Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin on "Face the Nation," July 14, 2019

Durbin: Potential ICE raids stoking fear in communities

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois that aired Sunday, July 14, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Durbin joins us from Chicago. Good morning to you, senator. 

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Good morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're in one of the cities where these ICE arrests are expected to happen. What are you seeing out there? What are you hearing?

SEN. DURBIN: I'm hearing two things. The fear level in the community, particularly in the Hispanic community, I've never seen it a higher level. Just this last Friday, I was handed this note by a- a young girl who is a high school student. Her name is Guadalupe. She couldn't read it to me. She broke down crying but she basically says in here is, "I don't want to live in fear and I don't want to lose my mother and father. They've been here working hard, they never broke the law. They just want to be part of the future of this city, this country. And give me a chance." The second thing that I'm feeling across this community is a mobilization, a belief that we are all in this together, that we're going to stand together in support of families just like this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

SEN. DURBIN: --who simply want a chance to be part of America's future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, you said that many of these people haven't broken the law. According to ICE, ninety percent of migrants they arrest have a criminal conviction, criminal charges, or they have illegally re-entered the country after being removed. Are you arguing that law enforcement shouldn't be enforcing the law as it is written? 

SEN. DURBIN: I will just tell you this. If someone has come to this country and broken the law, they've disqualified themselves, as far as I'm concerned from staying--

MARGARET BRENNAN: By entering illegally though, by definition they have broken the law whether it's criminal--

SEN DURBIN: Well, of course--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --or civil infraction is a matter for debate.

SEN. DURBIN: Yes, but that's- that's a significant difference and even Mr. Morgan went to that point. He said if there was an additional criminal violation. I feel the same way about a serious criminal violation, they've disqualified themselves. But what we're finding is, as we did with the zero tolerance policy, the simple fact of crossing the border and perhaps having a technical legal violation at that point is being used as a basis for deportation of people who otherwise have nothing in their background or nothing in their record that's a danger to us. That's when you get into trouble. That's when you start not only deporting people who may be serious offenders, but innocent people who are trying to lead a good life here and want to have a chance. That's the difference.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, President Trump tweeted this morning that female Democrat congresswomen who are foreign born, he suggests, should go back to where they came from. What do these comments do to your attempts to work across the aisle, do you consider that a racist tweet?

SEN. DURBIN: I could just tell you that when we are dealing with mass arrests of mass deportation and that kind of careless rhetoric by the president it doesn't help one bit. My mother was an immigrant to this country brought here by my grandparents from Lithuania under the control of Tsarist Russia. Do I fit into the president's category? I'm going to stick with the United States as my mother did and my brothers did trying to make this a better country. And I say the same for these members of Congress and I think there is only one in particular he's pointing to. The fact that they went through refugee camps, came the United States, clawed their way into an existence and eventually were elected. Thank goodness. That is part of what America holds as a dream for people around the world and the president should not diminish it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why- we talk about you trying to work across the aisle. Why didn't you go on this tour with Republicans and the vice president down to see the border facilities on Friday? 

SEN. DURBIN: I've been there. I was just there eight weeks ago in the El Paso area. I'm going to return in the next week. I- I watched as this group was in formation and it became apparent to me it was more about public relations than really getting down to serious policy discussions. I'm going to continue--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well we've shown the video and not all of it is necessarily favorable to the administration. Wouldn't it have been helpful for you to be there alongside Republicans to make the statement that you are working across the aisle or trying to? 

SEN. DURBIN: Well, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, and chairman of the Judiciary Committee and I are still in serious conversation about dealing with the policy. We will continue to. I've been there I'm going back. I think the circumstances which are shown in the video were bad. What I saw were even worse these kids in cages were not part of the video. I can understand that there's sensitivity to exposing them to public review. But the fact is, it's happening and America is rejecting this approach by the Trump administration. They don't want to see more with these mass arrests and deportations, families split apart. Now listen to this. We're hearing from the administration the serious humanitarian challenges at the border. Those are going to be multiplied now by these ICE raids across the United States as families are divided and young people are sent to more detention facilities. It is not going to make it any better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You- the- the administration says that the work you and Senator Graham are doing essentially the only game in town. You said there are at least five or six areas of common ground that Democrats in the Senate and the House could support. What are they? 

SEN. DURBIN: Well I can give  you several of them right off the top my head. First, unlike the president we happen to believe that we need to have foreign assistance to these three countries in Central America. It's the only- only hope we have to stabilize the situation so fewer people are exiting, trying to find their way into the United States. Secondly when it comes to the transporters and smugglers, come down on them like a ton of bricks. I have no sympathy for human traffickers wherever they may be. Stiffer penalties more enforcement, I'm for it. More immigration court judges, of course. A faster process for hearing of these cases particularly those involving children, of course. We ought to reinstate what Obama had. And that was in the embassies of these three countries. We could have young people and perhaps adults as well applying for asylum in country, not making that dangerous expensive trip to the United States border--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, it if they're endangered in the country that they are fleeing from, how does applying for asylum from that same country protect them?

SEN. DURBIN: You put your finger on one of the flaws in what I've just said. We answer it by saying if we can find a place in Mexico, for example, maybe under United Nations supervision, where there is a safe venue for them to apply for asylum status in the United States. I'm open to that conversation. But we have to understand, and I'd- state representative Delia Ramirez just came back from Guatemala, she and I met this- this weekend. The situation is desperate in that country. The people have nowhere to turn. Gangs, extortion, threats of- of rape and murder that are going on constantly. They are going to risk their lives because they know staying in Guatemala, in many circumstances, is deadly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Durbin, thank you very much.