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Amy Walter and Susan Page on separating migrant children, GOP retirements

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, Susan Page of USA Today and Cindy Carcamo of the Los Angeles Times join Amna Nawaz to discuss President Trump’s tweet about an administration policy to separate migrant children from their parents, an announcement by Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett that he won’t seek re-election and lessons for the next round of states getting ready for primary votes.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    North Korea remains a focus of Washington politics, but there is also growing attention on immigration and immigration enforcement.

    And that's where we will begin this Politics Monday, with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Susan Page of USA Today, and, from Santa Ana, California, Cindy Carcamo, a reporter who covers immigration for The Los Angeles Times.

    Amy and Susan, thanks for being here.

    I want to get to a little bit of breaking news we have had just as we have come on air.

    We have just learned Representative Thomas Garrett, a Republican from Virginia, has announced that he's struggling with alcoholism and he's not going to seek reelection.

    So, Amy, give me a sense of what this means, what we know about his district, how it changes the landscape ahead.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    This is a district outside of Charlottesville. Garrett was one of the members of the Freedom Caucus. And only recently there was a report — I think it was in Politico — that outlined the challenges that many of his staffers were having.

    This was a very demanding boss asking them to do things that were completely inappropriate, including at one point cleaning up — this was in the story — that the dog would come into the office and have some problems that would need to be taken care of.

    But he announced in something of a rambling press conference last week that he was going to come back for sure and run for reelection. The news today is then not that surprising, given all the stories that have come out since that press conference.

    The question is whether or not Democrats can make this a real race. Part of the reason this race was competitive was that Garrett himself had a number of controversies and he wasn't a particularly strong fund-raiser.

    But it also points to the fact that Republicans now, this would be something like their 30th-something — I can't remember the number total — of retirements on the part of Republicans, which is the highest number we have seen — you have go back to the '30s — of retirement from Republicans.

    Any time there's a open seat, it's much harder for the party to hold on to it. You want to have an incumbent there.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    How hard is it for the party?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Susan Page:

    Amy, I just looked up the number.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Go ahead.

  • Susan Page:

    Forty-fourth.

  • Amy Walter:

    Forty-fourth.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Forty-fourth.

  • Susan Page:

    Forty-fourth House Republican choosing not to run again, some of them running for other offices. Some of them are retiring.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's a remarkable number.

  • Susan Page:

    It's a big number. And it's a sign that — we aren't sure how good a year this is going to be for Democrats.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes.

  • Susan Page:

    But Republicans who are serving in the House have decided it's going to be a very good year for Democrats running against them.

    Even in this district — Trump carried this district by 11 percentage points last time around. So, it's a Republican district, but it's not so overwhelmingly Republican that you couldn't imagine in a good Democratic year Democrats winning it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, let's look ahead a little bit now.

    We're a bit of a bye week when it comes to primaries. I know we often talk about what we learn from the primaries we're keeping an eye on. Look for back for me, Susan. What have we learned in terms of trends moving forward? How does that inform the eight states that will have primaries next week?

  • Susan Page:

    One thing that's struck me is kind of the nature of the two parties.

    The Republican Party that we have seen in these primaries is Trump's party. This is Trump's Republican Party. You see almost no Republican candidates who are running for office this fall criticizing the president.

    Some talk about him more than others. Some embrace him more closely than the others. But there is almost no criticism of Trump among Republicans what are running for office.

    And in the Democratic Party, this is Bernie Sanders' Democratic Party, not for Bernie Sanders in particular, but Bernie Sanders and his more progressive stance has really taken hold. Bernie Sanders' candidates, the candidates endorsed by Our Revolution, his group, the group affiliated with him, have not done so well in contested elections.

    But the whole party has moved to the left. And you look, thinking about the elections, the primaries coming up next week, the big one in California, Dianne Feinstein, fifth term, she's clearly moved to the left in response to the energy of the party being on the progressive side, including now saying she opposes the death penalty.

    That's quite at odds with the position she's taken in the past.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Amy, what are you watching this week?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. There's another theme, in the addition to the ones that Susan mentioned, which is women, and especially Democratic women.

    So, my colleague David Wasserman looked at all the primaries that have taken place thus far. We're about a third of the way through primary season. There were 65 races on the Democratic side that featured at least one woman and one man and no incumbent. And women won 70 percent of those.

    There is not a similar trend going on, on the Republican side. They have only won — Republican women who are not incumbents have only won about 20 percent of their primaries.

    California, which is coming up on June 5, lots of women running, close to 30 women on the ballot. Obviously, they're not going to all win, but that's going to be very important.

    And the most important thing about — to watch for California is this thing called the top two primary. This is a new law that was put in place after 2010 in order to make the primary more open, encourage more people to come and vote and, theoretically, even in a very conservative or very liberal district, give voters a chance to get maybe a more moderate member of that reigning party.

    In this case, the challenge for Democrats is, because they have so many candidates, the top two vote-getters — and that's how this process works — the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.

    The top two vote-getters in some of the most important districts Democrats are looking at to win in November may end up with two Republicans in November, shut Democrats out completely. That would be a very big blow Democrats' chances of taking the House.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    California will be one to watch, one to watch for sure.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I want to talk about something else that could be making headlines later this week, if not later this week, certainly in the weeks and months to come.

    And that is immigration. The president was tweeting about it over the weekend. He tweeted this — quote — "Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S."

    He went on to talk about catch and release, lottery and chain migration, and, of course, building the wall, which has been a signature promise of his as well.

    But this — this issue of separating families at the border, Amy, walk me through a little bit, because this left a lot of people scratching their heads. What does that have to do with the Democrats?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    Well, and that tweet together, it also conflated two issues, I think, which is reporting that had come out recently about unaccompanied minors, children who had come by themselves into the country, and about 1,500 of them that can be — were not located. Right?

    Of the 5,000 or so that were put either into foster care or given to family members, they couldn't locate 1,500. That is different from this conversation that the president tweeted about, about separating families.

    This is actually a Trump administration policy specifically outlined by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, at the beginning of May. He is quoted as saying, "If you don't want your child separated different from you, then don't bring them across the border illegally."

    And other members of the administration saying that this program of taking families and putting the children and unaccompanied children in a different place from their parents was done as something of a deterrent, as a way to say to potential border crossers, don't do it, this is the consequence of that action.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's get a little bit more on this from someone who covers immigration specifically.

    Cindy Carcamo joins us from The Los Angeles Times.

    I want to ask you now. There's obviously a lot of attention being paid to these two stories, these immigration stories, over the weekend, continuing into today.

    One, the family separation issue at the border, and, secondly, this issue of up to 1,500 lost or missing children. Can you help us shed some light on those two stories and what we know to be true?

  • Cindy Carcamo:

    Yes.

    Well, I think we have to kind of take a step back in regards to why it is that we're at this point now in regards to the new policy by the Trump administration.

    For a long time, it's been a misdemeanor to cross the border illegally, but now what they're doing is, they're actually prosecuting or referring to prosecution a lot of these people who are crossing illegally or who are asking for asylum at a non-port of entry.

    So, essentially, what's happening is, while these people are being — like, the parents are being referred for criminal prosecution, the children are being placed in separate housing. And, beforehand, that really wasn't happening as much. There were incidents of that, but this is going to be an ongoing policy for the Trump administration.

    So I think that that, we're talking about in regards to separation of families, and that's what a lot of people are up in arms about. But I think we have to remember that there's always been this law on the books.

    And simply what the Trump administration is doing is, they're enforcing this law. In regards to conflating these two things, in regards to unaccompanied minors that came in 2014 and so forth, you're seeing on social media a lot of these pictures of children in these cage-like conditions.

    Actually, a lot of those photos are from 2014 taken during the Obama administration, when children were coming unaccompanied, and there were so many of them that they didn't know where to house them.

    So, actually, I did a tour of one facility in Nogales, Arizona, where there were all these children sleeping on mats in this warehouse kind of facility. And they were caged.

    So, I think we have to understand that, even though we're under a different administration, you did have similar policies beforehand, not the complete separation of families, like the Trump administration is doing now, but you did have families in family detention.

    You had children who were in detention. So, I think we do have to remember that you had a similar situation happening beforehand. Maybe it wasn't, like, policy, but it was happening in some instances, where people were separated along the border, and also families who were kept together, but they were kept in detention.

    Actually, the Obama administration brought back family detention. So, I think we have to keep that in mind.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Cindy Carcamo from The Los Angeles Times, thanks for joining us here in studio.

    Susan Page and Amy Walter, thanks for being here.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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