July 16th, 2014
11:58 AM ET
2 weeks ago

In interview with CNN, O'Malley defends call with White House on immigrant kids

(CNN) - Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley defended his criticism of Obama administration plans to return thousands of undocumented children to Central America, even after his remarks sparked a heated discussion with a senior White House official.

In an interview with CNN, O'Malley acknowledged that he asked White House domestic policy adviser Cecilia Muñoz that the immigrants not be sent to a site in western Maryland that was under consideration.

"What I said was that would not be the most inviting site in Maryland. There are already hundreds of kids already located throughout Maryland," O'Malley said of his phone conversation with Munoz.

A potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 and rival to Hillary Clinton, O'Malley urged the White House to welcome the children to the United States as "refugees."

"The bigger point is that we are Americans, and we do not return refugee kids who find themselves on our doorstep back into war-torn or famine-racked places where they will face certain death. So I think we have to act like Americans," he said.

A Democratic source familiar with the call suggested O'Malley's request was hypocritical, given his sharp rebuke of the administration's proposal to give the Homeland Security Department more power to expedite deportations of unaccompanied minors and their families.

"He privately said 'please don't send these kids to western Maryland,'" the Democratic source said.

Muñoz called O'Malley to complain about comments he made to reporters only hours earlier about White House plans, sources with knowledge of the call said.

"We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death," O'Malley said last week at a National Governors Association meeting in Nashville.

Instead, the governor urged the administration to show compassion, describing some of the facilities where the young detainees are being kept as "kennels."

"Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity," O'Malley said.

O'Malley suggested the White House leaked word of his phone call with Munoz in retaliation for his remarks.

"Whatever the motivation was of the people at the White House that leaked it to you, I'll leave you to determine," O'Malley said.

O'Malley said administration officials have stressed that he is open to providing temporary housing in other parts of the state.

"Governor O'Malley and his administration are working cooperatively with federal officials to find suitable locations in Maryland for unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America," said O'Malley spokeswoman Nina Smith.

"As he has said repeatedly, he believes the priority should be placing children with family members and –if that's not possible - locating housing that is safe, humane, and non-restrictive," she added.

The HHS plan stirred up outrage among local elected officials in Maryland, including Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, whose office cited "potential health risks" to the surrounding community.

"Flying them to Maryland only to turn around and fly them back home is nonsensical. Instead, President Obama should immediately return them to their nation of origin," Harris said in a statement.

HHS has since scuttled the plan for placing the children in western Maryland, an O'Malley official said.

​O'Malley officials pointed to graffiti that was found spray-painted on the site in Westminster, Maryland, last weekend as an indication of some of the hostility the migrant housing plan was generating.

"No illeagles here. No undocumented Democrats," the graffiti read. A Maryland law enforcement official told the Washington Post the message would be investigated as a hate crime.

In response to O'Malley's comments, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday some of the unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the United States from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala this year may ultimately be allowed to stay in the country, if they can qualify for asylum.

Migrants from Central America and other non-contiguous nations are granted special legal protections that allow them to plead their case to an immigration court, under a 2008 law designed to prevent human trafficking.

"If an immigration judge determines that they face a credible threat of death upon their return to their home country, then again, I'm not an immigration judge, but it is likely that the immigration judge will find that that person should be granted humanitarian relief," Earnest said.

O'Malley's initial comments about the administration's speedy deportation proposal also ran counter to comments by Clinton, who also said the children should be returned to their home countries as soon as possible.

The Maryland governor said "the law has a different take on it."

"I believe these kids are refugees. I think there are very few people who have any seasoning or know anything about Central America that would tell you anything other than that Honduras is a fragile and dangerous nation state where gangs have taken over and been recruiting children and shooting children," O'Malley said.

American principles, O'Malley argued, are at stake.

"I think the most important thing is we remember who we are as Americans, and that we act in accordance with those principles and do right not only by those children but for our own children," he said.


Filed under: 2016 • Immigration • Martin O'Malley
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Gunderson

    Whazzat?,
    There are still Klan Strongholds in Maryland? Who wodda thunk it? Sorry Sniffit, I don't believe you. but keep selling that Snake Oil. They say if you tell a lie long enough people will start to believe it Obama does a lot of that. O'Malley fits right in for the next President, right?

    So far they don't want these illegal children in Maryland, Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, etc. Sunddenly everybody is a conservative!! Keep it up, you will finally get it !!!

    July 16, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. I AM

    Double political speak from a politician seems to be the rage now a days. Every politician is explaining his or her explanation over and over.

    July 16, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. just asking

    Sniffit
    -–
    "hmmmm.... now why would he need or want to do that?! has obama become toxic and radioactive to democrats?"
    -–
    Yawn. 2-term POTUSes are followed by EVERYONE trying to distance themselves from them.
    -–

    nice shuck and jive... (i know how much you like that phrase!) expecting you to tell the truth was asking a bit too much i guess. it couldn't be the constant stream of obama disasters and failures that have his poll numbers plummeting towards the 20s could it? the republicans never anticipated that obama would be their messiah!

    July 16, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    "For example, in Arizona, a bunch of anti-immigrant protestors got themselves so worked up into a mob-mind Teatroll frenzy that they basically attacked a school bus full of American children that was on its way to the YMCA...all because they live in such a delusional state that they see illegal immigrants wherever they look and they assumed the bus full of children was these unaccompanied minors being secretly shipped into their state. All the local Sheriff bothered to do was rabble-rouse them even further."

    WOW. The very idea of adults attacking buses filled with children FOR ANY REASON is beyond comprehension. And yet, aren't these the same folks that John Boehner, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, (et al) have courted in open admiration of for 6 full years now?

    SMH.

    July 16, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. peanut

    Look sunshine. looks like a duck?? Peanut wants NO part of your human BS..... if Peanut and his buddies were in charge.........REMEMBER!!!!!! Peanut was a duck and the Goose was a Labradoe Retriever

    July 16, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. it must be said

    Sniffit
    Of course, it's far more important to CNN that we focus on O'Malley's apparent hypocrisy
    -–

    APPARENT?!!!! BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!!! Talk about a terminal case of denial....

    July 16, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Me

    Typical liberal dem. I don't want them, but you can't send them home. Like pelosi voting for aca and then exempting her state.

    July 16, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. Robert Walters

    This is and INVASION, I for one do not consider this any kind of humanitarian crisis. I think of the all the poor American children that will be without any kind of future, The best is to send them all back even the other 11 million that have been here. No question asked. No trials and no court hearings Save America. Maybe its time for the minute men to rise again to save America?

    July 16, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. Fer

    Ok ,everybody ,here is a free history lesson
    , if your not American Indian or Mexican descent , you or your ancestors came from another country or continent , just because we're already here let's not shut the door , your not convince these kid will face dead , if return to their country , I advise you to check the news on you tube from this countries, and see what is happening in theirs world , in Honduras for example , criminals charge kids up to five dollars a day to be allowed to go to school, they find out you don't want to paid you're a dead men, in this case a dead kid .El Salvador , Mexico , Venezuela , Nicaragua ., are some of worst in Latin America , if criminals find out you have relatives in the USA you became a target for extortion , if you have money they kidnap you or your family , some of you will said , not our problem , but imagine for a minute you world turn upside down and you will live this nightmare , I bet you will do anything in your power to get your family out of a dangerous country and for the majority if this kids their relatives and in some cases theirs parents are already here. And let's be honest why not come to this great nation .

    July 16, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Diane McManigal

    Governor Martin O'Malley closed down Computer Learning and Resource Center, a non profit organzation in 2014. which served mentally ill residents of Montgomery County, MD. For 25 years, 25% of our mental health consumers maintained employment each yr. The program cost $175,000 per year and the Governor was aware of the situation and slashed all of our State funds from SAMHSA (Federal Mental Health-Non-clinical funds) forcing us to close. The org. had excellent consumer satisfaction surveys, satisfactory financial audits and sound managment.

    Governor O"Malley was aware of our closure and refused to intervene. If we can't take care of our most vulnernable residents in our own State then that is proof we do not have the resources to take care of the whole world in the fashion that has been proposed.

    Our Governor made a mistake in closing a center valuable to mentally ill Marylanders and their families and even refused to meet with our Board of Director's to discuss the situation. Family members and students are at a loss over his behavior.

    July 16, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  11. Silence DoGood

    @Robert Walters
    This is and INVASION, I for one do not consider this any kind of humanitarian crisis. I think of the all the poor American children that will be without any kind of future, The best is to send them all back even the other 11 million that have been here. No question asked. No trials and no court hearings Save America. Maybe its time for the minute men to rise again to save America?
    -------------
    " No trials and no court hearings Save America. Maybe its time for the minute men to rise again to save America?"
    Doing away with due process and continual violent revolution threat was never intended by the founding fathers. Read a little history before you tarnish the valiant bravery of the Minutemen.

    July 16, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  12. Harry R. Sohl

    I hope these CNN journalists look through the comments here and in the original article. Your fox-lite approach has attracted the nastiest, meanest crowd this side of Malkin.

    You wanna know why? Because that's who you play to: with ginned up breathy fake-controversies about a Governor that asked that one site in his entire state be removed from consideration. Then, your practically illiterate crowd chimes in with hysterical moans about how he's stopping the program in full, and all Democrats are liars, and ugly sentiments about these children.

    Great job!

    See ya'! (Wouldn't wanna be ya...)

    July 16, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  13. B

    Me
    Typical liberal dem. I don't want them, but you can't send them home. Like pelosi voting for aca and then exempting her state.
    -----–

    California is not exempt from the ACA. Where do you come up with this crap?

    July 16, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Fer said..... July 16, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm
    Ok ,everybody ,here is a free history lesson
    , if your not American Indian or Mexican descent , you or your ancestors came from another country or continent , just because we’re already here let’s not shut the door , your not convince these kid will face dead , if return to their country , I advise you to check the news on you tube from this countries, and see what is happening in theirs world , in Honduras for example , criminals charge kids up to five dollars a day to be allowed to go to school, they find out you don’t want to paid you’re a dead men, in this case a dead kid .El Salvador , Mexico , Venezuela , Nicaragua ., are some of worst in Latin America , if criminals find out you have relatives in the USA you became a target for extortion , if you have money they kidnap you or your family , some of you will said , not our problem , but imagine for a minute you world turn upside down and you will live this nightmare , I bet you will do anything in your power to get your family out of a dangerous country and for the majority if this kids their relatives and in some cases theirs parents are already here. And let’s be honest why not come to this great nation .

    And don't forget us blacks whose ancestors were stolen from their land, brought here and forced into unpaid servitude. They were beaten, r@ped and families completely ripped apart. Dogs are treated better than we ever were. We had no control over anything, not even our own bodies.

    But I do agree with you and I've made similar comments just recently.

    July 16, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "nice shuck and jive... "

    Nice racist dogwhistle.

    I addressed your point. The polls say what they say and they say this after almost every modern 2-term POTUS. Why and what it means is up for debate. You have your interpretation and I have mine. The polls are worse for every single GOPer/Teatroll in congress, so your gloating is more than a little misplaced.

    July 16, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "it couldn't be the constant stream of obama disasters and failures that have his poll numbers plummeting towards the 20s could it? the republicans never anticipated that obama would be their messiah!"

    I see. He led them to salvation? More like he's outplayed the GOP/Teatrolls at almost every turn, and their "victory" of obstructing everything and stagnating government and preventing him from doing as much as he could have to help the economy and other issue...i.e., breaking gov't to "prove" it's broken....is, at best, a severely pyrrhic "victory" considering they consistently poll FAR lower than he does.

    July 16, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
1 2