Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov; Interview With Representative Pat Ryan (D-NY); Interview With Migration Policy Institute Senior Fellow Muzaffar Chishti. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 26, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSTEM UMEROV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Defending our people. We want our people to be free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: My exclusive interview with Ukraine's brand-new defense minister. He tells me how the war and the whole country are entering a new phase.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This will be a Republican shutdown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- the blame game heats up in Washington as hardline Republicans push the government into a shutdown. The latest with Democratic Congressman
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAHE TAVAKOLIAN, INJURED IRANIAN PROTESTER (through translator): I'm in pain, it burns. I'm dying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- the Iranian activist blinded during the country's crackdown. We have a special report with a woman who lost an eye in the
Also, ahead, as migrants surge at the southern border, expert Muzaffar Chishti tells Hari Sreenivasan why it must now be called a crisis.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christian Amanpour in London.
A reset for Ukraine for the war in Ukraine and for the country's military machine as they settle in for the long haul against Russian aggression.
President Zelenskyy has appointed a new defense minister to mark this shift. He is 41-year-old Rustem Umerov. And he got the job just 20 days
In his first and exclusive interview tonight, Umerov tells me his ministry is getting a reboot. And there will be new emphasis on building up
Ukraine's own arms industry as the U.S. and European allies start to wonder how long and how much more they can provide. He tells me the
counteroffensive is making progress. And I began by asking him about the fate of Russia's Black Sea fleet chief, who was shown on video by the
Kremlin today, a day after Ukraine claimed to have killed him in an attack on Crimea.
Minister Umerov, welcome to the program. Can you confirm that the head of Russia's Black Sea fleet, Viktor Sokolov, is in fact dead or alive?
UMEROV: Well, first of all, he is in our temporary occupied territory. So, he's not -- he should not be there at all. So, if he is dead, it's good
news for everybody that we are continuing to de-occupy our territory.
AMANPOUR: Do you think you will get the ATACMS, those long-range missiles from the United States?
UMEROV: We have just had a successful visit to United States. So, hopefully, soon we will see the results.
AMANPOUR: I'm trying to understand, from you, whether Ukraine is entering a new phase of not just depending on your friends for weapons and ammunition,
but are you planning, as I have read, a big, you know, buildup of your own in terms of manufacturing of ammunition, weapons systems and the like?
UMEROV: I would just explain you the logic behind. As Russia always alleges us as failed to state and always alleges us in corruption, we want to say
to our partners that we are very transparent and we are going to make the procurement contract management logistics very transparent. And we are
going to supply all these weapons, import it to our country by either by buying them directly or through the full (ph) military aid. But we are also
going to localize all the production.
I don't want to go into details, but this is supply chain management risk assessment that we need to localize as much as we can so that we will have
sufficient facilities to have the weapons we need for the occupation of our territories.
AMANPOUR: You said once that everything, you know, that can be produced locally must be produced locally.
UMEROV: I -- my focus is that, of course, the minister of defense should be supplying its defense forces with whatever they need to regain territory
and to defend their people. But at the same time, I have focused toward President Zelenskyy have said that we need to have the local productions so
that we could have more workforce and they would be focused onto the defense technologies.
And after we win the war, we would be one of the largest defense tech countries. So, at this stage, my priority is to localize everything that
would -- could be localized to have a local production on anything that our forces need.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you a little bit about strategy? A lot has been reported about your own -- you know, your own origins. You are a Tatar from
Crimea. This is your homeland. And as you know, and as we have reported, quite a lot of Ukrainian effort has gone into, you know, striking and
targeting Russian facilities in occupied Crimea, annexed Crimea.
How important is that for you personally and for the counteroffensive?
UMEROV: I am Ukrainian of Crimean Tatar origin. And of course, as a person who was born in exile and deportation and have felt the hardship myself
being a refugee or internally displaced person, of course, I feel heartbroken that for almost 10 years I'm away from my homeland.
So -- and we have many people that are now living as internally displaced persons from the occupied territory. So, it is a personal, of course, focus
for me to de-occupy all the territories. So, that our IDPs become not IDPs but normal citizens so that we can live our own life.
So, as a minister of defense, of course I'm focused to our strategy of victory. I am focused to supplying whatever is needed for our soldiers. But
at the same time, I will be feeling happy if I will go back home.
AMANPOUR: Now, corruption. There has been a lot of focus on that. And we have noticed that several of the deputies have been dismissed. Six out of
seven deputy defense ministers have been dismissed. Is that about allegations of corruption? You have said the whole defense ministry needs
to be rebooted. What do you mean?
UMEROV: So, firstly, we continue our efforts for being very transparent. So, we make the very clear assessment on acquisition and sustainment. We
are putting the system, very transparent procurement system, a very transparent contract management system, and we will be probably
consolidating and unifying all the defense forces logistic systems.
So, at this stage, rebooting needed for the new challenges that needs to come. The previous team worked when there was full-scale invasion and there
was no system. Many partners, many people have abandoned. But then they regained the confidence. So, at this stage, we need to bring the country to
victory. So, there needs to be a new set of, let's say, targets that strategically we need to get to. And I'm here to make it happen.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about weapons that you have been given and weapon systems. So, it was announced on Monday that the first of the Abrams tanks
have arrived, the M1 Abrams tanks have arrived. Now, I remember interviewing your predecessor, Minister Reznikov, in January when it was
announced that they would be coming. That's practically 10 months ago for all intents and processes. That's a long time to wait for weapon systems in
your current environment.
I mean, do you think that you're getting what you need when you need it?
UMEROV: Well, there is always questions, but our focus is a victory. And at this stage, we need more weapons that -- to make the game change. So, at
this stage, when HIMARS arrived, we made progress. When tanks came, we made progress. And soon, hopefully, the jets will come and we will make
That's why this war, this tragedy of needs to be put as a priority. And we need these weapons to regain the territories and have advantage on the
AMANPOUR: Let me put to you what a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, told me about essentially the game plan. You traveled to meet the
international partners, as you said, at Ramstein. You went with President Zelenskyy to the U.N. This is what Kurt Volker told me during that time.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Turning it to the U.S. side, I think there is a growing sense that we don't see an end in sight. And you
hear that from members of Congress, how much is this going to cost? How long is it going to go on? So, there's a frustration there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Can you hear the frustration from the American side? What is the game plan? What is the endgame? And how long is this going to go on?
UMEROV: Endgame is that when we reach our internationally recognized borders, we bring Russia to justice and regain our old territories. So, the
focus should be winning Russia on our grounds and to make them accountable for all the damages and atrocities they have done.
So, we need to understand that the people should be helping Ukraine because it's for the national security reasons of their own countries, because
Russia will not stop. It will go and go and go. It has been all the centuries, for the last 300 years. It was expansion. It was brutality. It
was killings. So, Ukraine is defending the values that people share. The independence, the sovereignty, the human rights. So, we want our people to
be happy and be a part of the European Union and NATO. So, that's why we defend our own values.
President Zelenskyy has given the world class -- I would say, the example of resistance. And it gives a big hope to people, an example of courage, an
example of retaliation and resistance. So, these values are shared by most of our peoples and with most of our partners. So, this war should end only
with one condition, when we regain all of our territories and we regain and free people. Why? Because, as I said, Russia should be taken accountable
for what it caused to the world order. And that's probably the answer when it will finish.
But our focus and priority is to finish this work as soon as possible with victory and make them accountable for what they did.
AMANPOUR: What is your assessment of the Russia war machine? And they keep going. I mean, the barrage on Odessa. It's considered that you might
believe that they are trying to save and stockpile missiles for an attack on your infrastructure again over the winter when it gets cold. What is
UMEROV: Let's not be fooled with their intentions. Their intention is to not to allow Ukraine to be independent, a sovereign state. Their intention,
they don't recognize the Ukrainians as sovereign nation. They will be focusing, during the wintertime, to keep our energy infrastructure. But we
will be retaliating.
And as I've said, we are more focused on what our army needs, what our soldiers need, and how to gain our territories back.
AMANPOUR: Finally, I want to ask you about a very staunch ally, Poland, which has said that it will -- it's kind of confusing. So, I would like you
to clear up. What do you expect Poland to do? Will it continue to send you weapons? There's a dispute over grain. You were very instrumental to
negotiating the original grain, you know, exports and the Black Sea ports and things. What's happening in Poland? What do you expect from them?
UMEROV: Well, in this situation, after this interview, I will be having with a call with the minister of defense of Poland to discuss our
cooperation. So, I don't find this moment anything particular to be discussed on the minister of defense level. At the moment, there is a
continuation of our work is going on. So, after this update, if you give a call, I will update you more.
AMANPOUR: Good. Well, we will give a call. But are you getting weapons coming through from them now or has it stopped?
UMEROV: No. Absolutely. Every -- the modality with partners just for your understanding, we are continuing the efforts. Nothing can be -- or let's
say, minister of defense level has been stopped. All the cooperation, all the modalities are in place.
AMANPOUR: OK. Minister Rustem Umerov, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
UMEROV: Thank you very much, Christiane, for interviewing.
AMANPOUR: Now, in Washington, the Pentagon insists the looming government shutdown would not affect the training of Ukrainian forces or the transfer
of weapons to that country. But while it won't impact Ukraine in the short- term, it hasn't stopped Ukraine from impacting the shutdown negotiations with a growing number of Republicans wanting to reduce funding Ukraine's
If Congress cannot agree on a deal to fund the government, it will shutdown this weekend. It is a faith that's looking more and more likely as hardline
Republicans threatened to oust their own speaker, Kevin McCarthy, if he makes a deal with the Democrats. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Speaker McCarthy embraces a clean continuing resolution to continue the spending policies of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,
that would most likely trigger a motion to vacate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Speaker McCarthy ultimately allows a deal to pass with Democratic votes, would you support ousting him from the speaker's
REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): That would be something I would look strongly, if we do away with our duty that we said we're going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what exactly will this mean for millions of federal workers and the millions of people who rely on government programs? Joining me now
is Democratic Congressman Pat Ryan. Welcome to the program, Congressman.
Can I just first start by asking you about Ukraine? You're a former, you know, military person. You have been deployed. You know all about what this
is meaning to the country and to national security. Do you see any risk of any sort of shortfall in support for Ukraine?
REP. PAT RYAN (D-NY): Absolutely. What we say here in Washington and in the Congress matters. Our reputation as United States of America, no greater
friend, no worse enemy. That is at risk when you see the MAGA extremists signaling that they might back away from our democratic ally, fighting for
their territorial integrity, as you heard so compellingly from the defense minister, fighting for our shared democratic values. We have to have their
back especially at this moment.
So, not only are there material concerns where we could see resources and dollars and weapon systems at risk, but our sort of strength of the support
in terms of the optics and the perceptions has already been weakened by folks like the Gaetzs and others that want to turn our backs on our
democratic ally right when they need us the most.
AMANPOUR: It sends, as you said, a terrible signal to adversaries who are watching this. So, do you think that there is a real and important material
softening of bipartisan support in Congress for the whole idea of American and NATO support for Ukraine?
RYAN: I'm -- yes. I'm very concerned. And I don't think folks fully appreciate how extreme today's Republican Party is here in Washington on a
whole bunch of issues, but particularly when it comes to backing our small D democratic allies like Ukraine in the fight of their lives.
I would guess that over half of the Republican caucus right now would not support if pressed continuing military aid to our ally at such a critical
moment, which not only matters in Europe but also matters significantly in the Indo-Pacific when you talk about how China views our will to support
our allies, vis-a-vis Taiwan and other critical issues.
So, this is something that I hope the American people understand and I hope they send a message to their representatives that we all need to be in
lockstep bipartisan supporting our ally. Of course, we need to have and they do have a clear strategy to win. Of course, we need to have oversight.
And we do have oversight. So, now, let's go do it. Let's go win. And I am confident that they can and they will.
AMANPOUR: I mean, just a comment, I wonder whether the opponents realize that this is exactly what Putin has been saying. I mean, they're just going
to wait America and NATO out.
Can I switch topics? Because today, as we speak, President Biden is, I believe, the first ever sitting president to join a picket line. He is in
Michigan with the United Auto Workers. And do you support that? Do you support the strike? We're seeing pictures of it as the president arrived
there, and he is addressing them and showing solidarity.
First of all, do you support his move to be on that picket line in also what is a historic strike?
RYAN: You are absolutely right, Christiane. This is historic. I fully support workers. I fully support unions. I am proud of President Biden
showing through not just words but actions that he stands in solidarity with working people.
Look, corporations in the United States of America and across the world are making record-breaking, unprecedented profits. And the people doing the
work in our unions across the country, including in my district, in the Hudson Valley of New York, should share in that greater prosperity that
CEOs and big corporations have had, but they are not. Record stagnation in wages.
And so, this is about standing with working people. And the president going himself is very important. I think it is something that we should all be
AMANPOUR: And clearly, you know, some, certainly in his party, hope and probably the president hopes this will shore up his support for union
support during the next election. But I want to ask you about the economics around this. Because when President Biden talks about -- and what we've all
declared as rightly unprecedented investment in the climate and in new jobs aligned with green jobs, he says, the clean energy economy should also be a
win-win for auto companies and union workers. When I think, climate, I think, jobs. When I say climate means jobs, I mean good paying union jobs.
I wonder whether that story is not being told. Because many autoworkers worry that the shift to electric vehicles will mean the opposite, you know,
fewer jobs, lower pay. How do you convince people that the president's, you know, green economy and his infrastructure and investments actually matter
RYAN: Well, actions speak louder than words. It is about, of course, making that commitment, which the president has, I have, we all have. But then,
let's see the proof in the pudding. And we are seeing it. In my district alone, north of New York City, two hours, we are adding thousands of good
paying union jobs literally as we speak here, building clean energy facilities, building infrastructure, roads, bridges, broadband. That takes
time. It doesn't happen overnight, but we are seeing that. We are seeing wages finally come up for working people, for union members.
In New York, we're seeing union enrollment increase as people see the importance of that collective bargaining and the strength and power of
working people. So, I think that we are finally headed in the right direction here in the country with record bipartisan infrastructure
investment, with semiconductors and the Chips Act, with the Inflation Reduction Act and clean energy, it all comes together and it gives
directionality to the United States economy where we are going to be back leading across the globe rather than being on the receiving end of the
economy that has really hurt workers for decades.
AMANPOUR: Specifically, to the autoworkers, how does conversion to electric vehicles not hurt them? How do you make that case?
RYAN: Well, this is really about understanding that the market is already going in the direction of hybrid and electric vehicles across the world.
Not only is it a moral imperative, I believe, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but this is what consumers increasingly want, and I see this in
our own district and, in fact, in our own household where we bought our first hybrid.
So, this is about actually positioning workers and auto companies to be -- and continue to be, as American, in the lead in the next evolution of
transportation. And so, those transitions, of course, require new investments, it require some change. And it's so important to go back to
your original question that as that change is happening, everyone from the president on down supports workers, centers workers and working people and
families to make sure that as we make these transitions, wages actually go up, which we are seeing.
AMANPOUR: Congressman Ryan, getting back to the nitty-gritty of the potential shutdown, do you see any way, at this point, to avoid a shutdown?
And I think -- you know, correct me if we're wrong, but if nothing happens by this weekend, there will be a shutdown.
RYAN: Right. That's what we are headed toward now. We have to avert it. We have to avert it for national security reasons, for economic reasons, for
the well-being of thousands in my district and millions across the country.
The way I think about it is, are people here, particularly those in the Republican Party who are in charge of the house right now, are they going
to be patriots or are they going to continue to be politicians? We need more patriots in Congress right now who want to bring us together, who want
to pass whether it is continuing resolution, to buy us a little more time or, I hope, actually pass a sensible bipartisan agreement and move us
forward and fund the government.
We agreed to this several months ago, but we have seen, unfortunately, McCarthy and his MAGA extremists break that promise. So, I am still holding
out hope, but it's going to require McCarthy and his extreme allies to actually put the country first.
AMANPOUR: So, this is what the speaker actually said to reporters, you know, shortly after doing -- you know, falling victim to exactly what you
say, not being able to get an actual debate on the floor to put this to people. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's frustrating in the sense that I don't understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea
and having the debate. And then, we got all the amendments if you don't like the debate (ph). This is a whole new concept of individuals that just
want to burn the whole place down. It doesn't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, can we just break that down, the whole concept of these individuals who want to burn the whole place down? Those are the very
individuals who I assume he still owes his speakership to. How does he break through that? How does he do it and survive?
RYAN: Well, and that's the problem. When you sell your soul to become the speaker in pursuit of your own personal ambition and power, which sadly and
clearly, he has, you're then beholden to those forces. So, what he is going to have to do, as I said, is rise above his personal ambition and his
partisan politics and be a patriot and reach out to Democrats, myself included, who are ready and willing and actually have a discharge petition
to get a little into the weeds ready to go to pass a continuing resolution to move the country forward and to save significant economic pain for
working people, the same working people we were just talking about a moment ago.
AMANPOUR: And I'm going to ask you a bit more about them. But first, you must talk to fellow representatives, Republicans, who are, you know,
representing upstate districts like yourself. Well, what do they say? I mean, what do they say privately?
RYAN: Well, my New York Republican colleagues have both privately and publicly been clear that they are also extremely frustrated. They share
that same sentiment you heard from Kevin McCarthy that these are folks that don't want to govern, they have never been serious about governing, they
want to burn down the house and take the country and the American people with them.
The problem is all of the Republican Party has allowed these toxic divisive forces to take an increasing stranglehold over the Republican Party, as the
MAGA wing of the party is controlling. You see Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene literally driving the action here, that's very dangerous for our
democracy in the long run and clearly, for the function of the government in the immediate term.
AMANPOUR: Let's just talk -- I just want to know what this will mean to actual individual people who depend on government programs.
RYAN: Well, so, there's a bunch of implications. One, I have nearly 10,000 federal employees in my district alone who would have no paycheck, no
ability to put food on the table for their families, and no predict ability of when they'd get back to work again.
Then you talk about all of the critical programs from funding our troops in harm's way, military pay and to their families, to veterans' affairs
appointments, Social Security, Medicare, all of those offices are forced to close. Even our own office providing critical constituent services and all
of the other house members around the country is also impacted. So, there are real-world, very significant consequences to this.
And I have heard some of the extremists say, oh, there's no problem, there's no impact if there's a shutdown. That is just absolutely
disconnected from reality. They need to talk to the people in their district.
I was home this weekend, and across the board significant concerns, significant worry, and rightly so. So, we have to, as I said, come together
as patriots, as Americans, and actually compromise, which is what we are here to do ultimately and move us forward.
AMANPOUR: And one of the massive issues, obviously, is migration. We know that you have a broken immigration system. But right now, the influx across
the border. There seems to be a lot of differences between New York Democrats and the White House on this. What do you think is going to be a
solution? I mean, would you -- I think you said you need to call a state of emergency to address the crisis in your state or a federal state of
What is the best way forward? I mean, would somebody like yourself accept tens of thousands of migrants in your district, for instance?
RYAN: So, for months, myself, in a bipartisan way, and colleagues have been calling for us to recognize, this is -- it's a humanitarian crisis. We have
in New York alone over 100,000 people, including young kids and families, that are trying to do what they came here to do and make a better life and
have the same dream that my Irish ancestors had five generations ago, and that's not happening because our system is broken.
So, we need to recognize it as a crisis. I will say, there's a major positive and significant step that happened last week when President Biden
showed real leadership and granted essentially the ability to work to nearly 500,000 Venezuelans fleeing incredible strife in their country. In
New York alone, that's about 50,000 folks who weren't able to work and now will be able to much more quickly get to work. Not only is that good for
those families, our economy, especially in upstate New York, needs workers from farms to small businesses and everything in between.
So, there is the opportunity for win-win in the same way that we've welcomed immigrants for -- from our country's founding. But unfortunately,
there are extremists, the same extremists that want to shut down the government, that actually don't want to see progress on this. And you've
seen them same -- those same folks now condemn a very constructive step by the Biden administration because they don't actually want to solve the
problem, they want to continue to stoke partisan division.
AMANPOUR: And very briefly, I think we've got 30 seconds. Do you think this continuing crisis could derail or severely impact Democrats' hopes in, you
know, blue states in 2024?
RYAN: Well, it's about solving the problem. We have to show, as the president just did last week, we understand it's serious, we're taking real
concrete steps to address it, which he did with this extension of the TPS authority, and we need to continue to make that progress. And I'm confident
he will. That we will all work together to that. As long as we govern well, then I think we will continue to have the opportunity to lead, myself
AMANPOUR: All right. Representative Ryan, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
RYAN: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: Now, as we heard with the government shutdown looming, the capacity to process this influx at the southern border is causing concern.
The mayor of the border town, Eagle Pass, is extending the city's emergency disaster declaration as thousands cross into Texas. Muzaffar Chishti is a
senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, and he joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss what to do next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Muzaffar Chishti, thanks so much for joining us.
Just recently, we had the Biden administration announce TPS, Temporary Protection Status, to hundreds of thousands of people who had come across
our border from Venezuela before August. What does TPS mean for all of these individuals?
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI, SENIOR FELLOW, MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE: Temporary Protective Status is a provision of a law originally written in 1990, which
allows the U.S. to suspend the deportation and provide work authorization to nationals of a country that we have designated as unsafe for people to
go to. It's typically meant for critical turmoil, climate crises, earthquakes and has been used a number of times since 1990. This is the
most recent iteration of that.
I mean, Venezuela is a very unique situation in the migration flow. We have about 7.2 million Venezuelans who have left the country since the critical
crisis there. And they have mostly actually gone, to the credit of those countries, to about 16 Caribbean and Central and South American countries.
After COVID hit, which took a big economic toll on many of those countries, they started migrating to the U.S. So, it's a more recent crisis for the
U.S., but it is a big crisis. So, under this, people who are already in the United States will be given the protection. The idea by having a cutoff
(INAUDIBLE) is that it should not provide incentives for more people to come because this doesn't guarantee those people to be covered.
SREENIVASAN: Right. Does that work though? Right now, we are hearing reports that there are thousands more people basically trying to get
through the Darien Gap, this area kind of north of Panama, to come into Mexico and onward to the United States. Is that signal getting sent loud
and clear? Because what they are also hearing, at the same time, while they might hear about a gap is, wow, thousands and thousands of Venezuelans just
got this protective status. So, maybe there will be another protective status for me if there is a new deadline, say, September or October?
CHISHTI: You're right. I mean, this is the dilemma the administration faces. They have tried to create carrots and sticks in migration policies
throughout the Biden administration. So, they actually allowed Venezuelans to come to another program, it's called the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and
Venezuela parole program. That if you are sponsored by a U.S. citizen, you can actually come directly fly into the U.S. on a parole.
So, there are those pathways available. I think the administration is trying to incentivize them to use those pathways as against coming
unlawfully between ports of entry. That's part of the incentive here. But ultimately, you are right that the effectiveness while that stake is going
to be determined by how robust our enforcement is. And more importantly, which people don't understand enough is that how cooperative Mexico is
going to be.
Because if you're going to return people, they're going to go to Mexico. And if Mexico doesn't allow them back, then we have a big problem. And so,
I think the negotiations with Mexico are in high gear. And then, unfortunate (ph) measures will decide how effective the deterrent is.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about -- I guess to take a step back, what qualifies as an asylum seeker? Because we have thousands of people
showing up at the southern border asking for asylum. You know, the Senate will say, well, they have been coached to say that, and the person who
wants to hear their plight will say, they are actually running in fear for their lives. But what is it, you know, technically that qualifies within
the category of what an asylum is for the United States?
CHISHTI: To be sure, the Venezuelan TPS is different from the asylum. The asylum is a route for people to come. But you are right, asylum is
generally the default mechanism through which people who don't have authorization to come to the United States enter. And some people rightly
say that have -- they go and invoke asylum.
In that regard, our border today is totally different than it was even 10 years ago. The border challenge in the past was about single Mexican males
sneaking through the border looking for work. Now, we have large number of people from countries all over the world with families who come and seek
Now, asylum is our commitment both on the international law and national law, which means that we can't remove a person who claims that they are in
fear of facing persecution. But those persecution grounds are very narrow. They are to be on the basis of your race, religion, social group, political
opinion. And I think that's where, I think, our problem is, that our asylum system is broken. It just is backlogged. It's about -- it takes years for
people to get their process claimed and their claim processed.
So, that means that people who actually deserve it don't get it for a long time. And people who don't deserve it are clogging the system, which then
becomes the pull factor for people to come. So, we really have to address the asylum system, make it more efficient and fair at the same time.
SREENIVASAN: You know, the asylum system in specific and then even more broadly how we process individuals that are trying to gain access to the
United States, this has been a problem for decades now. But what has been - - if there is a way to summarize how the Biden administration has approached immigration and this challenge, what has that been?
CHISHTI: I would say the Biden administration has try to established incentives and disincentives. Biden administration decided to define the
voter crisis as one of optics, that this is the specter of hordes of people in a mismanaged way, trying to enter the U.S. just did not look good on
television cameras. And so, they tried to create more order to the system.
In the process, what has happened is that they have allowed a large number of people to come in an orderly way, which then has downstream effect on
cities and states, that's what we have seen exhibited in the last year or so.
So, I think they, at some point, were on the right track, that we really have to allow people to come in an orderly way. They have tried to
establish this CBP app One through which people can get appointments. But then I think there are -- that have tried to disincentivize people to come
between ports of entry.
Unfortunately, the numbers are so high that even between ports of entry, we are now letting in about 30 percent (ph) people who have arrived there. So,
we have to really get the asylum system going in a robust way so that we screen people at the border and letting people to process their application
inside the U.S., not before a clogged immigration court system, but before asylum officers who are citizens of the USCIS, and that process could take
months as again CS (ph), and that's worth trying.
SREENIVASAN: So, I'm sitting during this conversation in New York City, and New York is facing a tremendous crush of human beings that are using
resources. The city's mayor, Eric Adams, has had to, you know, walk back comments, expressing some his frustrations before. Give us an idea of what
it's doing to a place like New York or even another major city in the United States where there are a lot of Venezuelans or migrants that find
their way here?
CHISHTI: So, that's the question on a lot of people's minds, that why did this present chapter of migration to a place like New York become so
different than it has in the past? 100,000 migrants will come to New York City in the last 16 months. 100,000 people in a city of 8 million, which
has a huge history of accepting immigrants and celebrating them is not a large number.
What made this chapter different is that they came in the visible, targeted, concentrated way initially driven by political module by southern
governance. And then, we realize that New York City has this consent decree from 1981 which provides housing for everyone as a matter of right.
Now, that has never happened in our history before. Immigrants who would come, they have organically integrated into the social fiber and economy of
the city. This -- and they are generally seen as a net benefit, almost all benefit and no cost, because they provide their labor, they provide tax
contributions and they take very little in public benefits.
In this case, it became a drain on the public benefits because of housing. And New York is one of the world's most expensive housing markets. So, it
became -- you know, New York City mayor says, we are going to spend about $12 billion in the next three years, and that is a very large ticket. And
that's sort of what has gotten people concerned about it.
SREENIVASAN: So, where should that financial burden lie? I mean, the city's mayor, the governor of the state both understand the benefits that these
human beings provide to the economy. But at the same time, $12 billion doesn't materialize out of thin air. And I can see the people of the city
or the state saying, wait a minute, I don't want to foot part of that bill.
CHISHTI: Yes. I think there are two policy things that one must address from here. One is, as I said about the asylum reform, that's critical. I
think that will probably affect flows. But in New York City, we are, I think, stuck with the consent decree of 1981, which I believe is not -- I'm
not a housing expert. I'm an immigration expert. So, take this with a little bit of a grain of salt. I don't think that decree was meant for this
That lawsuit was brought by homeless men in (INAUDIBLE) who were dying from frostbite. So, it is clear that people do not have the same rights as the
intended population of the decree was.
CHISHTI: So, people should not get easy access to city shelter. They should integrate through family networks, familial and social networks on their
villages and countries of origin.
CHISHTI: That people historically have relied on.
SREENIVASAN: Do you see the steps that the Biden administration has taken to extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans using any of those
pressures on, say, the City of New York? Because at this point, these folks will not have to live in the shadows or live in the shelters and they
perhaps will be allowed to gainfully employ themselves and become, I guess, the city is opening -- hoping that they are less of a burden on the city?
CHISHTI: Yes. That's the second, I think, policy issue the administration should focus on. I think, here, the Biden administration was slow to act.
They should have realized this is not another chapter of American immigration history. That this is a crisis. And we should have treated it
like the way we treat a refugee crisis.
That look, when refugees come to our country, the federal government decides where they go. We decide to send people where either they have
families or they have -- which are places where they can get easily integrated or where the housing market is low. And I think the federal
government should say at the border, if we're going to treat these people, we're going to process them at the border. And at the border, the federal
government is going to decide which states and which cities they go to.
Once the federal government decides, it is going to be, you know, not to New York City, it's not going to be San Francisco, it's going to places
where the housing market is not as expensive and where there are more job opportunities. I think if we do that, then it will be a coordinated federal
response and New York City will not have to bear the burden that it does.
SREENIVASAN: When we look at places, for example, where most of the migrants are coming into the United States. Texas bears an enormous amount
of that strain. There are states of emergency that have been declared in several towns across Texas. Now, how much of that is political versus
practical, it can be debated. But there's no doubt that that's the giant port of entry, the giant land border where this crossing is happening.
And I wonder because of that and the actions of Governor Abbott from Texas, the accelerated political nature of this conversation, is this a situation
now where Governor Abbott, by will of his actions over the past year and a half, is winning that argument against a Kathy Hochul of New York or an
CHISHTI: I think Governor Hochul actually admitted the last week herself that he had won the argument. I think he did find the opening salvoes (ph)
here and he has almost had the last word. And I think it might have been politically motivated initially, but he did strike the message that this is
And I think the federal government, instead of treating this like a Republican or it's a Democrat, border cities versus inside blue cities, the
president, as I said earlier, should have convened. If not all 50 governors, at least the governors of impacted states.
And look, we are in a different place. Let's do this together. We're not -- this is not going to be a food fight. And then, allocated federal resources
to make it happen so that this would become a collective responsibility as against the responsibility of only southern states, which are impacted in
the initial stages of migration and New York, which are impacted when -- as a destination state.
We didn't do it. The administration has had difficulty even calling it a crisis. And that itself is a bit of a problem. Because if you don't use
(ph) the vocabulary, how will you agree on a solution?
SREENIVASAN: Was there something that the border towns in Texas can do, the localities in Texas can do differently to deal with what they are facing?
CHISHTI: I think, right now, the localities in Texas -- Texas was always a receptacle just because where the boundary is. They don't -- most of them
don't stay in Texas.
CHISHTI: So, there's -- the impact on Texas is shorter, but it can be severe for a small town. That is why, I think, the pressure should be let
off these reception cities. And federal government should establish reception centers all across the border in our opinion. They should be run
like campuses, which is all of government, all agencies from DHS to even Department of Defense to HSS, which processes kids. And in those campuses,
you should have legal service providers so that it looks like all government plus private sector response.
If we do it, then we can have reasonably good housing for people when they come soon after here and a good policy to resettle them wherever we think
is the most appropriate for them to go. If they have a family connection, that's where they go first. If they don't have a family connection, then
federal government in those reception centers decides where they should be headed.
SREENIVASAN: You know, it sounds theoretically like it should work. And this is all sort of assuming that we have some semblance of an orderly
process. I mean, recently, "The Wall Street Journal" estimated another 130,000 people were crossing through the Darien Gap. That means that that
surge is coming to the United States. What do you do? How many possible sort of information takers do you have at the border to be able to process
just this sheer volume of human beings?
CHISHTI: Yes. I mean, none of this should be under the impression that this is not a big crisis. I mean, I think that's I think acknowledging that this
is a big crisis helps. So, you get Mexico involved in a much different way in people coming from south of Mexico to north of Mexico. I mean, part of
this is Mexico's issue. I mean, people are coming through Mexico. Then you'd really do engage people -- countries in the region to say, look, if
people are truly fleeing persecution or conditions of safety, that's a collective responsibility.
So, it's not one magic bullet that's going to do it. You have -- we have to do it in a big way and in a very concerted way where diplomacy helps. But I
think most importantly, Congress has been absent in this. I mean, members of Congress, especially in the Republican Party, are busy using the
narrative of the border crisis as a political slogan, but they would not lift a finger in improving more appropriations for border patrol or for the
USCIS asylum officers.
We need tons more asylum officers. We need tons (INAUDIBLE) more judges. They are as important to this fight as we have troops at the border. And
you need detention facilities. You need these processing centers now to be established at a war footing, that needs money. And of the scale of money
that only Congress can appropriate. And if they stop using it as a political ploy and finding actually preventive solutions, we might get to a
SREENIVASAN: Senior fellow from the Migration Policy Institute Muzaffar Chishti, thanks so much for joining us.
CHISHTI: Thanks so much for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And next, to a woman who fled her home in Iran after the regime's brutal crackdown on activists there. Elahe Tavakolian lost her sight in one
eye amid the demonstrations that swept the country a year ago after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran's notorious Morality Police.
In this report, Tavakolian speaks to Jomana Karadsheh about her experience. And why despite her injury, she has no regrets. And of course, some viewers
might find some of these images difficult.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To the chance of death to the dictator, a protester tears down a poster of Iran's supreme leader.
ELAHE TAVAKOLIAN, INJURED IRANIAN PROTESTER (through translator): A young girl was murdered because of compulsory hijab. We couldn't take it anymore.
It was like a fire hidden under the ashes.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): And like a wildfire, the protest spread to every corner of Iran. Their rage was met with violent repression. In the small
town of Isfahan (ph), the fear, the chaos captured in this shaky cell phone video also captured this, security forces opening fire at protesters.
A scene is so hard to watch as the crowd rushed to help a woman screaming in pain after she was shot in the eye.
TAVAKOLIAN (through translator): That moment when I got shot was the bitterest moment of my life.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): That woman is 32-year-old Elahe Tavakolian. She was at the protest with her 10-year-old twins.
TAVAKOLIAN (through translator): My children were just shouting. They killed our mom. Help. When this person started shooting, we saw him. He was
30 or 40 meters away. I saw him aiming at us. I turned sideways to shield my children and I was shot. I could see only blood. I covered my eye with
my hand. I felt like if I take my hand off, it might fall out of its socket.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Elahe is not alone. Activists say Iranian security forces were using metal pallets and rubber bullets deliberately and
systematically shooting the eyes and blinding more than 500 protesters according to rights groups. Many have shared their photos online, but the
regimes called them liars, spreading propaganda.
TAVAKOLIAN (through translator): I'm in pain, it burns. I'm dying. I don't want to be blind.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Elahe lay in a hospital in this agonizing pain for hours. Doctors reluctant to help her as security forces were hunting down
the injured and those who aided them. After a surgery to treat her wound, Elahe stayed at home in a dark room for more than three weeks.
TAVAKOLIAN (through translator): I could hear them from my room chanting slogans. Something was pulling me outside to speak, to shout, to demand my
rights. I felt like my fight wasn't over yet.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): But she also wanted to save her eye. With the help of an Italian journalist, Elahe made it to Italy where she's undergone more
surgeries. It was too late. Doctors discovered that the pallet still lodged behind her eye had moved and were forced to remove the eye. She was fitted
with a prosthetic, but life has never been harder for Elahe. She still lives with the physical pain, the trauma alone in a foreign country now
relying on donations and friends to survive. And hardest of all, not knowing if she will ever see her children again.
TAVAKOLIAN (through translator): I never regretted this and I never will. If I return to Iran, I will do it again. So many say this revolution is
over, but it is not over. All across the country women are now going out without hijab because they are no longer afraid of them. This is our method
of civil resistance.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): The regime may have crushed the protest, but the resilience of Elahe like so many others remains unshakable.
TAVAKOLIAN (through translator): No matter how many times they cut the flowers, they cannot stop the spring from coming. They shot my eye and they
shot others, but the struggle is going on. No matter how many they kill, they cannot stop the spring from coming. They cannot keep freedom from
returning to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Jomana Karadsheh reporting there on strong, determined and defiant women.
And finally, a moment of Zen. A rare dumbo octopus was spotted by scientists during a remote deep-sea research dive in the North Pacific
Ocean. There it is. Its nickname for its flapping ear, which look like fins or rather their ear-like fins that resemble the Disney elephant. A spooky
sea creature was floating at a depth of 1,700 meters.
Now, a Kyiv Museum exhibit that I visited while I was there months ago also specializes in floating sea creatures like these jellyfish. And especially
during the war, it provides a peaceful respite. So, there's something to all of this then.
That's it for now. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.