July 12, 2014
Guest: Megan McKenna, Juan Cartagena, Lindsay Jenkins, Margie Omero, Lenny
Alcivar, Irving Joyner, Ari Berman, Ron Kampeas, Hillary Mann Leverett, Ali
Gharib, Kymani Quarrie, Tania Dunbar
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, is the two-
state solution dead in the Middle East?
And my moving van is on the way to North Carolina, but I`m wondering if I`d
ask them to turn around.
Plus, Tennessee is arresting new mothers.
But first, we have a humanitarian crisis on our border. And it`s time we
change how we discuss it.
Good morning I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. French language nerds will
understand the meaning of the French word refoulement, it is literal
English definition, the act of pushing back or turning someone away, but to
the community of nations, subject to international refugee law, the word
needs no translation because non- refoulement is the fundamental principle
of that law. It essentially refers to a moral obligation of a state. When
the vulnerable community crosses its borders running for their lives. Not
to force those people to go back when returning home would endanger their
freedom or their lives. The principle was enshrined in the 1951 convention
relating to the status of refugees, a United Nations treaty adopted by the
international community to respond to millions of Jews and other peoples
who were uprooted and displaced after the atrocities of World War II.
The treaty, which has sense become known as the wall behind which refugees
can shelter set international standards for the treatment of displaced
people. Laid out the responsibilities of nations who take them in and it
establishes an internationally recognized definition for who exactly
qualifies to be understood as a refugee. The convention`s definition which
has been adopted into the language of the U.S.`s own law defines a refugee
as any person who owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for
reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership, of a particular social
group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is
unable or owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the
protection of that country.
The United States wasn`t the signatory to that original treaty, but in
1968, after the scope of the treaty was expanded from post-World War II
refugees to include other people displaced in growing conflicts around the
world, the United States signed on. In the more than six decades since the
world reached that consensus on the treatment of refugees, their population
around the globe has only become more crowded. The reason for leaving more
complex and the needs of the countries trying to help them more
challenging, but one thing has remained the same. When people are in
danger, they flee. And when they come to us seeking security, we`re not
meant to send them back. The United States has long been a world leader in
upholding that principle and its moral obligations to those displaced by
conflicts abroad. Secretary of State John Kerry recognized that leadership
as fundamentally American, at last year`s commemoration of World Refugee
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Today is just the 12TH official World
Refugee Day, but I`m proud to say that in the United States of America, our
country has had a tradition of welcoming the huddled masses yearning to
breathe free. And it runs deep in our roots. I think it`s safe to say
it`s part of our DNA as Americans, and we`re proud of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And when it comes to outreach to global refugees, we`ve
backed up that pride with policy. The United States is a largest donor to
humanitarian relief worldwide. Last year alone, the U.S. donated $5
billion in humanitarian aid, much of which helped provide food, safety,
shelter, and medical treatment to refugees and to support neighboring
countries who were hosting them. And more refugees are resettled in the
United States than in any other country since 1975, more than 3 million
from all over the world have been welcomed to a new home on U.S. soil.
This year, the U.S. has allocated more than $1 billion towards funding for
And that American support for refugees is only increasing as the world
faces a refugee crisis of the United Nations has called the most urgent
story of our time. The 51 million people worldwide who have been forced by
civil war to leave their homes. It`s the highest force displacement of
population since World War II, and recently, the State Department announced
increases in humanitarian support for the war-torn regions currently
driving the refugee crisis. More than $2 billion since the beginning of
the Syrian conflict to support the 4.7 million people displaced inside
Syria, 2.8 million displaced in the region and the neighboring countries
hosting the refugees. Nearly 118 million pledge the Central African
Republic to help more than half of the CAR`s population in desperate need
of humanitarian assistance. More than 433 million in support for people
caught in the conflict both inside South Sudan and for the 220,000 South
Sudanese refugees who have fled to Ethiopia. And more than 136 million
this year adding to a total of more than one billion since 2010 in Iraq
where nearly one million internally displaced people join another million
who remain displaced from the Iraq war. Those billions in humanitarian
dollars, all fueled by that fundamental belief that when displaced and
endangered people need our support, we give it. When they arrive at the
borders of neighboring nations, many of them underdeveloped countries with
few resources, we urge those nations not to turn refugees away. But those
beneficiaries of our quickness to open our hearts and our wallets are also
knocking at someone else`s door.
This week, it`s clear that lately American policy in response to those
seeking safety on our own front porch is not so fast. This week, President
Obama asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion to respond to the surge of the
52,000 immigrant children crossing the southern border of the United
States. The funds would go towards increasing border security, caring for
the children while they`re here, and efforts to re-patriot and reintegrate
those who were sent home. Part of that money would cover the cost of legal
services for the children, and additional teams of immigration judges to
hear their cases.
Under a 2008 law, signed by President George W. Bush, unaccompanied
children who reach the United States from a non-neighboring country are
entitled to legal protections and a hearing before a judge to determine if
they have legal grounds to stay in the country. And most of the children
who`ve crossed the border come from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador.
So, they are eligible for the legal process, but on Monday, the White House
said that most of the children will not qualify for humanitarian relief.
And will not have a legal basis to remain in the country. A claim that
president reiterated during his visit to Texas Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Their parents
need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation. And it is
unlikely that their children will be able to stay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s cold comfort to the parents who already know that
incredibly dangerous situation is why their children left in the first
place. A widely cited survey of 404 unaccompanied minors by the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees found that no less than 58 percent of the
children interviewed were forcibly displaced because they suffered or faced
harms that indicated a potential or actual need for international
protection, and on Wednesday, "The New York Times" described the extent of
those harms in gruesome detail. Children tortured, beaten, shot, and
killed in a surge of gang violence that the times concluded is a major
factor driving the recent wave of migration of Central American children to
the United States. It`s what has prompted the U.N. to push the U.S. to
recognize the children - as we recognize so many millions of others in
search of security in a foreign land as refugees.
The U.N.`s designation would have no legal weight in the United States, but
the organization is hoping it would pressure the U.S. into a course
correction at home that toward that fundamental principle on which our
country has long led abroad, if you come fleeing persecution, we will honor
our moral obligation not to send you back.
Joining me today at the table, Megan McKenna, communications and advocacy
director for KIND. That`s KIND, the leading organization for the
protection of unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. Immigration system
alone. And Juan Cartagena, who is president and general counsel for the
organization LatinoJustice. And joining us from San Diego is Lindsay
Jenkins, protection officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for
refugees. So, nice to have you all this morning.
MEGAN MCKENNA, COMMUNICATION AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, KIND: Thank you.
JUAN CARTAGENA, PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL, LATINOJUSTICE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lindsay, what is the official definition of refugee in terms
of international worlds? Do these young people meet that standard?
LINDSAY JENKINS, PROTECTION OFFICER, UNHCR: Thank you, Melissa. And thank
you for having us this morning and having this important discussion.
First, let me take a step back, UNHCR, as the U.N. refugee agency, it`s our
responsibility to work with governments around the world right now to
protect around 12 million refugees in and around the world. And it`s our
important obligation to understand in context of forced displacement why
people are leaving, why they are fleeing, and that`s exactly what we did
here in this situation. We went, we met with the children, we interviewed
the children, we heard their stories, and from what we can tell, children
are fleeing Central America for a complex range of reasons. And those who
are fleeing very serious harm our position, UNHCR`s position to the United
States is the same as it is to any government to hear these children`s
stories. To listen to them, to then make a determination on whether or not
these children are in need of protection. If they are in need of
protection to give them that protection from the violence that they are
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Lindsay, I appreciate what you`re saying here is, you
know, each, obviously each young person will be coming with their own
story, part of the question is making sure that those individual stories
are heard, but it`s also clear that the U.N. has a position in general on
what`s going on here. The Associated Press reported that officials with
the U.N. High Commissioner for refugees has said they hope a regional
agreement on designating Central American migrants as refugees begins to be
discussed such as a resolution would (INAUDIBLE), but the agency says, and
I think this is key, the U.S. and Mexico should recognize that this is a
JENKINS: UNHCR has taken the position, as we have everywhere in the world
that individuals absolutely have to have their stories heard. And that is,
that is fundamentally clear with children. Again, children are being
displaced out of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, into Mexico, into the
United States, and into other areas in the region. And this is something
that we have the regional view on and we understand that many countries in
the region are receiving, are receiving these children. Are receiving
these families, but our main message, and this is fundamentally clear, this
is rooted in the 1951 convention, the definition of a refugee is that each
individual, each individual child needs to have their case heard by a
highly trained professional, by a U.S. officer to really understand the
reasons why that child fled, and if that child needs protection. Then she
should be given that protection. If she doesn`t need that protection, then
she should be treated humanely, returned in a humane way and given the
opportunity to reintegrate into her country in a way that provides her the
protection there that she needs so she doesn`t have to flee again.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lindsay, that`s useful, hold for me a moment, I want to -
because this notion of hearing the stories of children, I think you know,
it sounds lovely and it sounds like something that, of course, all
Americans would support, but when we`re talking about hearing these
stories, we`re talking about hearing them in the context of a legal
proceedings that impacts the question of whether or not these young people
will be going into situations of danger or not. Talk to me about whether
or not these young people will, in fact, have attorneys, or they have
adults who are English-speaking that can move them through the process,
what are the barriers to having their stories heard?
MCKENNA: Oh, exactly, thank you. It`s a very good question. And I would
reiterate that we would say not all these children, it`s a mixed flow. So,
they`re not all refugees, but every single one of them should have a chance
for a full and fair hearing of their claim. They are all in deportation
proceedings. So, none of them are getting a free ride. But part of the
problem with our current process, and it`s only exacerbated by what`s going
on now is that none of these children are guaranteed an attorney. So the
situation has been that more than half of these unaccompanied children have
not had attorneys in their deportation proceedings.
HARRIS-PERRY: We just had a conversation about this on the show about the
fact that I don`t think folks recognize that there`s not, the Gideon
doesn`t expend to civil proceedings like this.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so New York now has a situation where indigent folks
facing the immigration system, but these are not young people who would be
covered under that.
MCKENNA: Right. There is no guarantee of an attorney. So, and these are
children who can be as young as toddlers, it doesn`t matter the age. In
our immigration system, the children are not guaranteed attorneys. So,
they have to find their own attorney, pay for their own attorney unless
they can find one through organizations like KIND and others who do this
work and provide pro bono attorneys for these children.
HARRIS-PERRY: Juan, I want to come to you on this, and we are going to
continue this conversation, but I just want to ask, because part of what
happens as I listen to Lindsay talk about the position of the U.N. or even
talking about the position of KIND, is it keeps feeling like the U.S.
discourse on this is though we are not one of the nations of the world with
the same responsibilities. As though we are somehow set apart and that
this is an immigration issue, rather than a refugee crisis.
CARTAGENA: Oh, that`s clear. That`s clear for the message we`re hearing
recently from the White House, it`s even clear in the president`s comments
recently. We are talking about a refugee crisis, we are talking about
migration of individuals who are fearing persecution at home, and we`re
talking about what it means for our borders, but at the same time, we have
to talk about it in the context of hemispheric policy that`s gone on for so
many years, and U.S. foreign policy that dictates what exactly happens in
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s actually exactly where I want to come when we come
back. Is this question of who isn`t getting it together? Lindsay, thank
you for being with us. I just - we have no time, but I wanted to just ask
this, is migration recognized as an international human right? Do people
have a right to move across borders?
JENKINS: There are certain cases where, you know, there are certain
international treaties and conventions that recognize fundamental human
rights, fundamental rights, and fundamentally, if you are fleeing
persecution, if you fear, if your country cannot protect you from
persecution, from torture, from severe harm, then you do have a right to
leave your country and seek safe haven elsewhere. That is exactly what,
what UNHCR`s fundamental mandate is to do to make sure that that happens.
The United States has traditionally been and for decades has been a leader
in this. And it is a core principle of international human rights and
refugee law and the U.S., we are confident that the U.S. will continue to
respect that and really meaningfully respect that and promote that in the
HARRIS-PERRY: Lindsay Jenkins in San Diego, thank you for joining us, and
stay right there, we have got a lot more when we come back. Including the
reaction from a border state senator who`s no stranger to the difficult
issue. Yes, John McCain`s solution is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: They can`t stay. They cannot stay. If they
believe they are victims of persecution, go to our consulate, go to our
embassy. But we cannot, we cannot have this unlimited flow of individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Senator John McCain on Wednesday speaking about the
immigrant children or rather the migrant children crossing the U.S. border
with Mexico. What is your response to Senator McCain saying we just can`t
have this, they cannot stay?
CARTAGENA: That`s putting on blinders. That`s completely disregarding all
international protections, all of our covenants (ph), all of our promises
to the whole world, and really, in many ways, the principle, for which this
country was created. We cannot just say they cannot stay without hearing
their stories and giving them a legitimate chance for a claim for
HARRIS-PERRY: It is clear that part of what`s going on here is a timing
issue. As the president is asking for these funds, many of these funds are
not so much, some of these for housing and protection of children, but a
lot is it is in order to speed the process, with the White House saying we
are expected that they are going to be sent back. How does either a more
deliberative or a faster process actually impact the likely outcomes?
MCKENNA: Well, there`s a way to do this, when we first - the impact has
been on the border. And so there`s a lot of this funding going towards the
border, but these children are presenting themselves at the border. They
are - it`s not a security concern.
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re not dodging the officials, they`re running to them.
MCKENNA: Toward them, exactly. So you know, what we`ve been saying, you
need to put more money in the adjudication of the cases, which has been a
long underfunded, judges and the court system, immigration, officers and
attorneys for the children because that is a key part. If these children
don`t have attorneys, they do not have meaningful access to U.S.
protection. It`s just as simple as that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it seems to me, OK, I want to listen. Because Juan, you
-- you brought up this point about U.S. complicity in the core causes that
are leading these children to flee. So, we`ll listen to the president for
a moment, and then follow it up with another statement. So, let`s listen
to the president talking about this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not going to be a short term problem, this is a long-term
problem. We have countries that are pretty close to us, in which the life
chances of children are just far, far worse than they are here. The more
that we can do to help these countries get their acts together, then the
less likely we are to have a problem at the borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So there`s the president talking about these countries
getting their act together, but I was reading a piece by Hector Perla
suggesting that their inability to get their act together might actually be
related to U.S. policy. He writes, CAFTA restructured trade relations with
the region, gave unprecedented power to U.S. corporations such as Monsanto,
which is on the brink of creating monopoly for genetically modified seeds,
CAFTA`s net results, and this is the key, has been the devastation of
Central American economies particularly agriculture. And he goes on to say
that in nations where we have actively intervened is precisely where these
young people are now facing violence, dissolved states, and the problems
that are leading them here.
CARTAGENA: Sure, classic example, so let`s talk about - all the policies
that this country`s had in respect to El Salvador, and (INAUDIBLE),
Salvador, they oppressed so many people for so many years. In fact, the
migration of the Salvadorans into this country is massive, right? We`re
not talking about the third largest Latino group in the country. Right
here nearby in Long Island, they just edged out Puerto Ricans, it is the
largest group in Long Island. So, Salvador is fleeing, as well, in large
part, directly attribute to policies that this government - decades.
HARRIS-PERRY: Meanwhile, Nicaraguans are not. Right? Nicaragua is mostly
not well-represented among these young people, in part because a government
that we have opposed there has nonetheless been engaged with redistributive
policies that have helped poor people in those communities.
CARTAGENA: And you know we`re also talking about the kind of training that
occurs in this - the military or these particular countries. All U.S.
funded, U.S.-led. Now the concern is, not only about whether or not the
governments of those countries are actually now going after how they
believe to deal with gang violence is to actually become now the killer.
There`s a force that`s been known in a couple of these countries called la
sombra negra, the black, dark shadow. And they too, government-funded, are
now also terrorizing young people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, I never have any time, but you just said something I
just don`t to want leave on. When you said the gangs, you did the air
quote, and I think it`s important for us to recognize that when we hear
gang violence, it is not a U.S. context. Just briefly help us understand
how the gang violence these young people are facing, different than what
young people are facing on the streets here in the U.S.?
MCKENNA: This is a forced recruitment of these children. These children
are terrorized in their home communities. Many don`t go to school anymore,
particularly in Honduras, I think that`s where things are particularly bad.
But it`s in all three countries. And it can be likened to child soldiers
in other parts of the world where these are children, there`s no one to
protect them. If they don`t join the gangs, they see consequences every
day. They see the dead bodies, we have stories from our children who are
referred to KIND. And they realize, they say to themselves, it`s not
really a choice, it`s either I leave or I die.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as you point out, in other parts of the world where we
have invested many millions and billions of dollars in supporting the
refugee status of those young people fleeing that forced recruitment, Megan
McKenna, thank you for joining us this morning. Juan is going to stick
around a bit longer. The battle between President Obama and Republicans on
this issue reached the new heights this week. We are going to go live to
the border, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking this morning about the humanitarian
crisis consisting largely of unaccompanied children at the southern border
of the United States. Now I want to go to that boarder in Mission, Texas,
where NBC News correspondent Jennifer Bjorklund is standing by. Jennifer,
what`s the latest from where you are?
JENNIFER BJORKLUND, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Latest is, it has been a very
quiet morning here at the border. I`ll just give you - you see behind me
the water back there is Rio Grande. On the other side of this little
(INAUDIBLE), that`s a state park in Mexico. On this side where the green
grass is, is the United States. Another state park, and occasionally, jet
skiers will zip back and force and charge $1,000 for migrants to come
across. We haven`t seen any of that today. That`s not unusual because the
numbers of women and children coming across this border have been declining
steadily in the last week. A lot of theories as to why that is. The train
that carries them through Mexico, many of them, had a derailment last week.
So we`ll find out if maybe it picks up again once that train gets going
again. Also, there`s been some, there`s been some talk that maybe the word
is filtering down into Central America that once they get here and the path
to get here is very, very difficult, and once they get here, there`s no
guarantee they can stay. So, there are a lot of theories as to why it`s
slowed down. But it has slowed down considerably, by about one-third,
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, the news bristling this week has been focusing on the
tensions between these unaccompanied children migrants and those Americans
who are living in border communities. Have you seen any signs of that
BJORKLUND: Not at all. Here in Mission and McAllen, people have been very
welcoming. The Catholic Churches and the various nonprofit groups have
just opened up to the people that are coming across because it is a
humanitarian crisis. The same has actually happened in many of the border
towns in California. What we see a lot of the coverage of was Murrieta,
which is a good two and a half hour drive north of the border into
California. A little bit inland, so they`re not used to seeing as many
migrants as they are perhaps on the border towns and that`s what`s caused a
lot of the tensions.
MF: It`s such a good point, you know probably worth noting that the
Catholic Church both in the U.S. and internationally has taken the position
that this is a humanitarian crisis. Jennifer Bjorklund, in Mission, Texas,
thank you so much for reporting for us from the border.
BJORKLUND: You bet.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us because the kit gloves are coming off on this
issue. The president let the Republicans have it this week and the speaker
of the House fired right back. This may be the fight that we actually need
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`ve been talking about how our country is dealing with
the humanitarian crisis at the border through the lens of international
responsibility, but this has also sparked a bitter political fight right
here at home. And I want to turn to that part of the story. President
Obama and the Republicans are at odds over everything, but you already know
that, but in this case, everything from his request for nearly $4 billion
to handle the crisis to who`s to blame for it in the first place to whether
the president should visit the border for a firsthand look at the
situation. The issue came to a head Wednesday, when the president visited
Texas. He did not go to the border, but he did meet with one of his own
chief critics, Texas Governor Rick Perry who has urged the president to
deploy National Guard troops to the border. The president described the
meeting with Perry and other local officials as constructive, but during a
speech Thursday, he made it clear that he blames Perry`s fellow Republicans
in Congress for the current situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When folks say they`re frustrated with Congress, let`s be clear
about what the problem is.
(NOISE IN THE AUDIENCE)
OBAMA: I`m just telling the truth now.
(NOISE IN THE AUDIENCE)
OBAMA: I don`t have to run for office again, so I can just, you know, let
it rip. They said no to fixing our broken immigration system that we know
would strengthen our borders and our businesses and help families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That same day, House Speaker John Boehner let it rip when he
announced, remember that he announced that he was suing the president this
week, and so he shot back and asked if Republicans will bear the blame if
they don`t approve the nearly $4 billion the president wants to address the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OHIO), HOUSE SPEAKER: Listen, this is a problem of
the president`s own making. He`s been president for five and a half years,
when`s he going to take responsibility for something?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s getting real in Washington. With me at the table,
Margie Omero, Democratic pollster, Juan Cartagena, president and general
counsel for the organization LatinoJustice and Lenny Alcivar was a
Republican strategist and senior vice president of Hynes Communication, so
nice to have you all here.
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I don`t mind when my president is letting it rip. Yeah,
the very - when he`s like hey, I have no more, you know, elections to run
for, but is that a fair assessment of what`s really happening here because
honestly, the White House also sounds like they want to send these children
OMERO: Well, it`s not just about whether or not we send the kids home,
it`s about how they need lawyers, they need - I mean we talked about this
in previous segments, more support immigration courts, and simply the
infrastructure of managing what we do next requires funding and it requires
a plan. Right? What it doesn`t require is just the simple, political back
and forth and for Republicans to use this to think that it`s a good
political football for them, it is not borne out by the polling, about
where public opinion is, what even Republican voters want, even 60 percent
of Tea Party Republicans are opened for a path to citizenship for
undocumented citizens (ph).
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah, we saw recent data saying that 51 - "The New
York Times do intent saying that among Republicans 51 percent of
Republicans overall actually support a path to citizenship. That said, I`m
not sure why we`re talking about this as an immigration issue at all. I
guess, part of what feels so frustrating to me is now this is part of the
immigration fight, but it`s not clear to me that`s the right framework.
LENNY ALCIVAR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah. I think the president had a
bad week, and if he had to do it over, he would have made a lot of changes
in how he addressed this with the American people this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: You think just the president had a bad week? Or do you
think Speaker Boehner had a bad week as well?
ALCIVAR: Listen, I believe that the president had a bad week and the
country had a bad week. We have a massive humanitarian crisis. I was
concerned that the president refused to call it a crisis. I was concerned
that the president attended four fund raisers in 24 hours. The big problem
for the president this week, in my view is not John Boehner, it`s the
Democrats who spoke out and said, we don`t want this to be president`s
Katrina. We want you to visit the border. And you know what they got,
they got a talking to and they got yelled at, that`s the wrong response.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I have a lot of emotions when people say somebody`s
Katrina. Right? So I just ..
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I just - like I wanted to just put on the table that
Katrina was Katrina, and then this is its own thing. That said, I think
there are two important things going on here that feels certain kind of
similarities. I too think the president should have gone to the border,
although I guess I understand the politics of not going. I have a certain
amount of kind of human angst about him not standing there with these young
people in this moment.
CARTAGENA: Definitely. By all means he should have gone. And this should
have been the message about exactly the prioritization that this
administration`s going to give to this particularly humanitarian crisis.
And to recast the issue again as we`ve been talking about in previous
segments, as of refugee issue is the clearest way to differentiate this
issue from all others in the immigration debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: What, because you don`t go and stand when people are
sneaking across the border, even though that`s sort of bizarre way to
imagine it, but when you have a refugee crisis, you do, which is, I think,
also part of the one part of this that does connect for me back to the
post-Katrina moment when refugee was used to describe American citizens.
And it was used to the effect of in fact decreasing the likelihood that
American citizens would get the kind of help and support that we needed
after the storm. But in this case, using the language of refugee instead
of immigrant might actually be helpful for moving the president`s agenda
OMERO: I think it`s going to be impracticality, difficult to move the
conversation from immigration to a refugee conversation. I just think, in
terms of how the dialogue works because they`re coming on the southern
border, I think, you may be right in the definition, I think it`s still a
challenge, but what I think is important is a couple of things. One to
focus on why these kids are coming here. And I think of the heartache of,
you know, I`m a mom, you`re a mom, of feeling this is the only choice I
have. This is the only choice I have for my ten-year-old, that`s it. This
is what, I`m going send them, this huge distance by themselves because
otherwise, they can`t survive here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. I don`t send my 12-year-old across the street.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean like six months I finally started letting my 12-year-
old like walk down the street to her dance class on her own.
OMERO: Yes. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: The notion of what kind of terror must face these families
to think of this as what their options are. Stay with us, in the absence
of more federal action, some local communities on the border are taking
matters into their own hands, I want to talk about that story next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Frustrated by the lack of federal action to address
immigration. One Texas municipality chose to take unilateral action this
week. League City just southeast of Houston passed a resolution on Tuesday
night to ban undocumented children from entering the town. The measure
declines to accept federal requests to operate detention or processing
centers in the city. A very different response emerged in Houston where
middle school that has been closed since 2001 may reopen its doors to house
the unaccompanied refugee children. This week, FEMA and other federal
officials toured the campus which is now used as a storage facility. One
Houston resident voiced her extreme displeasure with using the closed
school in this way. She interrupted a press event held by Congresswoman
Sheila Jackson Lee to say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These illegal immigrants don`t have nowhere to go, so
they are going to come over here to our neighborhood, open the school up
for them, really? Is that right? Anybody thinks that`s right?
What`s going to keep them from escaping here and just moving around?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Houston, around Trinity Gardens? What`s going to
keep them behind these gates? Security, really? They can`t even control
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining us now from Austin, Texas, is MSNBC contributor,
Victoria DeFrancesco-Soto. Nice to see you this morning, Vicky.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO-SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that moment with Sheila Jackson Lee and one of her
constituents presumably, and that anger. I thought, well, it really
reflected this sense that there has been a huge public disinvestment for
poor communities right here in the U.S., and so it can feel really tough to
be able to have the right language to talk about what we`re now facing.
DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: It`s tremendously frustrating, Melissa. And what we
have seen in the past couple of years is that it`s in the state level and
the local level where these immigration battles are being fought out,
because there`s a complete stalemate at the federal level and there has
been for at least, you know, the last decade. So cities like Houston,
cities like L.A., even little, tiny cities on the border or like Murrieta
are saying you know what, we`re going to take matters into our own hands,
sometimes to better the situation or sometimes to dig in their heels
against immigration, but this is a sentiment that we`re seeing across the
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, his notion of locality as taking things into their own
hands as a black Southerner makes me nervous. And I want to play Governor
Perry for a moment and get you to respond to what you think the politics
are here. So, let`s listen to Governor Perry on the "Today Show" this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R) TEXAS: I asked him also to put a thousand National
Guard troupes, of course this is a long standing request for the president.
And that`s a very, very important message for the president and for the
United States to send, is to put those National Guard troops on the border
and truly send a powerful message that the border is in fact secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So Vicky, am I in upside down world where a Southern
governor asks the federal government to send national troops, I mean
typically, it is not that way that it goes down.
DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: It`s a bizarre world, Melissa, you know, the bigger
picture here is incredibly disturbing, because, all right so we have these
cities like League City saying we can`t have these immigrant children come
in, and then just recently we saw here in Texas a number of armed militia
groups rounding up and saying we`re going to go down and protect our
border, but the scariest part is you have folks like Rick Perry and the
Lieutenant Governor Candidate Dan Patrick saying, you know what, we need to
arm ourselves. We need the National Guard. For example, this last week,
Sean Hannity and Rick Perry went down to the boarder in an armed Gumbo-
Rambo style patrolling the border against women and children. The boarder
is secure. There is no need to put more boots on the ground. If anything,
the fact that all of these kids and mothers are getting caught is because
we have so many resources. Over the past 20 years, we have seen an
increase in border patrol budgets going from 360 million to 3.5 billion.
That`s not where the problem is. The problem is in other sources that we
need to be dealing with. And Rick Perry, as many times as completely off
HARRIS-PERRY: So, stay with me for a second, but let me ask you about the
point that Vicky just made about that image of these armed Republican
gentlemen, conservative gentlemen down there standing their ground against
women and children like, we were talking earlier about who is this a bad
week for? In the politics of it, does that end up being bad politics for
ALCIVAR: No, it doesn`t end up being bad politics for Perry. I`m not
familiar with the photo op. I don`t feel comfortable talking about the
notion of armed militias. I think that`s totally off point. But Governor
Perry is completely right to ask this president to respond. The state of
Texas right now is footing as much as a $50 million bill because the
federal government has failed to act. It`s not a Republican problem, it`s
not a Democratic problem, that`s a problem and a failure with the federal
government, not just of this president, but of administrations past. We
should be honest about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, I appreciate that. But I feel like there is
an important honest statement to make about local communities and states
that are strapped for resources, but then if we step one step back from
that, the politics of why they are strapped for resources actually is about
Republican policy. It actually was about tax cuts, the reduction of
resources for the federal government to be supportive of these local
CARTAGENA: No question. And they`re not doing enough to make sure the
Republican Party, you know, does exactly what it needs to do to get a
particular moderate stance on immigration and actually pass some kind of
reform. The other thing is, there`s going to be a price to pay. These
local ordinances against immigration or local ordinances against anybody
coming across the southern border, they`ve been tried already. It`s
challenged in court, big price tag. Eventually they all fall because the
Constitution clearly vests all authority over immigration matters in the
federal government and not to local governments.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is why the federal government is going to have to do
something. Everybody stay with me, including you, Vicky, everybody stay
with me, a little bit more when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been discussing the humanitarian crisis at the border
and the policies of immigration and partisanship that have emerged in its
wake. So, you know, which is talking a little bit about the potentially
problematic visuals on the Republican side, but it also seems to me that
some of what`s going on with the lack of the visual for the president at
the border could be problematic for the Democratic Party going into the
OMERO: Yeah, I think ultimately, it`s very clear to the American people,
which party is on the side of welcoming immigrants and of having a
reasonable policy, or at least having a plan for a policy. I think there`s
this myth on the Republican side that they need to be hostile, actively
hostile to Latinos and immigrants more broadly that that`s going to help
them in primaries. That`s not borne out by the data at all. And the other
corollary to that is that they feel if, you know, well maybe, on the
alternatively, we need to just check a box on immigration in order to do
better with Latinos in 2016, as if that`s all that Latino voters care
OMERO: And only Latino voters care about immigration and neither of those
things are true. And I think all of that is just tied Republicans up in
knots about how, what they`re supposed to do next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean it`s both, obviously, Latino voters care
about many other topics other than immigration and the immigration is not
just a Latino issue. So much so, and Vicky, I want to come to you a little
bit on this, this really interesting "New York Times" editorial this week
from what I like to call the one percent of the one percenters, right,
Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates who are demanding
immigration reform, but they`re saying we believe it borders on insanity to
train intelligent and motivated people in our universities, often
subsidizing their education and then deport them when they graduate. Many
of these people, of course want to return to their home country, and that`s
fine, but for those who wish to stay and work in computer science or
technology, it feels badly in need of the services, let`s roll out the
welcome mat. Is that like pitting one group of immigrants, the model
minorities, the kind we want, the kind from particular countries against,
for example, these young people coming from war-torn and dangerous nations
to the south?
DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: There is a propensity to go down that road. And I think
we have to be very careful when we make that argument because the larger
argument is that immigration is good for us economically. I think the
economists on the right and on the left will agree with that. And yes, the
high-tech immigrants do help our economy, but we also know that we need low
skilled labor. We need folks who work in our restaurants, who are working
in our homes, and that`s another economic push. So I think we need to
maybe step back from that narrower argument and say, the economy benefits
when you have people working on all parts of the spectrum.
HARRIS-PERRY: Juan, as much as I appreciate the point that Republicans
have, had a discourse that may make them appear far more hostile, it`s also
true that many feel that this president hasn`t made it clear that the
Democratic Party is opening and welcome - welcoming the immigration. Is
this an opportunity, even though this is not really quite an immigration
issue? Is this an opportunity for the president to more clearly define his
role and that of the Democratic Party as different on the issue of
CARTAGENA: My gosh. And it is, and it`s probably a little too late. I
mean we`re talking about a president and administration that deported
already 2 million people. We`re talking about an issue in the Latino
community, in which the frustration level is up beyond here.
CARTAGENA: So by all means, go down to the board and show welcoming, put
actions behind exactly what your words are. But we are talking about a
very, very conflictive image of this presidency on the issue of
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels to me, and I might be wrong, but it feels to me
like this president has been conflicted in part because he keeps thinking
that a deal is possible. But we heard him say, hey, I don`t have to run
again, so maybe, maybe if the bear really is loose, we can get some
Vicky, thank you for joining us from Austin, Texas, Victoria DeFrancesco-
Soto, also here in New York, Maggie Omero and Juan Cartagena and also Lenny
Alcivar, very nice to have you all here.
Still to come this morning, the escalating crisis in the Mideast. But
before that, the ongoing civil rights crisis in the state I am about to
call home again. More "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And I am now
officially a resident of North Carolina and a registered voter. Hey,
Look, I have spent the week packing boxes and getting ready to adjust to
life in North Carolina, moving from a state that has drive through daiquiri
shops, to a place where you can`t buy alcohol before noon on Sundays.
But here`s one thing that was particularly noticeable -- it is hot in my
new state capital, specifically inside the capitol building where the
Senate and House are in tense negotiations over the state budget. And not
even partisan negotiations, the Senate and House are both Republican-
controlled, but they are at some serious divides over how to allocate state
On Wednesday, the state`s budget conference committee came together to
discuss one of the more contentious issues at play, teacher pay. Both
sides are working to determine an appropriate raise for North Carolina
teachers whose average pay ranked 46th in the nation last year. And it
seemed like the House and Senate were in a good place to negotiate, that
agreed on how much to allocate for medicate cost overruns and the Senate
had dropped a requirement that teachers would have to give up their tenure
in order to get a raise.
The House and Senate even agreed on negotiation format. One hour for the
Senate, one hour for the House, sit down, negotiate, hash it out the
They weren`t seated for long, though. Not really even ten minutes. The
House committee members decided to start their hour with testimony from
teachers and superintendents. And members of the Senate were not down with
that, saying it violated committee procedure.
First, the senators declared the meeting adjourned which is why they got up
and just walked out and just left out -- just left the meeting and didn`t
return for nearly an hour, just in time for their hour of the meeting to
Republican Governor Pat McCrory went on record criticizing Senate
legislators for walking out during the negotiations and not bothering to
listen to the educator`s testimony. The next day, he put out a statement
promising to veto the Senate`s plan or any plan that would increase teacher
wages by more than 6 percent. And as proof of how badly tensions were
frayed, Senate members announced they wouldn`t show up to Friday`s
negotiations so House members just canceled the meeting.
Today, the state is still without a budget for the new fiscal year and the
budget committee has reached some common ground. Both sides have agreed to
changes in how eligibility works for child care subsidies -- a change that
could reportedly cost 12,000 children to lose their afterschool care.
And, of course, the House and Senate worked together last session to push
through bills that have proven controversial like last year`s Trap Laws,
limiting women`s access to reproductive services, which were quietly tacked
on to a bill about motorcycle safety and the, quote, "popular voter ID
law", as the governor`s office described House bill 589 in a press release.
Critics have given it a different name, "The Monster Law". It was passed
in the last 72 hours of the 2013 session containing a whooping 56 pages of
new voting laws that some residents have decried as not only repressive,
but a blatant attempt to suppress the votes of African-Americans and young
people in the state -- the folks who, as you might remember in 2008, voted
overwhelmingly for then-Senator Obama and helped turn the historically red
state blue for the first time since 1976.
That law was signed in August of last year, but this week, it was
challenged in court by a broad coalition of North Carolinians, including
the NAACP and local college students.
Plaintiffs say the law violates the 14th, 15th, and 26th Amendment
disproportionately impacting African-American and young voters in North
Carolina, through changes like cutting down the early voting period because
in 2012, 70 percent of African-Americans participated as early voters, and
cutting same-day registration which 41 percent of black voters used in
2012, and strict photo ID requirements because African-Americans make up
more than one-third of voters without IDs that comply, and ending pre-
registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, and eliminating annual registration
drives in high schools.
This trial is not the first time that North Carolinians have voiced their
opposition to the voting laws provisions, the Moral Mondays movement, began
in April of 2013 after the voting restrictions were introduced in the state
And this week, movement participants were in my new hometown, Winston-
Salem, speaking out against the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRES., NC NAACP: This week, we fight and litigate in
court against what unmistakably is the worst attack on voting rights and
worst attempt to comprehensibly abridge the right to vote since Jim Crow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The lawsuit against the new voting law does not go to full
trial until next year, but plaintiffs in court this week are hoping to
block the law from taking effect before the November elections.
Joining me now are two people who have been at that hearing this week, at
the table, Ari Berman, contributing writer at "The Nation", and from
Raleigh, North Carolina, is Irving Joyner, law professor at North Carolina
Central University and legal counsel for the North Carolina NAACP.
So nice to have you, Professor Joyner.
IRVING JOYNER, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY: It`s good to be here
with you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, I`m going to be down there soon, although
the litany I just read makes me terrified. So, tell me, you have been in
court all this week, what do you expect to come of this particular
JOYNER: Well, first of all, welcome to Winston-Salem and back to North
We think that we presented a compelling case for the judge to issue a
temporary restraining order to prevent the state from enacting these
monster provisions that were enacted by the general assembly. We had
outstanding witnesses from 93-year-old Rosa Nell Eaton who had to recite
the pledge, the Preamble to the Constitution in order to vote, and has
regularly, since that time, been actively engaged in efforts to get people
to register to vote in Franklin County. We had expert witnesses, we had
legislators who came in, we had community groups and organizations who were
active in getting people to the polls, getting them registered and engaging
them to participate in this participatory democracy.
So, we think that we have -- we presented a hell of a case for the judge,
and at the end of the day, that we will probably get a preliminary
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Joyner, hold for me just one moment.
So, Ari, help my viewers to remember why this has to be in court at all,
because this has everything to do with the Supreme Court of the United
States in their recent decision.
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION: Absolutely. Well, that was the whole context for
the hearing, was that when the Supreme Court eviscerated Section 4 of the
Voting Rights Act, it meant that North Carolina no longer had to approve
its voting changes with the federal government. What that meant is North
Carolina took 16-page bill dealing exclusively with voter ID and turned it
into a 57-page bill that essentially repealed or curtailed every effort
that had been made to encourage people to vote in the state.
So, the law got a lot more extreme. The process changed, North Carolina no
longer had to submit that law for federal approval. The burden shifted
from the state to the voters most impacted by the law. Those who are going
to be disenfranchised now have to prove that they were going to be
disenfranchised, and the legal standard is much more difficult because
before basically under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, voters of color
wouldn`t be worse off. Now, it`s a tougher standard under Section 2 of the
Voting Rights Act, it doesn`t mean that plaintiff`s won`t prevail in this
case, either in a preliminary injunction or a full trial. But it means we
should never have had this hearing because the law wouldn`t have been in
effect if not for that Supreme Court decision.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Joyner, Professor Joyner, let me come back to you on
that point because it feels to me like Mrs. Eaton is such a great example
of this, that Rosa Nell Eaton who before the Supreme Court decision in
Shelby, you would have basically, the state would have had the burden of
demonstrating that they weren`t going to disenfranchise her. Now, she has
to demonstrate that she is being harmed -- right, she and a whole class of
people like her are being harmed disproportionately.
And when you see a woman in her 90s whose been voting all of this time
having to bear that -- the brunt of that, it so clearly articulates what
the problem is here.
JOYNER: Yes, it`s a difficult -- it`s a difficult issue and I think Ari
stated it well. But we feel that based on her testimony and other people
who are able to show that the early voting law, the same-day registration
resulted in a tremendous increase in African-American registering to vote
in North Carolina, and they actually went out and for the first time in
history exceeded the percentage of whites who voted. So, it shows the
success of the provisions that the general assembly has stricken or
And so, we think that, you know, that`s pretty clear evidence that a blind
man can see what the, what the objectives were here. And we are hopeful
that the judge will be able to see that as well.
Now, we are unable to show with any precision exactly how many people are
going to be impacted in November of 2014 or in subsequent years. But I
think that when you look at the patterns and practices within the African-
American community and how African-Americans and Latinos have responded to
these, these advances, these progressive enactments in the law, it is clear
that there was an intent to curtail the ability of these individuals to
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Ari, I want to bring in another group, and that is the
26th Amendment aspect here.
So, people are familiar with 14th and 15th and African American and Latino
voters being disproportionately impacted. But the young people of North
Carolina, a state which stands out in the South for its higher education
are also saying that as 26 amendment voters, right, voters who get to vote
from 18-21, that they are being harmed by these new laws.
BERMAN: Well, this is a novel argument, but it is definitely true that
young voters are being harmed by the law and worse singled out. As you
mentioned, they eliminated pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, young
voters who are a quarter of those who use same-day registration so they
were able to show up during the early voting period, register and vote at
the same time which is really important for college students, people who
don`t follow elections until near the end. And the voter ID provision
doesn`t allow student IDs.
So, I learned this week that I can enter a federal courthouse in North
Carolina with a state university ID, but I cannot vote with one if I`m a
student or a young person in the state. So, it`s definitely true that
young voters have been targeted in this law because they were a core of the
coalition that has elected Barack Obama and that has been pushing North
Carolina from to red to blue.
HARRIS-PERRY: They know President Obama is not running again, right?
BERMAN: Yes, but they`re worried about Hillary Clinton and everyone else
who`s coming down the pipeline.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Professor Joyner, my last quick question, where`s the
best place to get some coffee in Winston-Salem these days?
JOYNER: The sweet potato restaurant there. And stay away from Starbucks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay away. I`m pretty sure we can`t say that on the air,
but I`ll go over (INAUDIBLE) it again.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irving Joyner of Raleigh, North Carolina, thank you so much
for joining us, and Ari Berman here in New York.
We`ll keep our eyes on everything going on in North Carolina. But coming
up, rockets launching and bombs dropping. At what point do we call what is
happening in the Middle East a war?
But before that, my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Back in April, I sent a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill
Haslam, urging him to veto SB-1391, a bill that would criminalize women who
use drugs while pregnant. I argued that doing so would put women and their
infants in danger by discouraging pregnant women from seeking medical
treatment for substance abuse and possibly avoid prenatal care altogether.
Well, the governor signed it anyway, and it went into effect July 1st. And
on Tuesday, the first arrest was made. And that`s why my letter this week
is again to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
Dear governor, it`s me Melissa.
This is Mallory Loyola (ph). She`s 26 years old. On Sunday she gave
birth. On Tuesday, as she was being discharged from the hospital, deputies
from the Monroe County sheriff`s office arrested her and took her to jail.
She`s still in jail, unable to post a $2,000 bond. She`s there without her
baby. Her daughter is less than a week old.
Governor, this woman was arrested and charged with assault under the law
you signed at the end of April because she and her baby tested positive for
methamphetamine. The law makes this a crime, specifically the illegal use
of a narcotic drug while pregnant if her child is born addicted to or
harmed by the narcotic drug.
Now, we don`t know that the baby showed signs of physical harm, all we know
is that the baby tested positive for meth, triggering a call to the
department of children services, which called the sheriff.
Let me be very clear. I am not advocating for pregnant women to use
methamphetamines or any other illegal drugs, or to abuse prescription
drugs, absolutely not. The same way I would never suggest women should
smoke or drink while they`re pregnant. Legal drug that can cause just as
much harm if not more to newborns, drinking alcohol while pregnant can
cause serious birth defects and lifelong developmental and behavioral
problems. Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of preterm birth and
sudden infant death syndromes. Babies born to mothers who smoke are more
likely to develop asthma.
Tennessee has not made it illegal for the use of alcohol or cigarettes by
pregnant women. Nor should it. Even though more pregnant women drink and
smoke than do elicit drugs, about 6 percent use elicit drugs, 9 percent
drink alcohol, and one in six pregnant women, 16 percent of them smoke
cigarettes while pregnant.
We have to treat these things the same way, and that means treatment over
imprisonment. We already get help for the pregnant smokers and the
drinkers. We urge them to quit. Tennessee, even had a special program to
help pregnant women and mothers quit smoking, administered smartly through
the WIC program.
That`s how we should treat the use of illegal drugs, by getting women help
instead of putting them in jail. Look, Governor, I know Tennessee has a
real problem with babies born with drug dependency. But this law creates
another problem. The real and lasting harm caused by separating a mother
from her infant child.
Study after study has found that separating an infant from her mother can
lead to lifelong mental health and emotional problems, including
aggression, anxiety, and inability to deal with stress. Being separated
from your mother changes the way your brain develops. Drug abuse is a
problem in Tennessee, but the solution cannot be putting a woman in jail
two days after she gives birth. The solution cannot be separating her from
her newborn child and keeping them separated just because she can`t post
bail. What could possibly be the point of keeping a woman from her baby?
Let`s go back to what you said when you signed this bill into the law the
point is in your words, quote, "The intent of this bill is to give law
enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address elicit drug use among
pregnant women through treatment programs."
Well, that`s just not what happened for Mallory. What happened was a new
mother was arrested as she was being discharged from the hospital with her
two-day-old baby. That is what this law does. And that is what it will
continue to do and, Governor, it is your signature on the law that is
allowing it to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: The numbers only begin to tell the tale about the dangerous
and escalating violence taking place between Israel and the Palestinians.
As of this morning, according to the health minister in Gaza, 127
Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israeli air strikes within
Gaza, 940 Palestinians have been wounded. Per the Israeli army, since the
beginning of the escalation, 730 rockets have been fired into Israel from
Gaza, including 45 just since midnight. Eleven Israelis have been wounded.
Since the beginning of the campaign now in its fifth day, the Israeli army
have attacked 1,100 targets in Gaza.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had this to say about the
response about the barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip from Hamas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: No country on earth would
remain passive in the face of hundreds of rockets fired on the cities. And
Israel is no exception. Today, we expanded our operations against Hamas
and the other terrorist groups in Gaza. We`ll continue to protect our
civilians against Hamas attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made
clear the U.S. position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No country, no country can accept
rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support completely Israel`s right to
defend itself against these vicious attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That same day, President Obama offered to mediate a
cessation of hostilities during a call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which
would include a return to the cease-fire agreement. But a cease-fire may
be difficult to achieve as the rockets and air strikes continue. On
Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said he would not rule out the possibility of a
ground war in Gaza.
For more on this and the latest in this escalating conflict, I am joined by
NBC News foreign correspondent Martin Fletcher, who is in Tel Aviv.
Martin, when Netanyahu says he won`t rule out the possibility of ground
war, how realistic does that scenario seem to be at this point?
MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Realistic -- well,
Melissa, it`s very realistic. The army says that it`s called up more than
20,000 reserves. They say they`re ready to go into Gaza at any moment, all
they need now is a green light from the Israeli government, but that hasn`t
happened yet, and it`s definitely a last resort for the Israelis. They
don`t to want go in on the ground. They know that would lead to many more
civilian casualties in Gaza and real pressure on the Israeli troops
But it doesn`t really seem at this moment to be any other real option to
stop those rockets from Gaza flying into Israel. Another 45 rockets were
aimed at Israel today from Gaza, about 100 Israeli attacks on Gaza
continuing to kill Palestinians.
By the way, it`s all very personal. The two nephews of the Palestinian
prime minister for instance were killed just about an hour or two ago. So,
it`s all very personal, even for the Palestinian leadership.
The best bet seems to be growing diplomatic pressure. The international
community is putting pressure on Israel to call off any potential ground
invasion. That`s one reason that Netanyahu said they will not bow to
international pressure. They`ll do what they need to do.
But tomorrow in Europe, the British, the French, the Germans, and the
Americans are going to be meeting to talk about a potential truce proposal.
On Monday, the Arab League is set to meet. They`re going to put forward a
truce proposal. They already have actually. Israel said they`re ready to
discuss it. Hamas said they don`t even want to talk about it at that
state. They want to continue with their attacks on Israel.
It`s an escalating military situation with a diplomatic solution beginning
to hover on the horizon. And in the background all the time is this threat
that you mentioned of a ground invasion, which would make matters much
There is one interesting side development if you like, among the
Palestinians. While Hamas is fighting this bitter battle against Israel in
Gaza, they`re complaining that the leader of the Palestinians on the West
Bank, the president of the Palestinians is not taking the side of Hamas.
He said unto the -- Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president said to
Palestinian TV station, he said, quote, I am against war traitors on both
sides. That was quite a slap in the face to Hamas. And Hamas is angry at
the Palestinian leader who has always been advocating non-violence --
HARRIS-PERRY: Martin Fletcher in Tel Aviv, thank you for joining us this
Now, I`d like to bring in my panel: Hilary Mann Leverett, a professor at
the School of International Service at American University. She`s also
author of the book, "Going to Teheran."
Ali Gharib, who is an independent journalist working on U.S. foreign
And Ron Kampeas, the Washington bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic
Thank you all for being here.
RON KAMPEAS, JEWISH TELEGRAPHIC AGENCY: Thank you.
ALI GHARIB, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: Pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are we at war? I heard Martin say escalating military
tensions. Is -- at what point do we call this war?
KAMPEAS: I think you called it a war. You can call it a war as soon as
Israel started carrying out airstrikes. There have been more than 1,000
air strikes, the vernacular is many war or war, but it`s a war just like
the operation in 2012 was a war, in the operation in 2009 is a war.
Whether it escalates into a ground operation, which would be much more
open-ended, is another question. I think that, you know, the way to view
that, whether this goes into a ground operation is to understand Benjamin
Netanyahu is the CEO, the business-trained guy. He doesn`t like situations
that can spiral out of control.
That explains in part his reluctance to cede (ph) territory in the West
Bank, and that explains in part also why he didn`t order a ground invasion
in 2012 whereas his predecessor did in 2009.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, typically, when we think about war, typically when we
use that language, one part of that is a belief that the combatants most in
danger are in fact military combatants of the more than 100 Palestinians.
It is our understanding that most of them are, in fact, civilians.
Does that shift our understanding?
HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, AUTHOR, "GOING TO TEHRAN": That`s such a critically
important point. You`re not talking here about interstate battle,
interstate violence which you would classify in international law as a war.
This is an Israeli bombing in and among a civilian population that it
occupies legally. That is per se a violation of international law, and the
United States and Israel have blocked all access by the Palestinians to
international institutions, like the International Criminal Court to have
their case heard.
So, it`s not your standard war. And what Israelis even describe it as,
they have a policy for it. It`s not really a war. They call it mowing the
HARRIS-PERRY: Mowing the grass, yes.
LEVERETT: Where they go in periodically to diminish Palestinian
capabilities and all this does is actually embolden those who stand for
using violence struggle against the Israelis like Hamas that has a base in
Gaza and Hezbollah even in Lebanon.
So, there`s one sure way to bring the leadership back, which had been
weakened, this is it. And we`re likely to see an escalating cascade of
violence because of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So yes, please.
GHARIB: I was just going to say, mowing the lawn is great, but let`s not
kid ourselves, that is a euphemism for perpetual war. I mean, Iran gave
the break down of the 2009 war and 2012 war, and it`s three years and two
years, if you have to keep going back in, it doesn`t matter that there are
laws in between, I think it is a war, and it`s a broad conflict.
And you can`t forget this is all happening under the bigger picture of
this, you know, half a century long military occupation which itself is a
conflict in these escalations when they flair up -- I mean, you can call it
war, not war, but it`s a perpetual conflict.
LEVERETT: An occupation that has now at this point, we have reached the
stage where people don`t like to talk about it. They keep talking about
this idea that somehow Israel can remain a Jewish and democratic state. If
you look at the numbers that the U.S. government put out in its annual
human rights report, that is already a fantasy. If you count according to
the U.S. government the number of people under Israeli control, Arabs
outweigh the number of Jews.
So, for example, the state department says there are 5.2 million Jews who
live in the territory that Israel controls, there are 5.4 million Arabs.
That is an internal problem. Hamas represents an internal problem, not a
foreign state problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is precisely where I want to come back to, because
the response of the U.S. rRepeatedly to those in your opinions and to that
reality is two-state solution.
So, when we come back, I want to talk about whether or not that is a
realistic or a dead possibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: The negotiated way forward is out only way ultimately to resolve
the problems and actually establish a Palestinian state and put in place
the security measures and other things necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Secretary of State John Kerry commenting on the
crisis in the Mideast during his trip to China on Thursday. And just to
underscore that the position of the U.S. is the two-state solution,
President Obama wrote an op-ed for "Haaretz", actually wrote it before the
escalation of the violence. But wrote, "At the end of the day, we know
where negotiations must lead, two states for two peoples. The only
solution is a democratic Jewish state living side by side, in peace and
security with a viable, independent Palestinian state."
KAMPEAS: I think there are a lot of parties that are still invested in the
two-state solution, the United States, the international community, a good
portion of the Israeli public, a good portion of the Palestinian public,
the Palestinian prime minister -- president as you pointed out, Mahmoud
Abbas. I think what this shows us from the Israeli perspective, I think
that what`s going on now is it shows the worst case scenario outcome of a
one-state solution is to populations that are at each other`s throats and
don`t recognize each other claims but have to actually share the same
You`ve got what you`re looking at here in terms of a one thing solution is
perpetual Belfast and I think I`ve actually heard people from Northern
Ireland say that they recognize what`s going on in Israel now as something
that went on in their territory.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you draw our attention in that moment, you draw our
attention to the lived experience here, something that the U.N.
ambassadors, Palestinian and Israeli, did this week in their conversations.
Let`s hear from the Israeli U.N. ambassador talking about the experience of
this kind of perpetual state of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON PROSOR, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The last three days, 442 rockets
have been fired into Israel, that`s one every 10 minutes. Fifteen seconds,
that`s how much time you have to run for your life. Imagine having only 15
second to find a bomb shelter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And just to underscore that this is not a one-sided
experience, on the other side here, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N.
talking about the experiences of -- the lived experiences of children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN AMB. TO THE U.N.: The council must bear its
responsibilities. It must act to protect the civilian lives, deescalate
the current crisis and salvage of the prospect for peace and security in
our troubled region. Failing to do so, it will further diminish its own
credibility and be complicit in allowing innocent children, women, and men
to die and situation to further de-stabilize with far-reaching
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Ali, how do you respond to those?
GHARIB: They`re moving -- moving testimonies to what`s going on. I mean,
those are the diplomats doing their jobs, but it`s just not -- you know,
the problem is they`re talking past each other. There`s no immediate
cease-fire on the horizon.
And to your point before, there`s no negotiations on the horizon for the
two-state solution. We saw it yesterday, Netanyahu in his press conference
used this escalation to say, this is why the Israel can never give up Judea
and Samaria, which is the way that sort of right wing Israelis refer to the
West Bank, and, you know, talking about perpetually keeping troops in the
Jordan Valley on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
And, you know, if there was a two-state solution tomorrow, I`d say great
because that could mitigate the violence, but it just doesn`t seem clear
that that path is there. And that`s why this is just tragedy heaped upon
tragedy at every level from the three Israeli teenagers that were kidnapped
and murdered, to the young Palestinian teenager that was kidnapped and
You know, what Ron`s talking about, the tension between the two people in
close quarters that are at each other`s throats, it would be great if we
could impose a solution that ended that. But the fact of the matter is,
it`s not going to happen and I`m just afraid it`s going to keep getting
worse and worse.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, when you were here last week, you said something about
Nelson Mandela moment, and I had a bristle, right, then I understood what
you were saying there.
So, help me to understand if there is at least some angst about whether a
two-state solution is possible, what you meant by that idea.
LEVERETT: The whole peace process is not an indigenous phenomenal, it was
not conceived by Israelis or Palestinians or Arabs. It was conceived by
the United States, after the 1967 war, after Israel proved that it could be
essentially an aggressive state against Soviet-allied neighbors. That`s
where the peace process comes from. It`s always been instrumental element
of American foreign policy. Never to bring about peace and kumbaya moments
for Israelis, Arabs, Palestinians, included. So, that`s where it comes
from. What has always been there that nobody talks about is there
essentially is a one-state solution.
And the one state, this is not because I advocate it. It`s just because
I`m looking at reality on the ground, in terms of the numbers of people
that are there. One state could come about in essentially kind of peaceful
transformation over time, be strenuously opposed by the United States, by
Israelis, Jews, and others, but a kind of South Africa that where you have
a leader like Nelson Mandela that brings into a one-state coexistence. Or
you`re looking at something much more horrific, where populations are
That is where we are. It`s a terrible situation, and in part of the United
States bears responsibility.
Now, we don`t think about it here, but if you look at the polling numbers
and look at public opinion in the Middle East, the hatred, not just
LEVERETT: -- the hatred of the United States and U.S. foreign policy is
striking. President Obama today has lower favorability than George Bush at
his lowest moment, which is astounding.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us, because I want to bring you back on that
issue. As soon as we get back, I want to the talk about the U.S. role in
all of this as soon as we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Once again, civilians are paying the
price for the continuation of conflict. My paramount concern is the safety
and well being of all civilians, no matter where they are. It pains me,
and it should pain us all, to be reliving circumstances that are all too
reminiscent of the two most recent wars in Gaza.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at an emergency
meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, reminding
everyone that civilians are paying the highest price in this conflict.
I want to let you in on this question of, who the can begin to mediate
these conflicts if not the U.N.?
KAMPEAS: Well, One of the interesting things about Ban`s speech the other
day, is that he actually ended it by saying, you know, this isn`t going to
stop until the Hamas stops firing rockets. It`s the same thing that John
Kerry said. It`s the same thing that the Israelis have said, and as you
pointed out, it`s something that Abbas, the Palestinian, had suggested,.
But they`re also -- it`s the single entity that doesn`t have an
interlocutor right now.
So, in previous conflicts, the Egyptians have stepped in because there has
been -- even Hosni Mubarak will have no time for Hamas, his successor,
Mohamed Morsi, who did have a lot of time for Hamas, they were able to
influence them into coming into the table. Now, you have a president in
Egypt, Abdul al-Sisi, who identifies Hamas with the devil, they`re the
Muslim Brotherhood. As far as they`re concerned, they can cut themselves
off and drop off the face of the earth.
So, it`s a question who do you bring in?
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there any regional partner there in the area that has the
soft power diplomatic capacity?
GHARIB: Turkey maybe.
LEVERETT: Look, there`s Turkey and there`s the state of Qatar. We just
saw Qatar actually work to get an American released from the Taliban.
Hamas outside external office is now based in Doha, in the capital of
Qatar. So, we do have -- we do have a relationship, partnership with the
LEVERETT: The Qataris with Hamas, they completely bankrolled the Hamas
office. Hamas at this point is dependent on Qatari funding to survive.
They`re at a very weak point, but this gets again to U.S. policy. We have
both sanctioned ourselves and designated people as undesirable, labeled
them as terrorists organizations.
And I`m not condoning violence. Violence is horrific on all sides, but by
doing that, we say you`re a terrorist, you can`t be at the table. You`re
sanctioned. You can`t be at the table.
And then we look around and say, why isn`t anybody at the table? It
doesn`t make sense, except for the fact that it actually continues to
promote American dominance in the region, with which we use our Israeli
HARRIS-PERRY: But is American dominance in the region slipping away kind
of no matter, right? In other words, is the reality that U.S. footprint,
whether military or soft power simply cannot have the same role that it
LEVERETT: This is the legacy of George Bush. By invading Iraq on
falsified evidence doing the same thing in Afghanistan, and then President
Obama taking it again into Libya and do what they`ve done in Syria. We
have made American not just hard power, but soft power less and less
We`re not a power in absolute decline, but the relative decline has hurt us
across the board. And we see Middle East blowing up not just in Israel,
Palestine, but Iraq, Syria, Libya, everywhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which will make it harder --
KAMPEAS: Getting back to your Mandela moment, when there`s a (INAUDIBLE)
on the other side, and that you have -- in Hamas, you have in Abbas, who,
you know, might possibly be an Mandela, is a weakened leader, and he
doesn`t want to confront Hamas the way that, say, Mandela did confront an
African congress which promoted certain genocidal ideas the way that Hamas
does now, that its incorporated into its charter the negation of the Jewish
And it`s very difficult I think to arrive at a Mandela moment when you have
a player like that. It`s like talking about negotiating with ISIS now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, which is not a small point about -- I mean, even if we,
if we had time, which we don`t. If we looked at ISIS and looked at the
ways in which ISIS is winning hearts and minds at the same time that it is
engaging in these deeply problematic violent practices --
LEVERETT: But (INAUDIBLE) characterizes Hamas, and I hate to be in the
position characterize as some sort of defender or apologist, but, you know,
I`ve actually been to Gaza --
HARRIS-PERRY: I can`t, they`re screaming at me in my ear. Hillary, I
promise, we will -- this is obviously unfortunately not going away. We`ll
continue to have the conversation.
Thank you to our guest, Hillary Mann Leverett, to Ali Gharib, and to Ron
Up next is our foot soldier of the week. At seven years old, he started
making an impact in his home state of Florida. Just wait until you see
what he`s doing now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our foot soldier this week was just 7 years old when he
started to see firsthand the realities of these figures. In his home state
of Florida, there are more than 41,000 people. There are more than 31,000
homeless families with children.
When Kymani Quarrie first learned about the number of people living without
homes in his own South Florida neighborhood, he immediately asked his
mother if he could help. At just 7 years old, Kymani asked his mom, Tanya,
if some of the people he saw without shelter could live in his home.
Wisely, Tanya encouraged her son to volunteer at homeless shelters and
charities. But unfortunately, Kymani told us his age precluded him from
volunteering. Still, youth wouldn`t stop this 7-year-old from lending a
helping hand. In 2010, with his mother`s help, Kymani founded KQ Cares, a
nonprofit foundation dedicated to aiding those without homes in his
community. With his organization, Kymani has hosted numerous clothing and
food drives, partner with local charities to distributed goods and
conducted annual fund-raising events.
Now, 11 years old, Kymani has also made it easier for other children to
help in creative ways, hosting in events like a children`s fashion show and
a basketball tournament to raise money for those in need.
Joining me from Fort Lauderdale are our foot soldier of the week, Kymani
and his mother, Tania Dunbar.
So, nice to have you both here.
KYMANI QUARRIE, KQ CARES: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kymani, do you remember how you felt when you first
discovered that some people are homeless?
QUARRIE: I remember, like, it was emotions going through my head. I knew
-- I didn`t exactly know why they were on the street. So, I asked my mom.
She explained. I kind of felt sad inside. So --
HARRIS-PERRY: And how about when you found out that when you wanted to
help, some people thought you were just too young to help?
QUARRIE: I felt sad. So I just wanted to figure out something that I
could actually do to help the homeless people. It made me feel really bad
that I couldn`t help and that was my number one goal, to help, and I
couldn`t help. So, that`s why I wanted to start KQ Cares and, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, mom, you did a good job, I think, in encouraging your
son not to bring folks home. But that said, how did you decide, look, this
is a young man with a passion and let me figure out how we can find a way
for him to use that passion to help.
TANIA DUNBAR, KQ CARES: I can`t take all the credit. I will say that I
did check with quite a few shelters and they all said, no, you have to be
16 to come in, it`s a liability. I explained, you know, he just wanted to
do something to say, I didn`t cut a check or, you know, we didn`t just
donate food, he actually got his hands dirty and did something to help.
And I got encouragement from my family and everything and they said, well,
you know, why don`t you just start your own foundation. So, no one can
tell him he`s too young because it would be him doing the work. And it
took a lot of work and a lot of time, a lot of research.
I learned a lot about foundations and charities and so on and so forth.
But he -- he encouraged me to keep going and we started KQ Cares.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kymani, what is the most important you have learned through
QUARRIE: One thing I definitely learned is never give up. The kids out
there and family members that actually want to help, never give up. I went
through a long process of trying to help the homeless. And if you guys
want to do it, it`s going to be a long process, but I never gave up, so you
guys should never give up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tania, you also shared with us, speaking of never giving up,
that Kymani is dealing with his own challenges and he really is a foot
soldier not only in terms of helping others but overcoming some health
concerns of his own.
DUNBAR: Yes, we had a major scare a couple years ago, and he was
experiencing some vision issues. He was telling me he was seeing double.
And I couldn`t understand why. And we couldn`t see anything physically
wrong with him at the time.
And after going to a few doctors and hospitals, we found out that he had an
auto immune disease called myasthenia gravis which causes muscle weakness.
Again, a lot of research, a lot of information, and he is battling it, but
I believe now he`s in remission.
But it was a very, very scary time, especially learning about the disease
and the fact that it`s rarely found in children, and it can really cause
some major, major health issues, but he fought through it and it was very
HARRIS-PERRY: And still they`re doing work for others.
Kymani, I have a really tough question for you. How are you feeling given
that LeBron James is leaving Miami?
QUARRIE: I have nothing to say. I mean -- we all wanted LeBron to stay
but we understand why he left. He wanted to go back to his hometown. But
he should have stayed in Miami.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, well, maybe he`ll still come help out one of your
basketball tournaments. We`re so proud of you.
QUARRIE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to our foot soldier of the week and to his mom,
Tania Dunbar, live from Ft. Lauderdale.
QUARRIE: Thank you for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speechless about LeBron`s decision.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
Tomorrow on MHP, we`re going to talk more about the return of King, how
LeBron James just showed the sports world what the true meaning of the word
champion is, even if he has disappointed our foot soldier.
Going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 Eastern.
Now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
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