July 16th, 2014
11:58 AM ET
3 months 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. sonny chapman

    When Katrina hit NOLA, the City of Houston took in the homeless. Houston, IMHOP, passed the "welcome the stranger " test posed by Jesus in Matthew 25,35..

    July 16, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Meh...someone's experiencing some messaging growing pains while trying to kick off is run in 2016. This is pretty obviously just an attempt to try to put some space between himself and Obama.

    July 16, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    So, let's get this straight. Gov. O'Malley is critical of the administration's plan to send the thousands of minors back to their countries of origin, while out of the other side of his mouth he's saying NIMBY, not in Maryland? I never knew much about the governor before, but he's shown me more than I need to know about him. He needs to stick to local politics, and leave the big boy pants wearing stuff alone.

    July 16, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. Gunderson

    Whazzat?,
    Still not in my back yard, no? O'Malley wants it both ways. However, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck !!!

    July 16, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. bf

    Any Democrat who does not vote to change the law to treat them just like canadians and Mexicans should be voted out of office. California is even pushing back on dropping off illegals in their towns. The Dems want them to stay as long its not in their state. Drop off all of them in blue states and see how fast they change their minds after the people raise hell.

    July 16, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. just asking

    Sniffit
    Meh...someone's experiencing some messaging growing pains while trying to kick off is run in 2016. This is pretty obviously just an attempt to try to put some space between himself and Obama
    --

    hmmmm.... now why would he need or want to do that?! has obama become toxic and radioactive to democrats?

    July 16, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Grim Reaper

    "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.
    ---

    Doesn't this silly man know that we ALL face certain death? There is no escaping it here or in their home country. If they are sent to Chicago could they not also face certain death? Where is the proof of this certain death? Does it not exist all over the globe?

    July 16, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "He needs to stick to local politics, and leave the big boy pants wearing stuff alone."

    I agree, Rudy. Bad enough he criticizes the sitting President without addressing Congress, he then states this:

    "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."

    While then moving on to this:

    "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.

    As long as they aren't sent to Maryland, that is.

    July 16, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Gurgyl

    -just focus on USA citizens, when we had we gave away medicines, arms, money to other nations. Which nation is sympathetic and offering money to us? Just deport. Illegal is illegal. O.k.

    July 16, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. salty dog

    If that's your best two step martin, better get some more dancing lessons.

    July 16, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Democrat Justice Time

    Why does the entire have to foot the bill for this Democrat Disaster? All of these illegals should be bussed to all blue states. Cities with the highest concentration of Democrats should receive the most. Let's start with LA, Chicago, NYC and Philadelphia. All of the Democrats in blue states should be paying for what they have done, and for what they have wanted for a long time.

    All I can say is if I was a Governor of a red state, not a single one of these illegals would be allowed to set foot in the state. I'd call up the National Guard if I had to.

    July 16, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    What I said was that would not be the most inviting site in Maryland
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Being a resident of the great state of Maryland I must say that if he is referring to Thurmont and other klan strongholds, he's right. It would NOT be the most "inviting" site in Maryland for these kids.
    However.... the good Governor should've then proposed an alternate site and stop with the now hypocritical sounding Bible quotes.
    Governor O'Malley, you've blown your first test of presidential mettle: criticizing the man in charge, backpedalling, and not offering alternate solutions.
    Tsk, tsk dude.

    July 16, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    sonny chapman

    When Katrina hit NOLA, the City of Houston took in the homeless. Houston, IMHOP, passed the "welcome the stranger " test posed by Jesus in Matthew 25,35..
    --------------------------
    Levitcus Chapter 19

    33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.

    34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

    There false prophets who call themselves Christians don't even know the 10 Commandments.

    July 16, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Democrat Justice Time

    Why does the entire have to foot the bill for this Democrat Disaster? All of these illegals should be bussed to all blue states. Cities with the highest concentration of Democrats should receive the most. Let's start with LA, Chicago, NYC and Philadelphia. All of the Democrats in blue states should be paying for what they have done, and for what they have wanted for a long time.

    All I can say is if I was a Governor of a red state, not a single one of these illegals would be allowed to set foot in the state. I'd call up the National Guard if I had to.
    -----------------------------
    I suppose that's why you're not a governor, because if we followed your plan, then "these illegals" would never make it up North where they belong. Right?

    July 16, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    You can't stand on both sides of an issue as important as this governor. If we shouldn't send the kids back, where should they be housed? If you don't want them in Maryland, give us your reasoning why.

    July 16, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    "All I can say is if I was a Governor of a red state, not a single one of these illegals would be allowed to set foot in the state. I'd call up the National Guard if I had to."

    And then what? Shoot 'em where they stand?

    July 16, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  17. OBAMA - THE OPEN BORDERS PRESIDENT

    How fast can you retreat from previous statements. Funny.

    "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,"

    Democrats don't want them sent back to their nation of orgin so once a state receives them they are staying. Just wait until we get the percentage of those deported. It will be in the single digits.

    July 16, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Lynda/Minnesota

    "He needs to stick to local politics, and leave the big boy pants wearing stuff alone."

    I agree, Rudy. Bad enough he criticizes the sitting President without addressing Congress, he then states this:
    -------------------------------------
    He's either one of the Democratic Party's worse hypocrites, or he's up for re-election.

    July 16, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    "Governor O'Malley, you've blown your first test of presidential mettle: criticizing the man in charge, backpedalling, and not offering alternate solutions.
    Tsk, tsk dude."
    --------------------–
    That's three strikes on three straight pitches. He' out. He's going back to the minors for the rest of his career.

    July 16, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    ""All I can say is if I was a Governor of a red state, not a single one of these illegals would be allowed to set foot in the state. I'd call up the National Guard if I had to."

    There's a reason you are not and never will be governor of anything. Can you guess what that is?

    July 16, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Being a resident of the great state of Maryland I must say that if he is referring to Thurmont and other klan strongholds, he's right. It would NOT be the most "inviting" site in Maryland for these kids."

    Indeed. Of course, it's far more important to CNN that we focus on O'Malley's apparent hypocrisy instead of what the bigot brigade is doing. 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.

    July 16, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. 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. Even Bush 1 ran around telling everyone to read his lips because Saint Raygun raised taxes so many times.

    July 16, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. Tone

    This guy reminds me of Cuomo New York a gov i don't like , and will never vote for again. Whatever is politically expedient for them they would latch on to. That is why i hate politicians so much.

    July 16, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. NameFrank Deery

    O'Malley doesn't want these kids in his State,Maryland,
    also home of Nancy Pelosi, but supports keeping them-in Ca, Tx, Az, and now Nebraska and Illinois? He cannot have his Cake and eat it too. Take them in, Mr 2016
    candidate! Such a good heart! Problem is, if
    they don't go beyond already immigrant and
    "refugee" overburdened California, New Mexico, and Texas, this Obama-lackey, like
    Elizabeth Warren, have about as much chance of becoming President in 2016, as
    Anthony "The Flasher" Wiener of NYC.

    July 16, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. Donna

    Obama and the Democrats have really, REALLY put their foot in it this time!! Thanks for waking the entire country up to your lies, deceit and incompetence. Heck, there are even a lot of Democrats that are up in arms about this disaster, especially the black community that these invaders will be taking jobs from. There aren't just children storming the border. There are lots of men and women as well.

    Yup, the more the country sees of the leftist Democrats, the more they dislike them. November can't get here fast enough.

    July 16, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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