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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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BALDWIN: Secretary Napolitano also explained to me over this past weekend that they did declare immediate needs funding, and that essentially means the priority goes to those with the immediate needs, i.e. survivors of these disasters, and that the other long-term, the brick and mortar projects will be put on hold.

Alabama's Governor Robert Bentley has already been disappointed by FEMA already. He wanted more time for tornado victims to apply for aid but was turned down in June. Governor Bentley joins me live from Montgomery.

Governor, nice to have you on.

I did talk to Secretary Napolitano just yesterday multiple times. She stressed to me that really survivors take precedence. But is that what you're seeing in your state? What assurances are you getting that the tornado victims in Tuscaloosa and the other towns won't get bumped by those affected on the east coast from Irene?

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY, (R) ALABAMA: Well, there is a trigger with the disaster relief fund. It's $1 billion. When it goes below that, of course, you know, the long-term projects are bumped temporarily until the supplemental funding from the federal government, which will take place. That's taken place four or five times in the past.

The immediate needs, the disaster cleanup, the -- all the damages that we see in Alabama have almost been completely cleaned up. And the protective services will go on. So we're not losing any of the essential services we need at the present time.

BALDWIN: So you don't feel neglected. You aren't frustrated. You're getting what you need from the federal government?

BENTLEY: You know, it's good to have a trigger point. It's good to have that $1 billion trigger point. We're a Gulf state. And if we have a hurricane in Alabama next week, we're going to need that money.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BENTLEY: So it's good to have that billion dollar trigger.

BALDWIN: Secretary Napolitano, also explained to me she started talks with Washington. She's been speaking with the head of the OMB, also the president about securing more aid. As you mentioned, heaven forbid, something else happens in your state or other state. You saw the debt ceiling fight. Granted, we're talking about a very different situation, natural disasters here. But how confident are you that Congress will give you what you need?

BENTLEY: Let me say this. You know, you hear a lot of people complaining about FEMA. FEMA did everything that I asked them to do. The only thing that they were not able to do was to extend the 90/10 match towards the end there. But other than that, they did everything that I asked them to do because I took charge in Alabama and they -- because of that, I told them that I was in charge of the disaster. They were very cooperative. They've done everything I've asked them to do. I appreciate that.

BALDWIN: Governor Bentley, because I have you here, I have to ask. The news broke on this show yesterday that the federal judge has temporarily blocked your state's immigration law, which you touted as the toughest law in the land essentially. If people aren't familiar, Alabamans can't give illegal immigrants a ride in their car, can't rent them an apartment, requires educators to check on kids statuses in school. What is your reaction to the judge's move?

BENTLEY: Well, that was up to the judge. We stand ready to implement the law. We asked for a tough immigration law. The legislature passed it. I signed it. If the federal government would do their job on immigration, we wouldn't have to pass laws like that. But they don't do their job, and so the states are having to do it.

BALDWIN: You know, the four Alabama church leaders, they've sued to block this law, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. What do you say to your critics who say that this law terrorizes children, sir?

BENTLEY: Let me tell you, they're totally off base. First of all, they have not read the law. There's nothing in the law that says you cannot do evangelistic work, that you cannot do humanitarian work. There's nothing in the law that says that. They obviously have not read the law and they're off base with their argument.

BALDWIN: But with all due respect, there is a portion in the law that does require schools to check the status of the children, correct?

BENTLEY: That's different from the humanitarian aid. That's different from evangelism in churches. And the reason we do that is so that we will know how many children are undocumented. That's all thus far. It's not to keep children out of school.

BALDWIN: I understand. It sounds like some of the critics and there are a number of them, if this goes into effect, it's unique that it targets children, would be terrorizing these children.

BENTLEY: Well, we -- we're not keeping children out of school. But we do believe in upholding the law. It's obvious that the federal government does not believe that. But we believe in upholding the law, and we're going to do that in the state of Alabama.

BALDWIN: Governor Robert Bentley from Alabama. Thank you very much. Thank you.

BENTLEY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: When we come back, America's grim new milestone. Ten years later.

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