more are we going to see? People want to know the challenge you face.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

I believe we'll stem this tide. And we're doing a number of things to do that right now.

DAVID GREGORY:

So you don't think the numbers will go up, is what you're saying.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

The numbers have very definitely--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. I mean they're certainly going to go up from where they are, if they're already double this year, and we're sitting here in the summertime.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

They have definitely gone up. But I believe we will stem this tide. We are doing a number of things to do that. With regards to the adult population, who are coming here without their kids, we have dramatically reduced the turnaround time from something like 33 days down to four days.

With regards to adults who are bringing their children, we're bringing on additional detention capacity. We're turning that population of people around quicker. And with regards to the children, very definitely there are special considerations with the children. And we keep reminding people of the dangers that your lead-in points out, to climbing on board top of a freight train.

I've spoken directly to kids on the border who've told me that they have held on for days and hours to the top of a freight train, literally holding on for dear life because they risk falling off and dying. We keep reminding parents of the dangers of sending your children unaccompanied on this journey, this long, 1,000-mile journey, and that there are no free passes once you get here. DACA is not available for these children.

DAVID GREGORY:

That's the Deferred Action Plan.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

That's the Deferred Action Plan.

DAVID GREGORY:

Not available for these children.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

It's available for those who came here seven years ago.

DAVID GREGORY:

But critics say you're not stemming the tide fast enough. This number's going to grow wherever it ends up. The bottom line is what happens now? Are you prepared to deport these children, young mothers, that we're seeing in Miguel piece and all of these images? Are you prepared--

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Our message--

DAVID GREGORY:

--to deport them?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Our message to those who come here illegal: Our border is not open to illegal migration. And we are taking a number of steps to address it, including turning people around faster. We've already dramatically reduced the turnaround time, the deportation time. For the adults, we're asking this week for a supplement for Congress, from Congress, to bring on additional capacity. And we're cracking down on the smuggling organizations.

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay, but--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But even for the children, we're talking about 50,000 so far this year. Do they need to be deported? Or I've seen some reporting suggesting that more than half of them could end up staying with families in America.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

The law requires that, when DHS identifies somebody as a child, as an unaccompanied child, we turn them over to The Department of Health and Human Services. But there is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against the child. Now, that proceeding can take some time. And so we're looking at options, added flexibility, to deal with the children in particular, but in a humanitarian and fair way.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, I'm sorry, I have to-- I mean it sounds like a very careful response. Are they going to be deported or not? I mean this is the bottom line. I know there's a process they have to go through. Will most of these children that we have seen in this desperate situation stay in America or will they be returned to their homes in Central America?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children. We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values.

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm trying to get answer to, "Will most of them end up staying, in your judgment?"

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

I think we need to find more efficient effective ways to turn this tide around, generally. And we've already begun to do that.

DAVID GREGORY:

But what does that mean? Are you saying it's impractical to deport all of them who are here now?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

I'm saying that we've already dramatically reduced the turnaround time for the adults. And we're in the process of doing that for the adults with the kids.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can--

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

We're looking at additional options for the kids in particular.

DAVID GREGORY:

To deport them or to settle them here in America? Is the goal of the administration to settle as many of these kids in America as possible?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

The goal of the administration is to stem the tide and send the message, unequivocally, that--

DAVID GREGORY:

What about--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--who are here now? What is the goal of the administration, to settle them in America or to deport them back to situations that might be even life threatening?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

There is a deportation proceeding pending against everyone who comes into this country illegally and is apprehended at the border.

DAVID GREGORY:

When you look at the protests in Murrieta, you see that anger, do you see that as hate towards illegal immigrants? Do you see it as prejudice? Or do you understand frustrations with the federal government, with the inability of Congress to pass immigration reform, the drain on resources for our community? What do you see?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Well, I look at it, and it is unfortunate to see that type of hostility directed at women and children on a bus, frankly. I do not believe that that band of individuals that you showed in your lead-in reflects Murrieta, California. And it certainly does not reflect the response we've seen across the southwest--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But doesn't it reflect frustration at the government-- you're the head of The Department of Homeland Security-- for not doing more to protect the border, the enforce the nation's laws with regard to turning migrants away who are coming illegally?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

The broader response across the southwest has been very different. In places like McAllen, Texas, Nogales, Arizona, where the city governments, the population at large, faith-based organizations, have really stepped up to support the border patrol to do the humanitarian thing here. The media is focused on that band of individuals in Murrieta, California. I don't think that even reflects the sentiment in Murrieta, frankly.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is the priority, does it have to be that we've got to do right by these children? Or do we have to find a way to clamp down on the border?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Well--

(OVERTALK)

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Well, there's the issue. We have to do right by the children. I have personally encountered enough of them to know that we have to do right by the children. But, at the end of the day, in the final analysis, our border is not open to illegal migration. And we will stem the tide.

DAVID GREGORY:

Does the president need to go to border? Should he visit when he goes there this week?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

The president can't be everyplace he'd like to be, or even should be. I know that the president receives daily updates from Lisa Monaco, his Homeland Security advisor on the White House staff, Cecilia Munoz, who is Domestic Policy director, on myself. I have regularly briefed the president in Oval Office meetings. And we're doing the principal's level meeting tomorrow morning.

DAVID GREGORY:

The broader issue of immigration reform, what the president can do without Congress, since Congress is not going to get anything done, what is the one thing he'd like to do on his own to address the millions of illegal immigrants here in this country now?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Fix our broken immigration system. This is something--

DAVID GREGORY:

He can't do all of that by himself. What can he do by himself--

(OVERTALK)

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

There are a number of things that the president and I, within the confines of existing law, can do to fix the broken immigration system. And we will. If Congress doesn't act, we will, because we--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Can you give me a concrete example of something that you're considering doing?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

For one thing, we need to fix the Secure Communities Program. This is a program where we work with local law enforcement to facilitate the transfer of undocumented who are in local jails. The program, frankly, has gotten off to a bad start. And we need to fix that program. I think the overarching goal of Secure Communities is a good one, but it needs a fresh start. For example, that's one thing, among a number of things, that we're contemplating doing.

DAVID GREGORY:

Another big issue you're dealing with is the terror threat coming from overseas, al-Qaeda, ISIS operating in Syria and Iraq. I want to turn to that. We've been talking about this for a week. It's a growing terrorist threat that the Islamic state of Iraq in Syria or ISIS is making significant gains. And now airport security's being tightened around the world. In a moment, I'll discuss that with you, Mr. Secretary, and whether similar measures might be taking place in United States at airports here. Let me first turn to my colleague, Jim Maceda, who is at London's Heathrow Airport with the latest on what he's seeing there. Jim?

JIM MACEDA:

Hi, David. Well, Heathrow, of course, is one of the world's busiest airports, a prime terrorist target. And while Heathrow officials don't give any details on new precautions, passengers going on U.S.-bound flights are saying they've seen more explosive swab tests, especially on electric devices, like laptops, tablets, cell phones, and the like, and on their shoes, as well.

Some passengers say those physical pat-downs seem more frequent these last few days. Overall, they're saying it seems to be taking about twice as long to get through security. But you don't see any increased armed police patrols in or around the buildings behind me, those terminals, which would suggest that the focus is on pre-set disguised bombs that current scanners might not detect, and of course U.S. intelligence is saying that al-Qaeda-linked bomb makers have perfected.

Some British aviation security and explosives experts say that they're taking this threat, David, very seriously. And frighteningly, even say that current airport security techniques are not yet in place to deal with it. Here's what a couple of experts told us.

ROLAND ALFORD, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF ALFORD TECHNOLOGIES:

It's not particularly difficult to disguise a bomb, to disguise it so that it can through all the tracks. Potentially, you can, for example, take a laptop. You need to have the switches on them for it to work. So you've got to really start changing the inside of it, so that, even though t goes through a scanner, it looks like a laptop, it works like a laptop, but actually, it's a bomb.

PHILIP BAUM, AVIATION SECURITY EXPERT:

After the shoe bomber, one saw people's shoes coming off. After the liquid plots, we saw liquids, aerosols and gels being restricted on board aircraft. We are always reacting. And that is what is wrong with the system. And that is why I believe that we shouldn't be basing our response on deploying technology and then saying, "Oh my gosh, there's a new device out there that our existing technologies can't identify."

JIM MACEDA:

David, so far, passengers we've talked to here are largely understanding. They say they don't mind arriving an hour or even more earlier if it makes their flight safer. David, back to you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Jim Maceda in London for us this morning. Jim, thank you so much. So Secretary Johnson, the question I think a lot of Americans have, flights coming into the U.S. facing tougher security screening, are we going to see that here again domestically?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Well David, our job is to try to anticipate the next attack, not simply react to the last one. And so we continually evaluate the world situation. And we know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States. And aviation security is a large part of that.

So this past week, I directed that we step up our aviation security at last point, at some last point of departure airports coming into the United States. This is not something to overreact to or over-speculate about. But it's something we felt was necessary. We do this from time to time. We ratchet it down from time to time.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what about inside the country, domestic flights? Do you think it's time to ratchet up those screenings, as well, those precautions?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

We continually evaluate things. The screening we have right now domestically, from one domestic airport to the other, is pretty robust, as the American traveling public knows. In this instance, we felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point of departure airports. And we'll continually evaluate the situation.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're adequately safeguarded, in your judgment, as best as we can be, against an al-Qaeda or an ISIS threat that has developed here domestically?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

I believe that we've taken the appropriate measures to deal with the existing situating and not unnecessarily burden the traveling public.

DAVID GREGORY:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has a lot of money. It has a lot of foreign fighters. What kind of access does it have to Europe and the United States in terms of being able to pull off an attack?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Obviously, we're concerned any time a terrorist organization acquires territory, picks up capability. And as I said, where terrorist threat, the potential out there still remains, and a lot of it centers around aviation security, which we continually monitor.

DAVID GREGORY:

Secretary Johnson, thank you so much for your time.

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Appreciate it very much. I want to turn back to the issue of immigration, turn to the other side of the political aisle, now, for the view on that crisis. I'm joined by Republican Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho. Congressman, welcome back.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

Thank you for having me on your show, and good morning.

DAVID GREGORY:

So you've heard from Secretary Jeh Johnson of Homeland Security, "You've got to do right by the children," he said. That's got to be a bottom-line ideal here for the United States government. Is that how you feel?

REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

I do not. You know, as I was listening to Secretary Johnson's interview, the first half of his interview, I kept thinking that you just need to change your slogan at the beginning of your show. Instead of, "If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press," it should be, "If it's Sunday, it's another administration official making stuff up on Meet the Press."

DAVID GREGORY:

What is it that he made up?

REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

It's really shameful. He made up a lot different things. If you look at what he said, he said that the number one reason these children are coming to the United States is because of the violence in these Central American countries. The reality's that the violence has existed in these Central American countries for a long period of time. The level of poverty has existed in these Central American countries for a long period of time.

But it's over the last two years that you have seen an increase in the number of children coming to the United States. He's saying that he's going to be able to stem it, and it's not going to reach 90,000 or between 60 and 90,000 children. That's not going to happen.

The own administration estimates are that it's going to be about 60,000 to 90,000 this year, that it's going to increase to 150 to 200,000 next year. These are their own estimates. And now they come on national T.V. and they say that they're doing everything they can to stem the flow? But that their number one priority is actually to make sure that we do right by these children.

The thing this administration needs to do is immediately deport these families, these children. I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds difficult. But they're creating a crisis at this time that is actually going to harm these children. These children, as your own reporting said, these children are going to come through the border, they're going to come from Central America. Many of them are being raped. Many of them are being harmed. This is an outrageous thing that is happening to these children. And we need to actually take a strong stance against what's happening and against these illegal cartels.

DAVID GREGORY:

But for those who are hearing you and saying, "But you do sound harsh," that, as a practical matter, deporting these individuals, many of them children, to get back to Central America, may not be realistic, nor is it in keeping with what it means to be America, and for a lot of American families who think if you're fleeing something that's so awful, we've got to find a way to deal with this in a more humanitarian way, just as we have 11 million or so illegal immigrants who are here now who have to be dealt with in a way other than just deporting them.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

You know, Americans are great people. I think they're willing to deal with the 11 million if we feel that there's going to be border security. Right now, the frustration you see in Murrieta, the frustration you see all throughout the United States is because they feel that this administration is doing nothing about border security. If we can feel safe in our homes, if we can feel safe in our homeland, if we can feel that we can actually-- are going to be able to stem the flow of illegal immigration, I think the American people are--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But let me just stop you for a second, Congressman. First of all, the frustration is not just with the administration, right? It is Congress. It is House Republicans who have locked immigration reform that came over from the Senate that you opposed. But it is also an issue of the law that is the law of the land was passed under the previous president that makes it a different way to treat those illegal migrants coming from Central America as opposed to Mexico. They have to be brought in and detained and put through these proceedings. That is the law that Congress passed.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

That's a good point. In 2008, the law was passed. And I think we need to change that law. We shouldn't be treating the children from Central America any different than we treat the children from Mexico and Canada. And I think that is something that I will join the administration is doing. I don't think we should be doing that.

But I think you need to realize that, in 2008, the law was changed. And in 2009, there wasn't a huge major change in the number of children that came to the United States. In 2010, there wasn't a huge change. And in 2011, there wasn't a huge change, either.

And as soon as the administration, in 2012, decided to do DACA, which is the Deferred Action Program, that's when the number of children started moving up. And that's because these criminal cartels in South and Central America decided to start advertising that there was a free pass.

I agree with Secretary Johnson that these children should not be allowed to stay. But even in his statements today, he wouldn't even answer your question, whether we were going to deport these children or not. The best, safest message that we can send to Central America, if you want to let Central American families know that they're not going to be able to-- they shouldn't be bringing their children to the United States, is by sending these children back in a humanitarian way. We can do it safely. We can do it efficiently.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Congressman, Labrador, as always, thank you very much for your views and for being here this morning.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up here, why are three female Supreme Court justices, all the women on the Supreme Court, so angry about an important ruling on Thursday? Our roundtable will be here to discuss the impact on President Obama and Obamacare in a busy week in politics. Plus, an astonishing new video showing the self-declared leader of the new ISIS caliphate. Coming up, the latest on that ISIS threat and why one former world leader says the Iraqi government must go to solve this crisis.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

I believe the roundtable is here, and so much to discuss, even on this holiday weekend. Our political director and White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. For the first time on the program, Lori Montenegro, national correspondent for Telemundo. Michael Gerson, columnist for The Washington Post, who served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush, and Carolyn Ryan, Washington bureau chief, political editor for The New York Times. Welcome to all of you. So Chuck, from Secretary Johnson, I think an ambiguous response to what they're going to do and how exactly we got here.

CHUCK TODD:

It's been that way. It was that way Thursday in the White House briefing, when you could not get a straight answer out of the administration. You couldn't get them to say should the President's image be used to send this message in Central America, for instance.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

To send the message, "Hey, don't send your kids here, this isn't going to happen." There was ambiguity in his answer to you about is there going to be an attempt to increase-- you want the ability to increase the amount of deportations. They've been afraid to say that. And it's the politics of this, right?

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, we have immigration law conflation going on here. This crisis is separate from the immigration issue that's been debated here in Washington. But it's been conflated, obviously, back and forth. And think part of the problem is you have an administration that, on one hand, has immigrant rights groups wanting them to expand some of the executive orders, including maybe Dreamers, this DACA thing, Dreamers for the Parents. And in exchange, they know politically, in order to get away with that, they do have to increase--

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

--the deportations, but they don't want to say it.

DAVID GREGORY:

But Lori, is America still the country that says, "Give me your huddled masses?" On immigration, it seems really a lot more split on that.

LORI MONTENEGRO:

Yes, it is. And I think that this issue with the undocumented minors is making that more difficult. But I do believe that the majority of the American people would support immigration reform if it is done in the correct way.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

LORI MONTENEGRO:

But going back to something--

DAVID GREGORY:

But we're a long ways away from--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--immigration reform.

LORI MONTENEGRO:

Exactly.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're dealing with an exploding crisis on our border right now.

LORI MONTENEGRO:

And not only that, I think that one of the issues is that I think it has not been well explained. What is going on in Central America? What exactly is going on in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala that makes these children-- children don't just start walking away from their homeland for any reason.

This is something that's been occurring since 2009. There is violence in that country. And let us remember that the United States did deport a large number of gang members, for example, back to El Salvador. What did we think was going to happen? A lot of it has to do with our own policies. We have given these nations money. Those monies have not gone to maybe what they were supposed to have gone to. And so the people feel hopeless.

And there's one other thing that I want to add to that. And that is the backlog, the current backlog in immigration. So if you're a parent that maybe got here, was able to fix your immigration situation, and you petitioned for your wife, for your child, and that was back in 1997, maybe, and if you look at the visa process right now, they still may be in 1992. So people get desperate. And they become impatient. And so they make this treacherous, you know--

(OVERTALK)

LORI MONTENEGRO:

--journey--

DAVID GREGORY:

You look at the politics of this, you look at Raul Labrador, in saying, "We've got to deport all these people." I mean here, Secretary Johnson would not answer the question, which is, "Are you going to deport them or not?" If the administration wants more power to be able to deport them right away.

MICHAEL GERSON:

I think it's going to be hard for them to maintain this ambiguity that Chuck was talking about.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

MICHAEL GERSON:

Because they're going to send up a bill for two or $3 billion extra to help solve this problem. And he previewed there's going to be an expedited process to return. That's going to be a problem on the President's left in the Congress. They're going to wonder, "What are you going to do with an executive order that will counterbalance what you need to do in this bill?" And so it's a delicate balance for Republicans, as well, by the way.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

MICHAEL GERSON:

They need to be critical of the president without alienating a rising demographic group. And they've not been very good at doing that. You know, you can criticize the coyotes. You can criticize the administration.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

MICHAEL GERSON:

When you go after the kids and their mothers, that's a long term problem for the Republican Party.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. George W. Bush used to say that family values don't end at the Rio Grande.

CAROLYN RYAN:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

That seems like a long time ago in Republican politics.

CAROLYN RYAN:

It certainly does. And think about this. The president is now saying, more broadly, that he's going to take on the issue of overhauling immigration, and that the Congress has failed. And think about how freighted and tense that's going to be going forward, given that the expectations on the left, the expectations from Latino groups, are that he can make significant changes in the lives of many of the people. And anything that he does is going to be so provocative, especially given the Congress and even the court's resistance to him using his executive power. So it's going to be a very, very challenging--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what do you see, when you look at those protests, what do you see? Do you see-- is it intolerance? Is it prejudice? Or is it frustration with all of the costs, all of the drain on resources, that an illegal flow like that can represent?

LORI MONTENEGRO:

I think it's all of the above, everything that you mentioned. I think a lot of people are afraid. I think a lot of people are afraid. I think a lot of people are still trying to recover jobs and think that the immigrants are coming here to take their jobs. I think, basically, a lot of it has to do with-- and it's provoked by the inaction of Congress. If maybe this would have been tackled years ago, we would not be seeing this. But, you know--

DAVID GREGORY:

But we're not going to get to that for--

(OVERTALK)

LORI MONTENEGRO:

We're not going to get to it. And it's not going to happen.

(OVERTALK)

MICHAEL GERSON:

But it is an indictment of the system that we go from crisis to crisis.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

MICHAEL GERSON:

If you're talking about the economy, if you're talking about immigration, the Congress doesn't deal with broad questions on this. It's not capable of it. It deals with crisis after crisis. And that's no way to govern on an issue. But this broad--

CHUCK TODD:

But by the way, this is a NIMBY issue, not in my backyard. I mean this is-- we've had Americans protesting immigrant groups being shipped around in this country for decades. Okay, Bill Clinton lost a race for governor, arguably, because he agreed-- he allowed Jimmy carter to send the Marielito Boatlift Cubans, some of them, to Arkansas in a similar situation as Murrieta. And that was-- this is not a unique issue.

I mean we've had Americans protesting new immigrants being bussed around, shipped around this country for a long time. So that part of it isn't new. It's sort of how is the administration going to explain it? How do they give the local community an idea that there is an end date here, that this is temporary, and who these people are? And I think part of the problem is the administration has had, particularly in Murrieta, is that there hasn't been a lot of information about what are they doing, how long are they going to be here, basic things like that.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me spend a couple of minutes talking about something that seems just as difficult, if not more difficult. And that's religious views, contraception, women's health and politics. After the Supreme Court cases this week, the Hobby Lobby case, the Wheaton College case, President Obama sent a tweet out-- which gives you some insight into how he views this politically in a midterm election year. And the tweet was, "Throwback to last week when a woman, not her boss, made her own decisions about her health care." Again, religious exceptions on the part of businesses or a college, they don't have to provide certain kinds of contraception, that becomes a ready-made political issue now.

CAROLYN RYAN:

It is a political issue. In one of the most interesting, kind of fascinating dynamics that you saw this week, after the Hobby Lobby case, many people reading the Hobby Lobby case as the court saying that the administration had come up with an alternative for religious groups to-- there was a path for women employees to get contraceptive coverage, the decision or the order on Thursday really seemed to be showing the deep and very profound divisions within the court.

And basically, the court was saying Wheaton College does not even have to comply with what the administration said to provide contraceptive coverage. So you're seeing these really raw feelings on the court in a very unusually kind of fierce dissent from the women members.

MICHAEL GERSON:

Yeah, it was very narrow ruling. There was essential-- the Wheaton ruling was essentially, "We're not going to impose the HHS rule until there's a decision on the broader accommodation that you're talking about." And they haven't decided on this issue.

What they're talking about is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says you have to perceive a least intrusive means to achieve these purposes. The court looked at this and said this was not the least intrusive means. The real question is: is the broader accommodation for religious nonprofits a path that can be taken here? And the court has just not decided on that question, and doesn't want--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But isn't the question, "Can you find a way to get contraception to women who want it through the insurance companies, and as a way to get around people who have religious exemption--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's obviously what the fix was supposed to do. But let's go to the raw politics of this is, you know, normally it used to be conservative, the social conservative movement used to quietly hope for losses on the Supreme Court, because it gave them a political reason for existing. It gave them something to campaign for. It gave them somebody to beat up the courts.

What was fascinating post-Hobby Lobby was how, frankly, excited Democratic campaigns were acting. Almost like, "We have something to run on here on the left." And I'll tell you, the swing vote in these midterm elections is when it is white women basically 40 to 55, if you want to just ID the exact demographics. And these were the women that, in 2010, they were leaning Republican at this time. This time, they haven't been. And it all starts with a contraception ad campaign that Obama campaigned--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

This is ultimately about Obamacare, too.

DAVID GREGORY:

This is now, does it stifle your religious expression? Is that the real peril of Obamacare for conservatives who want to make that argument?

LORI MONTENEGRO:

Yes, it is. And also, I think the decision basically is a double-edged sword. I think it opens up a Pandora box to what is going to come after that. And not only that, I mean you're already hearing people saying that not only will it affect Obamacare, but is it another way for people to begin thinking about how they are paying their health care? Maybe it's not through their job. Maybe it's through government health care systems. So I mean I just think that the ruling, like I said before, it's just opening up a Pandora box.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you all. We're going to hear from more of you here at the end of the program in just a couple of minutes. Coming up here on this July Fourth weekend, our Harry Smith meets a man whose mission is to find all kinds of history, including inventions that are now part of everyday life.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANDREW CARROLL:

This is a replica of the original?

MARTIN COOPER:

That's right.

ANDREW CARROLL:

How much does this thing weigh?

MARTIN COOPER:

That’s exactly what it looks like. It weighs two and a half pounds.

ANDREW CARROLL:

Two and a half pounds?

MARTIN COOPER:

Yeah. Had a battery life of-- of-- 20 minutes.

(END TAPE)

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Up next, the latest on the crisis in Iraq, and a stark warning from a former world leader. Plus right here at home, our Kevin Tibbles finds fear among American Muslims.

HASSAN AL-QAZWINI:

It's not the foreign issue. Once they have their own state, they will launch attacks against us again.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We already talked about the terrorist threat coming from Iraq and Syria, the very latest on that. Now the Islamist militant group known as ISIS is attempting to consolidate and expand the border of the caliphate, or Islamic state they've declared this week. I'm joined by our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell with more on that. Welcome, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Thank you. And good morning, David. Well so far, ISIS is winning. In fact, the terror group's elusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is so confident, he appeared this weekend in a mosque in Mosul is what is thought to be his first video. But President Obama does not want to order air strikes against the terror group as long as Iraq's widely disparaged President Maliki is still in charge.

This weekend, Maliki said he will not step aside. Earlier this week, I talked about the Iraq crisis and how it now threatens to spread, with Tony Blair, now a Middle East envoy.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Iraq exploding. We're seeing the insurgents from ISIS taking more and more territory and holding the territory. And the border with Syria all but erased, Jordan threatened, potentially, on to Lebanon. A regional threat now. First of all, would this have happened if United States had armed the rebel, moderate rebel forces, a year ago or longer and not let ISIS metastasize the way it has?

TONY BLAIR:

You know, I argued Andrea but action in Syria a couple of years ago. And I think it was justified. But I honestly don't think you can say what might or might not have happened. And I think what is important is to deal with the situation we have now. And, you know, having been through all these types of decisions myself when I was in government, I know how difficult they are.

But I think you've got one basic problem, which is this extremism that's rebuilt itself in Syria, came back over the border into Iraq. We've got, in the short term, to push them back as hard as possible. I think the President's right to send help to the Iraqis to be helping the Syrian opposition, the moderate Syrian opposition. But in the longer term, we're going to have to get a strategy for the Middle East that identifies correctly the problem, which is this extremism, and bears down on it wherever we can, however we can with the allies we have in the region.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

We've increased our intelligence. We're pre-positioning for the potential of air strikes. But the president and others are really reluctant to use airpower to support Maliki. They don't want to take sides in this sectarian debate.

TONY BLAIR:

Sure.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And so far, Maliki has been sectarian. He has not been the government that is governing all of Iraq.

TONY BLAIR:

The two issues that are the most connected with this are the way that this group is able to overrun a part of Syria, take control, build up and re-arm and refinance themselves there in Syria and then come over the border. And the other aspect is the sectarianism of the Maliki government. I think the U.S. is absolutely right and would do so I think with the full support of the international community, to leverage its support to say to Prime Minister Maliki either he has to change or the government has to change. Very important in this, the Ayatollah Sistani, who's the leading Shi'a cleric in Iraq has also called for an inclusive government. That's very, very important to the future.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And with that signal from the Ayatollah Sistani, does that give us some political cover to put more pressure on Maliki? Doesn't Maliki have to go for this to work, for Iraq to ever hold as the country we know it?

TONY BLAIR:

It is much easier for the United States and others to help if there was a government in Iraq that was genuinely inclusive, that had the support of Ayatollah Sistani, and that could command support in a fight against extremism, not in a partisan fight within the Shi'a-Sunni split.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I know you've written that removing Saddam Hussein did not cause this conflagration. But if we had not invaded in 2003, the United States, Great Britain and others-- wouldn't Iraq have-- be a very, very different place?

TONY BLAIR:

Well, it's, again it's--

(OVERTALK)

TONY BLAIR:

--hard to judge, because, you know obviously, if you were to ask some of the Kurds against whom Saddam launched genocide, or people down on Basra, the most Shi'a area, who were excluded from government or excluded from their right to worship, they'd probably say no. If you asked the people up in Baghdad, who've had this terrible time over the last years, they'd probably say yes.

However, the purpose of what I'm saying is not to shuffle off responsibility. I take full responsibility for what we did. The important thing is to realize this is a long term problem. Its root cause is in this extremism. These regimes were never going to be sustained. I mean we removed the one in Iraq. But the people removed the other ones.

And so in the end, the question is how do we help the region, and can we help the region, to the future of which this toxic mix of religion and politics is taken out of the situation and people are allowed to have the type of government that a majority of people in the Middle East probably want?

(END TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Many, especially in his own country, now blame Blair for joining George W. Bush and invading Iraq in the first place in 2003, which they see as the root cause of the current crisis. But as you just heard, Blair has no apologies and no regrets. David?

DAVID GREGORY:

Andrea Mitchell, thank you very much this morning. Closer to home, American Muslims are also gravely concerned about all of this, as our Kevin Tibbles found when he visited Dearborn, Michigan, just outside Detroit, a city where Muslims make up more than a third of the population. It is this week's Meeting America.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Dearborn, Michigan is the home of the American automobile. It is also home to the largest Muslim population in the nation. And at the city's vast and impressive Islamic Center of America, the Iraqi-born imam Hassan Al-Qazwini sounds the warning against religious extremism.

HASSAN AL-QAZWINI:

I'm worried about my original country, which is Iraq. And I'm worried about this country, this, my second country, the United States. It's not a foreign issue. Once they have their own state, they will launch attacks against us again.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

As people go about their lives, they are touched, even horrified, by the seemingly unchecked violence in the Middle East. Still, this is middle America.

MALE VOICE:

One more picture.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

And what could be more American?

BASEBALL COACH:

Ali, center field. Other Ali, left field.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Kids obsessed with their national pastime. Their parents, too. (CHEERING) Yet, despite the homegrown game they love, Zinab Allie says she and her family are often made to feel, well, like outsiders in America.

ZINAB ALLIE:

People look at us and they give us stares and glares. They look at us as if we're not really American. We're not blonde, blue eyes.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Zenib is U.S.A. to the core, born and raised in Dearborn. This year she celebrates Independence Day during the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast from dawn till dusk.

ZINAB ALLIE:

My culture's The Fourth of July. I celebrate Ramadan. But I had an all-American meal yesterday. I had meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. How much more American can you get?

KEVIN TIBBLES:

In Dearborn, they proudly remember their Middle Eastern roots, but are building their future as Americans. At the Lava Lounge, Aaron Saab, the son of a taxi driver, epitomizes the American dream.

AARON SAAB:

This country gave me more than any other country would ever be able to give me. I managed to go to Harvard Business School through my father. He was the one who pushed us to work hard, to work hard, to work hard.

LINDA TALED:

We always make sure that we have--

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Across town at Linda Taled’s home, they prepare for the evening's Iftar, breaking the fast.

LINDA TALEB:

This is the drink that we have when we break our fast. And it's called Jalab.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

At this very American field on this very American weekend, there is plenty to celebrate.

ZENAB ALLIE:

You need to have a culture. If you have no culture, you have nothing. Our family is diverse because it has the best of both worlds.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

For Meet the Press, Kevin Tibbles.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you, Kevin. And coming up here, Harry Smith with a unique story of how one man is discovering America's great forgotten history.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back. Fireworks, baseball and hot dogs, that's what Independence Day is made of, of course. But it's also about remembering history. So on this July Fourth weekend, our Harry Smith has the story of an author who has made an unusual career at finding American history in everyday places.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HARRY SMITH:

As the world walks by, two men have a conversation in midtown Manhattan.

ANDREW CARROLL:

So we're at about Sixth Avenue and West 52nd Street.

MARTIN COOPER:

Yeah.

ANDREW CARROLL:

Tell me what happened here on April third, is it 1973?

HARRY SMITH:

The guy on the right is Andrew Carroll. The man he's speaking with is Martin Cooper. Cooper invented the cell phone and made the very first call from this spot.

ANDREW CARROLL:

This is a replica of the original.

MARTIN COOPER:

That's right.

(OVERTALK)

MARTIN COOPER:

This is exactly what it looked like. Weighs two and a half pounds.

ANDREW CARROLL:

Two and a half pounds.

MARTIN COOPER:

Yeah. Had a battery life of 20 minutes.

ANDREW CARROLL:

Wow.

MARTIN COOPER:

But as you notice, you couldn't hold it up for 20 minutes.

ANDREW CARROLL:

Because it's so heavy.

MARTIN COOPER:

Right.

HARRY SMITH:

Andrew Carroll wants us to know that history didn't happen long ago and far away. No. Quite often, we are closer to it than we can imagine. So he started a project called Here is Where.

ANDREW CARROLL:

This is the Marriott Wardman Park. And this is where, back in 1925, a young busboy was working named Langston Hughes.

HARRY SMITH:

Langston Hughes was a busboy in this hotel?

ANDREW CARROLL:

He noticed one evening a gentleman named Vachel Lindsay, who was a very famous American poet, was dining there. And so, sort of surreptitiously, he put three of his poems on the table.

HARRY SMITH:

Carroll has made a career of finding the history in everyday places and among everyday people. He's the man who asked folks to start sending him wartime letters. That turned into a bestselling book.

ANDREW CARROLL:

This is one of the first letters we received. It's dated May 2nd, 1945. It was written by a young staff sergeant named Horace Evers. He was in Munich, Germany with his unit.

HARRY SMITH:

Evers and his unit had stumbled into Adolf Hitler's private apartment. Sergeant Evers found Hitler's stationery and then wrote down what he had just seen days before at Dachau.

ANDREW CARROLL:

It's just a very powerful letter.

HARRY SMITH:

It is history in the first person, not from commanders or academics, but from those who lived it and those who loved them.

ANDREW CARROLL:

I will never forget opening a letter from a woman who said, "Dear Andy, I'm sending the letters that my brother wrote from Vietnam. I just want someone to remember who he was." And that line has always stayed with me.

HARRY SMITH:

Carroll is still collecting letters. And we were there when Dustin and Nicole Hawley gave them theirs, letters exchanged during Dustin's 15 months in Iraq.

NICOLE HAWLEY:

When the letters would come, and I could open them up, and it gave me the opportunity to kind of connect with him.

DUSTIN HAWLEY:

And you can almost see the person in it. You can see their quirks in it. You can see just the way she writes, the way she dots her I's.

NICOLE HAWLEY:

It was the foundation of our entire relationship.

HARRY SMITH:

Really?

NICOLE HAWLEY:

It really was. It really was. I don't think we would be here today if we didn't write those letters. Think we would have grown apart. And instead, we grew together.

HARRY SMITH:

Andrew Carroll insists history is not made by others, but by us. So he will soon embark on a 50-state search for more letters, more history. For Meet the Press, Harry Smith.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

And you can learn more about Andrew Carroll's Finding History project by going to our website. It's MeetThePressNBC.com. Now for the week's big question that I think we'll be talking about in the week to come, should the children who have already crossed the border be allowed to stay in the United States as this border crisis heats up? We want to hear your thoughts. Weigh in on Facebook. Just search for Meet the Press. That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. Here now, some of the best of the July Fourth fireworks displays from around the country.

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