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An Emotional Plea for Answers; Around 500 Migrants Making Their Way Towards the U.S. Border; Tensions Between Ukraine and Russia; Several Million People are Under Blizzard Warnings; Top 10 CNN Heroes; Interview with Rep. Maxine Waters (D) California. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 25, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Rushing towards the U.S. border near Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has closed the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana. This happening as the incoming Mexican government is now denying reports that it reached a deal with the Trump administration to keep asylum seekers out of the United States and remain in Mexico while their cases are being processed in U.S. courts.

All right, let's bring in CNN's Rafael Romo.

So, Rafael, first let's address this now. This is the immediacy where you have a number of people who've outnumbered authorities on the Mexican side, but they have not gained U.S. entry.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and just to make sure, there was never a clash between the protesters, the Central American migrants and the police. It was just a number game -- numbers game. There were many more, they were in the hundreds, as many as 500 Central American migrants. They had at first peacefully gathered for a protest at the Mexican side to try to say some of the chants that they had before. And then all of a sudden at about 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time they rushed to the border and they simply started running around where the officers were.

There was a contingent of three deep. There was no clash, there were no pushing and shoving. Simply they just ran around them and tried to get to the American side and rush the border. They were not successful as far as we know, but that forced the American authorities to temporarily shut down the borders and not only pedestrian traffic but also vehicular traffic. And let's remind our viewers these are now --

WHITFIELD: And these are live pictures, by the way.,

ROMO: Yes, live pictures. Let's remind our viewers, Fred, that this is the busiest land crossing point in the world. So the importance of this border crossing point cannot be overstated. It is vitally important, and as we speak right now it's closed.

WHITFIELD: And those images that we're seeing were on the U.S. side, we understand. But then now you're also seeing live images on the Tijuana, Mexico side. Well, you see a number of people who have gathered there. Are you familiar at all with the location that we're looking at right now in respect to the bridge that will then take you to that port of entry, San Ysidro Port of Entry?

ROMO: I am not -- what I can tell you is that there's two ways of crossing into the United States from Mexico. One is the San Ysidro crossing point, the other one is the Otay Mesa. Otay Mesa is still open. But the most important one is the one that we're talking about because it handles thousands of thousands of vehicular traffic every day and also people that cross by foot and it is closed as we speak right now. Now --

WHITFIELD: And the numbers have 30 million crossing from Mexico last year at that very point. So that's helping underscore what you just said, the world's busiest land border crossing.

ROMO: And some of the images that we were -- have seen earlier showed that it was not only younger or able-bodied people who were making it across this area. It was also families with young children and at one point the police officer essentially lifted his hands up as if he had given up.

WHITFIELD: As if to say -- yes.

ROMO: Yes, there's nothing we can do about this. There was not going to be any violence perpetrated from the police officers against the migrants, and so it was very evident that they were outnumbered and that's the situation we have right now.

WHITFIELD: And Rafael, let me bring in, invite a few more people into this conversation.

Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," and Raul Reyes, an immigration analyst and CNN opinion writer.

Good to see all of you now. So, you know, all of this taking place near simultaneous to this "Washington Post" reporting which said that according to the incoming interior secretary that an agreement had been made between the incoming Mexican administration and the Trump administration that there would be a remain in Mexico kind of policy, Ron. And then the Mexico authorities would then after that reporting, you know, went public would say no, there is not such agreement.


WHITFIELD: That was made, that asylum seekers would stay on the Mexican side while their case to be processed in U.S. court. So now all of this taking place simultaneously, do you see this all related?

BROWNSTEIN: Sure. I mean, I think -- look, it is in everyone's interest. It is in the interest of the Mexican government, it is in the interest of the U.S. government. It is in the interest of immigration advocates to find a more orderly process for dealing with this. I mean no one wants the kind of chaos that you're watching on your screen today. And certainly the immediate challenge is more obviously in Mexico than in the U.S. In Tijuana, they are struggling by all accounts with the large number of migrants that they are having to, you know, essentially house while all of this gets sorted out.

[16:05:04] You know, Fred, I have been writing about immigration and public opinion on immigration in the U.S. since the early 1990s, and I've been struck over really 25 years the incredible consistency of American attitudes. The public is compassionate and pragmatic. They do not think it's realistic to deport 11 million people who are here. They do not want to deport DACA recipients, but they also want the rule of law to be upheld and that includes having control over the border. And I think most Americans, you know, will look at this and say we need a process that makes more sense that what we are seeing.

WHITFIELD: And Raul, how do you see these images bolstering the president's position?

RAUL REYES, IMMIGRATION ANALYST: Well, I think certain members, for example, I'll say the president's base, or even the president himself can look at these pictures of these chaotic scenes and say, yes, we do need to control the border or even possibly potentially shut down the border to prevent this from happening. But the fact is we do have a robust system in place of processing these people through, you know, the lawful asylum process.

The problem is that the Trump administration has in effect helped create this problem by not allowing people to come into the country and apply for asylum, which, number one, is their legal right to at least apply, and number two, what people forget about asylum under current U.S. law, you can only apply for asylum when you are physically present in the United States. So no matter what the president says about this, you know, potential remain in Mexico plan, that is unlawful.

It's in violation of our law, agreements with the United Nations and other countries. And because the fact is our president no matter who he is cannot circumvent the rule of Congress as (INAUDIBLE) in the Immigration and Nationalization Act. And that says people like this migrant caravan have the right to enter the United States, make their claim. They may be denied and then deported but they do have the right to enter whether or not they're at a port of entry.

And the longer this situation goes on, it shows how unsustainable Trump's position is. Look, it's only been a few days. How can we have all these people remaining on the Mexico side when they are desperate, many of them -- they are trapped now and sort of stateless people. And they have nowhere to go and the northern part of Mexico is part of the most violent regions of that entire country.

WHITFIELD: And Congressman Elijah Cummings made that point earlier today that it's unlawful, it would be an unlawful policy to have these asylum seekers on the Mexican side while their applications are being processed in U.S. courts.

So, Rafael, the Tijuana mayor has already, you know, tried to make a case that while, you know, Tijuana is already handling a huge number of -- of migrants, an appeal might even be made to the United Nations. How do these images assist Tijuana in making that argument? ROMO: Yes, essentially these images are proving his point. He says

we are unable to process the needs and to care for these many immigrants. And let's remind our viewers that there are more than 5,000 Guatemalan, Honduran, and from other countries and Central American migrants that are there in Tijuana. And he was bitterly complaining on Friday saying the Mexican federal government has abandoned us. He was also appealing to the United Nations for help and saying we cannot sustain this situation anymore. They have been with their local funding providing for their food and shelter, their basic needs.

And he said I am not going to spend the money of my local taxpayers to provide emergency services for these migrants. And he was also very concerned about the security situation in Tijuana, although we haven't seen -- a few isolated incidents, but not that many incidents of criminality in that part of Mexico.

WHITFIELD: So, Ron, when you look at the images we've seen men, we've seen women, we've seen children. And while this is a political crisis with the border being closed there, you know, suspended, north and southbound traffic there at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, at what point does this also become a humanitarian crisis if not already?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it is -- yes, yes, I think it is. It is and has been already. And I do think it will ultimately as many things in our system is going to end up in the courts. I mean, whatever the Democrats in the House think about the legality of the idea of basically forcing people to wait in Mexico, the Republican Senate is not going to go along with any effort to overturn this.

So if the Trump administration really does want to move down that track ultimately it is going to be the courts to decide whether they can. And traditionally, I think as everyone knows, the courts have granted a lot of deference to the president, the administration, on immigration law. But there are boundaries to that, and we recall that a divided Supreme Court essentially upheld a conservative decision stopping President Obama from doing the DACA action unilaterally.

[16:10:08] So this is something that I think we're going to see this 5-4 division on the Supreme Court eventually come into play if in fact these hurdles are overcome and the president is able to reach an agreement with this incoming Mexican government. I think it will be challenged in court and ultimately the Supreme Court will decide whether in fact these migrants have the right to have their claims processed in the U.S. or whether the president can make them wait in Mexico.

WHITFIELD: And Raul, what kind of showdown do you see in the making right now?

REYES: Well, I -- when we're looking at these images and these pictures to be frank, I mean, this type of situation is really quite disappointing. It's terrible for everyone involved. It is bad for President Trump because it shows that he has not fulfilled his campaign promises of securing the border. It makes -- and their conflicting position regarding this remain in Mexico idea, makes the White House look very chaotic and conflicted. This is a bad situation --

WHITFIELD: Except doesn't it also fit the narrative of the president to say, look, they're all running to the border?


WHITFIELD: You know, it's chaos, it's mayhem --

REYES: It does fit it with that. It does fit in with that to a certain extent and yet the White House has no solution for it other than to potentially propose that Mexico in effect serve as a waiting room for people who are trying to apply to the United States for what is their right to humanitarian relief. And I think as we move ahead as Ron mentioned this will also test I think some of the goodwill of the American public.

Just last week we saw a poll from Monmouth University that said 70 percent of Americans think members of the caravan should be allowed into the country to at least make their claim for asylum with only about a quarter saying they should not be allowed. However, the more we see pictures like this I think public opinion could shift in the other direction. So we're going to have -- it will lead to probably more of a partisan divide around what's already a contentious issue.

And the thing I want to point out that people may not realize Mexico has already been cracking down very hard on these migrants. In this last quarter Mexico deported back to Central America something like 21,000 migrants, and that for them is a record.


REYES: So Mexico has cooperated with the United States, but it's hard to see what Mexico would be getting in return for keeping them in their country when they want to come here.

WHITFIELD: All of this promising to galvanize so many sides of the arguments.

REYES: Right.

WHITFIELD: Rafael Romo, Ron Brownstein, Raul Reyes, thank you so much, the duration of all hours today I'm seeing.

REYES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. Democrats vowing to take on the president's controversial immigration policies. Coming up, I'm joined by Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a member of the House Democratic leadership, her response to all that we're seeing right now.


[16:16:55] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Live pictures right now out of San Ysidro Port of Entry which is the world's busiest land border crossing there between the U.S., and Tijuana, Mexico. This after hundreds of migrants outnumbered Mexican authorities as they made their way toward the U.S.-Mexican border. And as a result we understand that Customs and Border Patrol have closed the San Ysidro Port of Entry north and southbound. And you're looking at these pictures right now as we're all trying to decipher what it is we're seeing. You see gatherings of people there.

Let's try to extrapolate a little bit further of how we have come to this and what is happening. Joining me right now, House Representative Congresswoman Maxine Waters is the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee. And you representing the 43rd Congressional District there, South Los Angeles county.

Good that you could be with us. So what are you deciphering here as you're seeing all of this transpiring with reports that migrants have outnumbered Mexican authorities and that this busy port of entry has been closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I am very saddened to see this situation with desperate people and all of this has been the political plow of the president of the United States of America. He made this the central part of his platform, that he was going to do something about these migrants who were coming here. He called them killers and rapists, and he certainly did stoke a lot of fear about these migrants who are trying to get in and so he promised the American people that he was going to make Mexico pay for it all, that we would not have to pay a dime for it. And now we have this chaos. That's what he wants. He wants to stoke fear. The American people --

WHITFIELD: Has this added to his -- has this added to his narrative? Has this fueled his argument?

WATERS: I believe so because these migrants who now are facing a closed border and who are rushing, you know, and storming the border certainly that looks bad and that looks as if they are at fault for all of this. And so what we need is comprehensive immigration reform led by the president of the United States in an effort to deal with this problem. But we're not seeing that from this president. He's not interested in solving the immigration problem. He's not interested in credible reform.

This, what you see today is exactly what he wants to happen so that he can continue to build up a constituency, a thread of migrants talking about migrants who are dangerous and who are going to take over this country. And so it's unfortunate, this is his kind of leadership, failed leadership, that's what it is.

WHITFIELD: Do you believe that initial "Washington Post" report that Mexican authorities on the incoming administration and the Trump administration had worked out, you know, the framework of a deal that would be a "Remain in Mexico" deal where asylum seekers --

[16:20:08] WATERS: No.

WHITFIELD: You don't believe that?



WHITFIELD: What part don't you believe? You don't believe that --

WATERS: Well, first of all, I don't believe the president.

WHITFIELD: That there was an agreement? OK.

WATERS: I don't believe that there is an agreement. I do believe that there may be attempts to get an agreement, but Mexico can't easily do that. They have a poorly performing economy. You have a crisis now. They cannot -- it's a humanitarian crisis. They can't afford to take care of those people and feed those people and have them used as a waiting room, you know, as this president had wanted them to do. And so, no, I don't believe an agreement has been worked out.

I think the president has jumped the gun in talking about there is an agreement. But I think he's trying to get an agreement.

WHITFIELD: If there were an agreement like that where it would mean they would just, you know, remain in Mexico agreement, asylum seekers, their cases would still be processed in the U.S. Your colleague, Congressman Elijah Cummings, said this morning that that is against the law. They would have to be in the U.S. for their cases in which to be processed.

Would you see that Congress would have to be involved in shaping an agreement like that?

WATERS: Well, I think Congress is going to have to stand behind the law. The law says that they can seek it in this country, but the law does not say anything about not allowing them to seek asylum, that somehow they have to remain in Mexico. And so I think the members of Congress are going to have to support the law.

This president is trying to break the law with his own initiatives. It does not work that way. And if it ends up in the courts even with him having favorability in the courts, I think we win on this issue.

WHITFIELD: With a new Congress, you know, come January, what are you looking forward to with this Democratic majority? Is this going to be an opportunity in which to check the president, further investigate the president, or propose or push forward new ideas that are representative of a more unified Democratic Party?

WATERS: Well, as all of the chair persons of our committees have the responsibility to do oversight, and that oversight requires them to look at any number of issues in their jurisdiction. And we're all going to do that. We're not going to all stop and do one thing or the other. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. And we don't want people to mix up oversight with investigation.

This president would like to have people believe that our regular order of business of doing oversight is somehow some unfair investigation of him. We're going to do our work. And wherever our work carries us, that's where we're going to be.

WHITFIELD: The president is in Florida right now. Soon he will be in Florida heading back to Washington and then he'll be going to Mississippi, you know, to help campaign for a Senate candidate.

You know, what are you hoping to hear from the president before he leaves Florida if he is to address what's taking place in Mexico along the U.S. border.

WATERS: Well, since I have no faith in this president, I don't believe that he is capable of doing the right thing. This is about politics for him. This is about his election in 2020. This is about keeping his constituents, you know, in tow. This is about the kind of games that he plays all the time. And I know he's talking about maybe closing down the country if in fact he doesn't get what he wants, the $5 billion that he's asking for from the Senate. He was given 1.6 billion in the last budget. I don't believe he's going to get $85 billion.

Now I want you to understand, all the members of Congress believe that we have a right to secure our borders. We have laws that dictate what we do and how we do it, and so this president is disregarding all of that. I don't know what he's going to say. I don't believe that he's going to be credible in whatever he says. Whenever he steps out on this issue it's all about whether or not he's going to basically live up to the commitments that he's made to his constituency, saying that he's going to stop all of these harmful people from coming across the border. That's what he's all about.

WHITFIELD: And again we're seeing competing images of Air Force One there in Florida. At the same time we're seeing images of people gathered there at the Mexican-U.S. border. The president tweeting last night, "All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary we will close our southern border."

Is it your view that this was, you know, promise kept today?

[16:25:03] WATERS: Well, you know, he's done that. No, this is not promise kept. This is a part of it. This is one of the big bluffs that he's basically, you know, putting out there to say, I'm coming at them, I'm not going to let them get across this border. And so this is one thing. It will be over with soon, but he'll keep trying things and keep bluffing and trying to get the Senate to give him more money and so that he can live up to the promise that he's made to build that wall.

But I want the American people to remember, he said he was going to make Mexico pay for that border. He's given a big tax cut to the richest people in this country, the richest 1 percent, and now instead of using the taxpayer's dollars on many of our domestic and foreign issues he is now wanting us to come up with the money to do what he promised to do.

WHITFIELD: OK. WATERS: Americans ought to be sick of this president by now. I've

been sick of him for a long time.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

WATERS: You're certainly welcome.

WHITFIELD: And again live pictures right now as we go to break. The president's Air Force One there in Florida before returning back to Washington after this holiday weekend break.


[16:30:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: All right. Welcome back. Now to an emotional plea for answers after an Alabama police department admits the man they killed during a mall shooting on Thanksgiving night, quoting now likely was not the gunman. His family broke down as they described their son and brother, EJ Bradford Jr., as a loving man who cared for his sick father and thought of others before himself.

We are left with more questions than answers at this point during the investigation with police releasing few details from the incident so far. And his family sharing a heart breaking account, saying police never called to let them know of EJ's death. They say they learned everything through social media. And now they're demanding an apology, accountability, and the release of all videos from the incident. Here is one of EJ's brothers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We weren't even contacted. I had to get on Facebook to see a video of him shot and bleeding. No police officers covered him up at all. I will never see him come through the house anymore, you know, saying hey, be careful out in these streets, give him a word of advice or anything. You guys just took him.

And the Hoover Police Department, you guys dropped the ball in a major way, seriously. And for you not to even call and give your condolences, show some type of character that the mayor and Hoover P.D. has for our family, this family would never be the same at all, and it hurts me.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Natasha Chen joins me right now. And then there's deafening silence coming from the police or even the mayor, or anyone to respond to this family.

NATASHA CHEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: And we've asked a lot of questions to the police over the last couple of days, still no response to those questions. We also -- I also spoke with Benjamin Crump again on the phone, that's the family's attorney, after he spoke here on the air within the past hour. Just to clarify that the 18- year-old and 12-year-old who were injured in this incident on Thanksgiving were taken to the hospital.

We actually do not know their conditions right now. Now, the Bradford family also said that they have obtained video of the incident that shows exactly what happened and how EJ was shot. Mr. Crump, their attorney, says they're considering releasing this video themselves, while also calling on police to release all the surveillance video they have.

Now both of EJ Jr.'s parents are deeply upset, especially because police have not contacted the family since this happened.


EMANTIC BRADFORD, FATHER OF EJ BRADFORD JR: It hurts me to the core. My son is gone. I can't get him back. But you vilified my son like he was a straight criminal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody even took the time or had the decency to notify me of my son's death. Instead, it's flashed all over social media. There is no way that any parent should have to find out the death of their child.


CHEN: This all started because police said that there was a fight of some kind at the mall on Thanksgiving night, resulting in two people being shot, that 18-year-old and 12-year-old. They initially told the public one of their officers working off-duty as mall security shot and killed the man responsible. But then they issued a statement late Friday, early Saturday, saying the person they killed, EJ Bradford Jr., was likely not responsible for injuring the others.

But that they believe he was involved somehow in that altercation. Police are still looking for at least one gunman responsible for that shooting. The family's attorney said that they're not planning any protests at this moment but another group is. They will be gathering, Fred, at the Hoover Police Department tomorrow night.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let us know what you learn. Thank you so much. All right, last hour, I spoke to the prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is now representing EJ's family. And he was also joined by EJ's father, Emantic Bradford Sr. And here's what they had to say.


BRADFORD: It is frustrating because I feel like you should have reached out to me and his mother. But nobody did. And that's not protocol, for you just to do something, kill my child, and not respond when we're calling you.

[16:35:02] BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF MAN KILLED BY POLICE: Mr. Bradford knows his son. Mr. Bradford is battling cancer. He's retiring this week, upcoming from the Birmingham Police Department. His son would leave work after a full day of working and come and check on his father every day. So Mr. Bradford and his mother, April, knew that this wasn't true about their son shooting somebody.

And the whole notion that they would unjustifiably pull the trigger and release this information is almost as worse as the Hoover police officer who unjustifiably saw a black man with a gun, and made a decision within milliseconds, according to witnesses, to shoot him in his face. They don't even know if they can have an open casket funeral.

And so it's just troubling when you see this pattern with Jamele Robinson in Chicago or now here in Birmingham, the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement, where this suggestion by the top leaders in our country that if the good guys had guns, maybe they could help with some of the mass shooters of the bad guys who have guns, where if you're black and you're a good guy with a gun, the police doesn't see you as a good guy.

They just see you as a criminal, and they shoot and kill you. And that is what is devastating to Mr. Bradford, who himself is part of the law enforcement family.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, retired LAPD Police Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She's the author of the book Black and Blue. Good to see you, so many unanswered questions here. What questions do you have?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: I have a lot of questions, Fredericka. Let's start with the fact that this police officer was off-duty, working security for the mall. That in it of itself brings a whole set of was he in some kind of security guard uniform. Was he readily identifiable as security, or was he just thought, perceived to be someone else in the mall with a gun shooting?

We don't know. And I don't know what their policies or procedures are for officers who work off-duty? Did the police department know about that? Did he have the proper permitting to do this kind of work? He did not have, we know, the benefit of backup. He didn't have a police radio because he wasn't on duty. So why is he getting involved and engaged to the extent that he did in the first place?

And so there are a lot of questions, a lot of liability questions. And that's why the police department is so quiet, because they understand this is not anything they are going to be able to fix.

WHITFIELD: How bothersome is that to you? It was Thanksgiving night, and there is this, you know, deafening silence. You would think that the police department, Hoover P.D., all investigating bodies would want to be out in front and offer some clarity, some transparency because a man is dead.

DORSEY: It's very bothersome to me, Fredericka, because listen. The Hoover Police Department knows how to show constraint and restraint, if you will, when they're dealing with white suspects who have a gun. There was a couple, a white couple by the name of Shafer who stole an ATM machine, shots were fired. There was a four hour standoff. So they were able to stand down for four hours in the instance of this white couple.

Take them into custody without incident, which is what they do. There was a 13-year-old kid who broke into the Hoover Tactical Firearm Building, stole guns, taken into custody without incident. And see this, Fredericka, is why I said I never bled blue, because as a law enforcement official, you would think that the police department would have extended the same kind of courtesy to Mr. Bradford Sr., that those police officers did to that white officer Amber Geiger when she killed both (Inaudible).

They went through tremendous lengths to allow her to wait for 72 hours before she turned herself in. She was booked and processed within an hour. And they don't extend this family the courtesy of a phone call. It's outrageous.

WHITFIELD: And that's in step with what the attorney, family attorney, Benjamin Crump was saying. He says wait a minute, you know, that police would see a black man with a gun and assume, you know, he was a criminal, that he was up to no good. And the family is perplexed and very much hurt as to why there wouldn't be other considerations made in this case before a man is dead.

DORSEY: And listen. This will change when there's real accountability. The family is asking for accountability. That means that this officer needs to be fired. That he should, I believe, have some financial responsibility. Because understand at the end of the day, Hoover Police Department and that mayor knows they're going to write a check that is going to be massive to this family, the same way they do with other families.

They throw buckets of money at the families and they do nothing to change policy. This officer is not going to be held financially responsible. He should be. And when police officers are held financially responsible, and that'll happen when you change the police officers bill of rights, they'll stop this foolishness.

[16:40:04] There's been a chilling effect in terms of officers understanding that police departments, mayors, commissioners, circle the wagons. They protect errant officers. They do nothing to change the policy or procedure, and allow in some instances officers to remain on duty.

WHITFIELD: Cheryl Dorsey, we'll leave it there. Thanks so much.

DORSEY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Up next, a violent confrontation at sea between Russia and Ukraine. We'll tell you what happened straight ahead.


[16:44:56] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We continue to follow breaking news at the southern border. Around 500 migrants rushed towards the U.S. border near Tijuana, Mexico. In response, U.S. customs and border patrol closed the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana. These are powerful new images that we are just now getting in. And they show some of the migrants attempting to climb over a border fence near the Tijuana border.

At this point, it is not believed that the crowd was able to successfully cross over into the U.S. and the crowd of migrants remains in Mexico. And now to another breaking story we have for you. The Ukraine government says Russian boats fired on and then seized three of its naval vessels off the coast of Crimea. The statement also said there were multiple injuries in the confrontation.

The two countries are offering conflicting accounts. Russia says Ukraine's ships illegally entered into Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine says Russian border patrol vessels carried out openly aggressive action. A short time ago, the E.U., the European Union, called for an immediate de-escalation of the situation. The two countries have been in conflict since Russia annexed Crimea back in 2014. CNN's Matthew Chance picks it up from there, from Moscow, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Fred, thanks very much. It is a potentially major escalation of tensions that's taking place now between Russia and Ukraine in that small sliver of water that separates the Crimean peninsula that was annexed by Russia from Ukraine back in 2014 in the Russian mainland. It seems that according to the Russian navy -- sorry.

According to the Ukrainian navy and the Ukrainian authorities, three Ukrainian vessels have been fired on by the Russians and then seized after a boarding operation carried out by Russian Special Forces. The Ukrainians say at least six Ukrainian sailors, crew personnel were injured in the clashes. There's been no direct response yet from the Russian authorities.

But Russian media is saying that the Ukrainian vessels were carrying out what they call dangerous maneuvers in that narrow strip of water between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. It's a very crucial bit of stretch of water, because the Sea of Azov is one of the places where Ukraine has two major commercial ports on the coast of that sea. And Russia controls the entrance to it. So it's a potentially important flash point, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Matthew Chance in Moscow. Thank you so much. All right, next, a winter storm stalling holiday travel today, eight million Americans from the central plains to the great lakes are now under blizzard warnings, a live weather report coming up.


[16:50:00] WHITFIELD: Eight million people are under blizzard warnings today, and that includes Kansas, where the governor has issued an emergency declaration and the Kansas City International Airport was closed. The airfield for arriving flights because of low visibility. No activity. CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is in the CNN weather center with the very latest. So it's bad and it's only going to get worse.

IVAN CABRERA, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: It's only going to get worse. And in fact, we just got an update a few seconds ago, Fredricka, 14 million of us now under this blizzard warning, basically out of Cook County in Chicago, which is now why we are from 8 to 14. This is how many flights. This is the time when we show you that video with all the orange colors changing in the airport. That's happening, 715 cancellations, 311 delays. That's just today.

And the peak of the blizzard isn't until tonight into early tomorrow in Chicago. So those numbers are only going to go up as we head to tomorrow. This is the updated map now as far as who is in the blizzard warnings. As Fredricka was talking about there, eastern Kansas all the way up now, and including the Chicago metro. And that is going to be for tonight into the early part of tomorrow.

We're expecting heavy snow, upwards of 8 to 12 inches of snowfall flying sideways, because the winds are going to do the same, about 40 to 45 mile an hour winds. And in some cases, look at Wichita. You're out of the snow but you're still gusting to 55. There's western Illinois into Kansas. Notice the area of low pressure. The winds going from south to north, so we're still warm here.

But that's going to change over as we head through the next several hours. Kansas City, obviously, you see the change over (Inaudible) three hours. You're going to do that. And Chicago will start off as rain, but boy, it's going to turn into snow quick and it will start sticking big time here. Again, 8 to 12 inch as we get through the next 24 hours, so this is going to wreak havoc.

I do want to just update the time so you can get a sense of what's going to happen here, because this is only through this evening for Kansas sate. You'll be done with it tonight, still some gusty winds. But the worst of snow will be over. Quincy, Illinois, and then heading into Chicago will be tonight and early tomorrow, the timing here just not good. We thought we were in, you know, good shape last week, and we were. That has ended in dramatic fashion.

WHITFIELD: Hopefully, it doesn't spoil all those beautiful memories that people, you know, have made over the holiday weekend. And it's not even officially winter but winter is here.

CABRERA: It is here.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ivan Cabrera, thank you so much. All right, we want to take a moment to honor one of this year's top 10 CNN Heroes, a computer programmer from Nigeria who has stepped up to help her country's most disadvantaged girls fill the gender gap in tech.


[16:54:57] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I went to Makoko for the first time, I was surprised to see the living conditions of human beings. Most girls are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Many of them are not thinking education, a plan for the future. I believe girls should be given opportunities. What you can't see you can't aspire to. They need to be shown another life.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: You can vote for her or any of your favorite top 10 CNN Heroes at All right, thanks so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of the Newsroom continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.