Kevin McAleenan on CBP Facebook group: 'The agents will be held accountable"

The Acting DHS Secretary talks about the steps he says the department has taken to address concerns about conditions at the border and offensive social media posts by border agents.
12:07 | 07/07/19

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Transcript for Kevin McAleenan on CBP Facebook group: 'The agents will be held accountable"
But we begin with our brand-new ABC news/"washington post" poll, the president's approval rating at 44%, that's a career high in our poll. And yet, 53% disapprove of his performance, making president trump the only president in modern history to have majority disapproval ratings for his first 2 1/2 years in office. And just 40% of Americans approve of how he's handling his signature issue -- immigration. The numbers there falling sharply along partisan lines. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree, immigration is a whole will factor heavily into their 2020 vote. The backdrop, the growing evidence of a humanitarian crisis on the southern border. That "New York Times" article drawing from interviews with former and current border patrol agents detailing outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox spreading the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells in a detention center in Clint, Texas. This comes just days after a government report also showed images of overcrowding in some detention centers. That report alleging many children were being denied regular access to showers or a change of clothes. This Independence weekend, these allegations have ignited a debate about American values and how people in government custody can and should be treated. President trump is defending the handling of those detention centers and the man he put in charge has too, acting homeland security Kevin mcaleenan joins us now. We really appreciate you being here this morning. I know you've been concerned for months about the growing humanitarian crisis. You said it to us about six months ago on the show. I want to begin with that ig report, your own ig report. We saw those disturbing images of the migrants at some of those border facilities. And read from the report about overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. This from the report as well, 31% of the children at these facilities have been held longer than 72 hours, generally permitted under legal standards, children at 3 of the 5 border patrol facilities had no access to showers. Single adults at one facility, some were held in standing-room only conditions for a week. And at another, more than a month in overcrowded cells. And although standards were require cbp to make a reasonable effort to provide a shower for adults after 72 hours, most single adults hadn't had a shower in cbp custody. Being held again for as long as a month. When you read that, when you look at those images, what's your explanation? My explanation is an extraordinarily challenging situation. Since I saw you on December 30th, we have had over 500,000 people cross our southern border. The predominant crossings are made by family units, unaccompanied children and single adults. On may 11th I had a press conference at the border talking about our overflowing facilities. And the challenging conditions in them. On June 11th, I testified in front of congress talking about the challenges in our facilities and that we needed action on the supplemental to provide a better situation. On that night of June 10th I went on Chris Cuomo said that no mmpb should be satisfied with the conditions at our facilities. We have been asking for this. But shouldn't the whole of government, what was the actual plan to deal with it? You've been talking about it all these months, but still you have this. And I want to read from "The new York Times" report, the report from the Clint facility in el Paso, they say it's based on dozens of interview, some sworn statements, I read the portion earlier about diseases. The report goes on to say, the stench of the children's dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents' own clothing, people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly. One girl seemed likely enough to kill herself that the agents made her sleep on a cot in front of them. Back to this, why couldn't you do more? You knew there was a crisis. Right, we have done a tremendous amount. Since December 30th when we last talked about this, we had 20 medical providers in our facility. Now we have over 200. We had the public health service corps. We have pediatricians for the first time in history trying to help address conditions where children are coming across. 300 in those months, April and may. Two, we built temporary facilities. Spaces that are much more appropriate. High ceilings. More room for family and children. They provide additional space. We did this all without the funding, hoping that we could get a supplemental to get ahead of the status. We brought buses to transport people to better places. You talk about this press conference last week, you spoke about the Clint facility after an earlier ap report described inadequate food, water and sanitation. Here's what you said about the allegations at Clint. Unsubstantiated report created a sensation. That's balanced somewhat since several media outlets saw the facility, a well-equipped process. "The New York Times" report is talking specifically about the Clint facility. Why did you call those allegations unsubstantiated? Because the facility is cleaned every day. Because I know what our standards are and I know they've been followed. You don't believe "The new York Times" report? So, you're asking -- The stench of children's dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents'. They had scabies, chickenpox. Why did you say unsubstantiated? You referenced three things that were unsubstantiated. Inadequate food, inadequate water and uncleaned cells. None of those have been substantiated. What I have a responsibility, independent office that oversees our operations report that went to Clint station in the same time period. Do you think they're still unsubstantiated, given the "The New York Times" -- these specific allegations. This is an extraordinarily challenging situation. We had an overflow situation, with hundreds of children crossing every day. That's why we were asking for funding to provide adequate bed space. So they the children could be moved into more adequate. So, I'm not denying that there are challenging situations at the border. I have been talking about it the most. What can I tell you right now, there's adequate food, water. The reason those children were at Clint station, so they could have medical, they have had shower facilities for over a year. "The New York Times" said the agency's leadership knew for months that some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry, its own agents raised the alarm according to the story. Do you know anything? Okay, we have no evidence that children went hungry, first of all. Police station cells aren't a good time for children. Have you agents raised alarms -- We're worried about it. Every in chain of command is worried about the situation for children. That's why we built facilities, 1,000 spaces already, more opening next week. We're trying to provide as much space as we possibly can while children are in our custody. On June 1st we had 2500 children in our custody. 1200 with us over three days. Now we he the supplemental from congress, additional beds. Only 20 of those children have been with us for more than three days. That's huge improvement based on the resources we asked from congress. Should the president have used his authorities pursuant to the declared national emergency to redirect funds to address the conditions at the border more quickly? So the declared national emergency doesn't apply to this scenario. This was a matter -- and we had already taken action soon as we could at the border to provide additional medical care, additional transportation within our existing funding. But we did that. Now that congress has come through with the funding, we are able to apply it. Let's turn to the private Facebook groups withes onnive we can't show most of it because it's so bad. It's allegedly associated with cbp agents. You have said the agency is going to look into it. ABC and others have reported that cbp leadership was aware at least one group as far as back February 2018. You served as acting commissioner since January 2017, were you aware of this so-called 1015 group? I wasn't aware of this group. I have been made aware that we had an allegation in 2016 that was investigated, followed up on. Why wasn't the website shut down? Why wasn't that Facebook page shut down, should it have been? So, cbp doesn't control this Facebook page. This is a group of individuals -- Did the word go out to other agents? Actually we did put out a policy on being careful on social media the responsibility to maintain your standards and apply with a code of conduct even in your private life and even in your personal views. What can I tell you about this set of posts, I directed an immediate investigation. It had already been reported to our inspector general. They were already looking into it. We already put several agents on administrative duties. The agents will be held accountable. I don't think it's reflective of the men and women we have -- And I want to move quickly to the I.C.E. Raids. The president said the raids are going to be starting soon. When it was first made public, did you support the president moving forward with these raids? Balanced enforcement has to deal with interior enforcement. I have been going down to the Central America to address this. That's why we're enhancing our border security, that's why we asked for congress to change the laws and why we do need to do interior enforcement. I.C.E. Needs to be out there enforcing their authorities. And just one final question, it's also been reported some close trump allies in the white house are pushing for your departure. You're still the acting dhs secretary. Do you expect to be formally nominated, do you want to be? I'm focused on solving the problems that we're facing right now, addressing this humanitarian and security crisis at the border. If I can give you one last close on our men and women, Martha, I have had a privileged of working alongside the border patrol for 16 years. These are some of the finest professionals and some of the best human beings that I know. They do their job with heart and they do their job with honor. We're not going to let a few people who don't represent the rest of the organization besmirch their them. Up next, Rashida tlaib was

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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