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Interview With UNRWA Commissioner Genera Philippe Lazzarini; Interview With Israeli Journalist And Former Member Of The Knesset For The Zionist Union Ksenia Svetlova; Interview With The Atlantic Staff Writer Caitlin Dickerson. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 02, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
The scale of the tragedy in Gaza is unprecedented, that's according to U.N. official Philippe Lazzarini. He speaks with Christiane Amanpour, his first
interview since leaving the territory.
And as war in the Middle East works to Russia's advantage, how do Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to cultivate Vladimir Putin look now? I ask Israeli
politician and peace activist Ksenia Svetlova.
Then, welcome news for migrant families separated by the Trump administration. Michel Martin speaks with Pulitzer Prize winning reporter
Also, we remember Ady Barkan, a heroic fighter for healthcare rights.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
With millions trapped inside Gaza under siege and under fire, the humanitarian situation spirals towards catastrophe. Now, President Biden
says he supports a humanitarian pause in hopes of getting aid in and hostages out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: United States are going to continue to drive humanitarian support for innocent people in Gaza who need help, and they do
need help. We're going to continue to affirm that Israel has the right to respond. A responsibility defended citizens from terror, and it needs to do
so in a manner that was consistent international humanitarian law that prioritizes protection of citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The Israel Defense Forces chief says his troops on the ground are operating in very significant areas of Gaza City.
Meanwhile, even veteran aid workers are overwhelmed by conditions there. Hospitals are struggling to treat injured patients, lacking essential
medical supplies, fuel, and fresh water. And as Israel's bombardment continues, the U.N. reports women and children make up the majority of
Philippe Lazzarini is commissioner general of UNRWA, the United Nations agency providing relief for Palestinian refugees. He spoke with Christiane
earlier in his first interview since visiting Gaza, calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and saying the scale of the tragedy is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Philippe Lazzarini, welcome to the program. Can I start by asking you some news that has come
in, suggestions that Israeli military action may have affected an UNRWA school in the Jabalia camp? Do you know anything about that? What can you
PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, COMMISSIONER GENERA, UNRWA: Listen, Christiane, indeed, I'm receiving extraordinary difficult news about the schools in
Jabalia, but not only in Jabalia, but also in Beach Camp.
In fact, over the last few hours, I received reports that three of our schools sheltering about 20,000 people have been hit. This reportedly has
led to the deaths of more than 20 people in Jabalia and also one person at the Beach Camp.
AMANPOUR: Sorry. Is that 20 sheltering civilians? Is that 20 of your officials?
LAZZARINI: No, these are official UNRWA schools where we shelter a number of displaced person in the north of Gaza. These are shelters which are
clearly notified, localization are extremely well known, and we had thousands of people at the time the shelter have been hit. And the first
report coming out of Jabalia indicating that more than 20 people have been killed.
AMANPOUR: Philippe Lazzarini, you have just said that you have notified the Israelis and they know very well these locations. Can you explain to me
why you believe, because it's a really, I'm afraid, contested topic right now, why do you think these civilian areas are being hit?
LAZZARINI: So, listen, the fighting is taking place in overcrowded areas, in urban areas. We know also that fighting is taking place in Gaza City
right now, but we have -- still, we estimate that there are still around 300,000 to 400,000 civilians in this area.
So, take the example of Jabalia camp. It was one of the most crowded camp in the Gaza Strip. But we still believe that there are around 40,000 people
So, yes, public infrastructure, including the UNRWA school, unfortunately, have been also hit during this fighting. And people sheltering there,
basically, are not more safe than anywhere else.
AMANPOUR: Do you -- I mean, how do you categorize this then? Is it accidental? Is it a war crime? Is it deliberately not distinguishing
between civilians and Hamas fighters?
LAZZARINI: Listen according to international humanitarian law, there is a criteria of proportionality and also of distinction. When I was briefing
this week the Security Council, I said, the number of people being killed so far is so staggering that this cannot be collateral anymore.
AMANPOUR: Could I ask you? Because we're talking to you and we have this opportunity, you have been inside Gaza for the first time since October
7th. You've called it, I believe, the most sad, sad day in all your humanitarian work. Talk to me about that.
LAZZARINI: So, listen, I have been first to Gaza 40 years ago. It's -- Gaza is a society I know very well. It was a vibrant society. It was
extraordinarily sad because I visited a school, overcrowded school, sheltering thousands of displaced people. And basically, the only ask to
people had at that time was, please give me water. Please give me a loaf of bread.
And later on, I was talking to my staffer in Gaza, and they were confirming that. Today, the Gaza Strip is running out of everything, running out of
fuel, running out of water, running out of fuel -- food, running out of medicine, and the market is completely depleted. And it's extremely sad to
see how much now this population is completely dependent on an international humanitarian community, which is not in a position anymore to
deliver at scope what they need.
What I see right now is an entire population being moved to the south, which basically has absolutely nothing available. They left -- most of them
-- many of them left the north quite with very little things. And they arrive in the south, which is completely overcrowded to twice its
population now. No market -- no goods available anymore at the market. Public service is collapsing and they all depend on us right now.
AMANPOUR: So, do you understand and do you accept what we saw were instances of looting and the, you know, international authorities said
that, you know, the social fabric is starting to break down in Gaza?
LAZZARINI: The social fabric is indeed breaking down. The civil order is breaking down. And I understand you have hundreds of people queuing in
front of bakeries nowadays, just with the hope to get a loaf of bread. And we are now put in a situation where it is becoming almost impossible to
offload bread from the bakery that we are supporting to bring back to our shelter just because you have hundreds of other people expressing their
hunger in front of this bakery. And I understand also that this hunger is turning into anger, and visibly the International Community and the UNRWA
is the face of the International Community in the Gaza Strip.
AMANPOUR: Even despite what we understand is an expanding humanitarian trickle, I guess, I'm calling it a trickle, you tell me what it is, what's
coming through Rafah?
LAZZARINI: Listen, Christiane, we need much, much more. Before October 7, there was an average of 500 trucks into Gaza Street, and this was already
described as being a blockade. And year after year after year, the population of Gaza started to become more and more dependent of the
international humanitarian community.
We were, for example, providing 50 percent of the caloric need of 1.2 million people before that. Today, after an almost total siege, we are
talking about a handful of trucks coming into the Gaza Strip. At the time, the market is also completely depleted. At the time, the last remaining
public services have completely collapsed.
So, yes, this handful of trucks basically don't do anything to reverse the fact that Gaza -- the Gaza Strip is being strangled by the siege.
AMANPOUR: Philippe, can I ask you this? There is a lot of controversy over fuel, for instance, and reports citing all sorts of experts, Israeli,
western and others, in fact, even Middle Eastern, that over the years, Hamas has stored and hoarded all that it needs in its underground tunnels,
whether it's food, medicine, fuel for its war effort, and that it could, you know, have enough to fight for three to four months.
You know, Gaza is a very different place than when you went 30 years ago. I mean, what can you tell us about the Hamas authorities vis a vis taking
care of civilian needs?
LAZZARINI: So, listen, what I can tell you is that no one right now is taking care of the civilian need. But when it comes to the fuel, I have no
idea what has been the military building up of the Hamas into Gaza Strip. But I can tell you that we as UNRWA, our reserve of fuel have completely
depleted and we were looking at where -- what other fuel is available in the Gaza Strip. There were commercial fuel, which were available and there
were also fuel which were brought in by the International Community to supply the electric plant.
Now, over the last week, we have, through deconfliction (ph) with the Israeli, picked up the remaining fuel, the remaining commercial fuel, which
was available in the Gaza Strip, which means in the coming days, we won't be able anymore to supply bakeries, supply hospitals, supply the water
station. But in the coming days, we might even be unable to move our trucks within the Gaza Strip to provide humanitarian assistance to 700,000 people,
for example, sheltering in our premises but also to the rest of the population.
AMANPOUR: I have to say it stuck with me what you said at the beginning that all these children were just asking you for a sip of water and a piece
of bread. It's heartbreaking to hear that. And also, you yourself, as UNRWA, have lost your -- you know, dozens of workers. Tell me what's the
situation with your own employees on the ground?
LAZZARINI: So, listen, Christiane, we have lost, as of now, 72 staff. The last staff I just heard was a disabled staff member, May. She was doing
coding. We, one year ago, published a video about what she was doing. Very proud also to support her family. And she's the last person reported killed
among 72 people.
Now, I met the staff yesterday in Gaza. Basically, they are sharing the same living condition than anyone else. They are living in shelter. They
are struggling on a daily basis to find bread, to find the water, to protect their children. And despite that, and despite the heavy loss within
this organization, they remain committed to do whatever is possible to provide support to the people in Gaza, but it's a constant daily struggle,
but I have to say that I take a lot of inspiration in their strengths and dedication.
AMANPOUR: Would you ever consider withdrawing UNRWA staff just like, you know, some wounded Palestinians are being evacuated, dual nationals are
being allowed to leave?
LAZZARINI: Listen, we are in the mode of rotation. We have the mode of scaling up our operation. I have been very clear. We need to scale up this
operation. We should not continue to talk about 50, 60, 70 trucks. This operation needs to be brought up at scale if we want to reserve the
ongoing, I would say, civil breakdown. But if we want to make sure that people do not start to die because of the impact of the siege, because of
our difficulties to bring our assistance at scale in the Gaza Strip.
AMANPOUR: Philippe, I want to ask you a touchy question. You know, everything is disputed. Numbers are disputed, death tolls, you know, who's
a civilian, who's a fighter. So, the Palestinian Authorities, I guess Hamas run authorities in Gaza and the, you know, officials in Ramallah say now
that over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed since the air war began after October 7th.
Now, I spoke to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week, he said these numbers are exaggerated and I quoted you basically, saying that
in the past six cycles of conflict, Hamas figures had been considered credible by all sides. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EHUD OLMERT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The U.N. numbers are as credible as Hamas numbers. And we leave it aside for a second, OK? I don't
trust the U.N. numbers. The U.N. numbers are not very reliable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you say to that?
LAZZARINI: Well, listen, I can tell you that the 72 staff member of UNRWA are reliable. They have been confirmed. These are our figures. And if I
compare it to 72 with our 13,000 staff in the Gaza Strip with the 9,000 being published by the Ministry of Health and the 2.2 million inhabitants
in the Gaza Strip, we have more or less the same percentage of people being killed.
AMANPOUR: That's a very clear response. Philippe Lazzarini, thank you so much indeed.
LAZZARINI: Christiane, thank you. Thank you to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And thanks to Christiane for that exclusive interview.
Meantime, Russia's President Vladimir Putin has professed to be impartial towards Israel and Gaza, but recent events indicate otherwise. There was an
insane antisemitic riot in Dagestan, where crowds stormed a flight from Israel coming just days after Hamas delegation held high level talks in
Moscow. These events are raising questions inside and outside of Israel as to why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stayed neutral in Russia's Ukraine
Ksenia Svetlova is part of Russia's large -- is part of Israel's large Russian community. She was a member of Knesset and is now policy fellow at
the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign policies. Ksenia, thank you so much for joining us.
I want to talk about what is happening in Gaza and the developments in this war in a moment, but let's stick with this thread focused on Russia and
Vladimir Putin specifically. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting just moments ago that U.S. intelligence believes that the Wagner Group may
provide air defense weapons to Hezbollah. That on top of what I described in the introduction these meetings in Moscow with Hamas officials, with
Iranian officials, Vladimir Putin waiting days to speak out following the October 7th massacre. What is your take on Russia's stance on the current
situation right now?
KSENIA SVETLOVA, ISRAELI JOURNALIST AND FORMER MEMBER OF THE KNESSET FOR THE ZIONIST UNION: Well, Bianna, unfortunately, I can tell you that what
we felt, many of us in Israel felt for years, when Russia automatically voted against Israel in the U.N. institutions, when it had close ties with
all of Israel's enemies, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
Now, all of this prognosis that Russia can actually harm Israel, now it's coming to life. And now, we see it also with this outrageous speech of a
Russian representative at the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, that said today that Israel actually does not have a right to defend itself. Everybody in Israel
right now is discussing it and it's very high in the agenda, I believe.
But unfortunately, we still don't hear a word from the government, also from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the special relations that Prime
Minister Netanyahu was so proud of. He's still being maintained by him. And even when there are pogroms against Jews and the terms of lynches in
Dagestan, which is part of Russia, is still -- everybody seems to be just numb, fearing to anger Putin and to provoke him in the -- perhaps in the
north, you know, in the Syria. I believe that Israel already has nothing to lose. With -- it was -- it's already -- we crossed all the red lines
GOLODRYGA: You know, it wasn't so long ago that there were placards and billboards in Israel of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin, and
you take that and now couple it with Vladimir Putin, who has always been obsessed with World War II, and that's how he's described and compared his
illegal war on Ukraine and "killing Nazis and denazifying Ukraine."
Well, now he is comparing Israel's siege on Gaza to the German siege on Leningrad, and that's led some to wonder what if any role Russia has played
in all of this? Because at the end of the day, it does appear, up until this point, that Vladimir Putin comes out the victor, the attention and the
focus on Ukraine and that war has shifted. As you know, there is a lot of dispute in U.S. Congress now about funding the war in Ukraine. What do you
make of this?
SVETLOVA: ?Well, there is no doubt that Russia indeed emerges from all of this as the main beneficiary from this war in the Middle East. It's yet to
be established, Bianna, by our intelligence and the American intelligence what was exactly the role of Russia in perhaps making Hamas understand that
they have a backer.
And you see how all of the leaders of the Hamas, Khaled Mashal, Ismail Haniyeh, Abu Marzook, thank Russia for their support and thank them, you
know, for the continuation of this steadfast position on the rights of the Palestinian people.
So, I can tell you that even this diplomatic embrace of the Hamas team that visited Moscow just recently, it meant a lot because it inspires many of
the Hamas supporters and backers to think that, you know, here is a superpower that supports and refuses to condemn outright the atrocities of
the Hamas, and perhaps there is even more to this relationship that we know.
But yet, we do not have the details right now. There are no indications so far that any Russian weapon was transferred by a Russian federation to
Hamas. And I'm very hopeful that the intelligences of the West and in Israel are working hard to check out the various rumors that are
circulating in the social media for quite a while.
GOLODRYGA: And we know that Israel has been improving its ties with Iran over its war in Ukraine and buying drones from Iran over the past few
months. And on the subject of Iran, there is a lot of concern about what we may hear from the Hezbollah, which is obviously supported by Iran, and that
is one of their organizations and proxies, that so many people are focused on to see what, if anything, they will do in this war. Will they get
And Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is expected to speak tomorrow. This as we're just getting news that the Lebanon branch of Hamas in the Southern
Lebanon has fired rockets into Kiryat Shmona, in Northern Israel. How concerned is the Israeli government about what may or may not happen in the
days and weeks to come from some of Iran's proxies?
SVETLOVA: Well, Bianna, first of all, we have to, you know, call things by their names. When somebody fires from Lebanese territory, from Southern
Lebanon, there is no doubt that it's happening with the full permission and support of Hezbollah. They also have some kind of Palestinian proxy. Today,
it's Iran -- today, it's -- sorry, it's Hamas, but it used to be also the Ahmad Jibril organization for quite a while, all during the 2000s. So, the
entity that is firing right now on Israeli towns and cities, it's of course Hezbollah.
Yes, Israel is very much concerned about the official opening of their second front in the north. Because then, you know, we understand that the
capacities of Hezbollah are so much robust (ph) and stronger than those of the Hamas.
It's also the rockets -- the precision rockets, and this is why during all of these years, Israel went to such a great length in order to prevent from
Iran to help Hezbollah with this precision rocket project. This was, you know, all of the operations in Syria has to do specifically with that.
But believe me, for now, they have enough to inflict great damage on Israel and its population. But at the same time everybody knows, you know, that --
everybody -- everything is in the open right now after this slaughter in the Israeli south. Israel cannot live safely when on its borders, there are
two terrorist entities. You have one, Hezbollah in the north, and the second, Hamas in the south. So, sooner or later, Israel would have to deal
with both of them.
GOLODRYGA: Ksenia, is there faith in the current operation, which has just expanded, let's just call it what it is, a war in Gaza right now, that
there is a plan that the IDF has for the day after, that let's say they are successful and they do demolish Hamas and their leadership, their military
leadership, then what comes next?
SVETLOVA: This is precisely because of this question, what comes next? The -- many governments, starting from the (INAUDIBLE), whom you mentioned
earlier, and of course, all the consecutive --
GOLODRYGA: Ksenia, can you hear me? It looks like you're -- it looks like you're shot maybe frozen. Can you hear me?
OK. We unfortunately have a technical difficulty with Ksenia's connection to us. We'll try to reconnect with her.
Meantime, we want to bring you more information out of Gaza because, of course, there are countless civilians, aid workers, and journalists caught
in the crosshairs and are unable to evacuate to safety. Our CNN colleague who has been bringing us so much information and so much day to day
reporting from the ground, Ibrahim Dahman, along with his wife who is pregnant and their two young sons, filed this report for us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IBRAHIM DAHMAN, CNN PRODUCER (voiceover): We were at UNRWA shelter camp, west of Khan Younis. The shelter has more than 20,000 people who were
displaced from Northern Gaza. Everyone here has physical and mental exhaustion.
Food arrives irregularly and water is not suitable for drinking. The food is very bad. Every two to three days, they deliver canned food. The place
is very crowded. We talked to several families living in tents, many of them sleep on the floor. And if it rains, they will have nowhere to go and
will get wet.
There are more than 20,000 people here, it's a very large place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And our thanks to Ibrahim for that.
Our other correspondent, Nada Bashir, has more on the Israeli strikes on the Jabalia camp and the emotional toll that it is taking on civilians
there. We want to warn you, some of these images in her report are graphic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Chaos and horror at Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp. Wounded children rushed to nearby ambulances the
latest casualties of Israel's relentless aerial bombardment.
This densely populated neighborhood gripped by panic and sheer disbelief, a second Israeli airstrike in less than 24 hours.
I lost my whole family, Abdulkarim (ph) says, holding a list of those killed just today.
My sister's house was struck with her children inside. My brother's house too, with all of his children. There is no one left except for me and my
younger brother. They were innocent. What did they do to deserve this?
Israel's Defense Force says it was targeting a Hamas command and control complex in Jabalia. Hamas fighters said to be among those killed, but
Jabalia is home to more than 100,000 civilians, according to the U.N.
And while the full extent of the civilian death toll remains unclear at this stage, Gaza's civil defense authority has described this latest
disaster as a massacre, with more casualties and more fatalities added to the list of hundreds said to have been killed or wounded in Tuesday's
This situation is beyond belief. Many have been killed, bodies have been left burned and charred by the airstrike, this doctor says. There isn't a
hospital in the world that could cope with this kind of situation. We're having to treat patients on the floor and in corridors.
The scale of the destruction at Jabalia is difficult to grasp. Many residents are still buried beneath the blackened rubble. Rescue workers and
civilians dig side by side, desperate to find survivors.
This house had 15 people in it, but we still haven't been able to find any of them, Hasan Ahmed says. We have no equipment. We are digging alone.
Northern Gaza continues to come under heavy bombardment. Its residents warned by Israel to evacuate southwards.
But airstrikes continue to rain down across both central and southern Gaza too. And for the more than two million Palestinians living under an Israeli
blockade, the fear is that there is nowhere safe to turn.
Nada Bashir, CNN in Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Our thanks to Nada. We do want to let you know that we were not able to reconnect with Ksenia Svetlova. We will try to have her back on the
show as soon as we can.
But we turn now to the U.S., where illegal border crossings have reached record highs. And New York grapples with an influx of migrants over 126,000
since last spring.
If elected president again in 2024, Donald Trump promises a crackdown on immigration, which comes as the Biden administration is settling a lawsuit
over Trump's controversial child separation policy.
Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Caitlin Dickerson joins Michel Martin to discuss the impact of that policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Caitlin Dickerson, thank you so much for joining us.
CAITLIN DICKERSON, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: You won a Pulitzer Prize, which is one of our field's highest honors for your reporting on the Trump administration's family separation
policy, what they called the Zero-tolerance Policy. I just wanted to start by asking, you know, how did this start? Like, what's the genesis of this?
DICKERSON: Sure. So, let me take you back to 2017, Michel. I'm on the immigration beat. President Trump has just taken office. We know he's going
to be making a lot of changes because he's campaigned on wanting to crack down on immigration as much as possible. And so, I'm covering things like
the travel ban, like the border wall.
But I get a tip pretty early that year that the Homeland Security secretary has been presented with an idea to take migrant children away from their
parents as a way to discourage illegal border crossing. So, it's a deterrent strategy, probably the most aggressive one that this country has
And the idea was simply to send a very, very strong message that this kind of brutal reality would meet any family that tried to cross the border. The
idea begins to be debated within the Department of Homeland Security, and then I start to get tips that separations have actually begun, one by one.
I start reaching out to the administration and asking them, has the separation policy begun, you know, explaining to them the details of the
cases that I was being tipped off to.
And I was hearing for about a year that separations hadn't begun. There was a big disconnect. What we know now is that hundreds and hundreds, in fact,
over a thousand separations took place in secret before this policy known as zero-tolerance was ever announced publicly, that happened in the summer
of 2018, and separations increased even more after that.
MARTIN: So, the Biden administration estimates that a total of 3,924 kids were separated from their families from 2017 to 2021. As of last month,
about a thousand children still hadn't been reunited with their families. Where are they? How is that possible?
DICKERSON: It's really striking. And I should say the total count of separations that I have is over 5,000. There are a few different numbers
that have been batted around as the ACLU has had to fight in court to basically get every single separated family to fall under the purview of
the lawsuit that they filed against family separations.
And part of the problem that we're discussing here is that there was really, really poor record keeping. That's why these counts change all the
time. And it's also why we haven't been able to identify and reunify so many families that you're asking about.
MARTIN: But in 2021, the Biden administration set up a task force to reunify these families. So, I guess that's why it's puzzling. Is it that it
still hasn't happened?
DICKERSON: The reason why it's not puzzling to me, Michel, is because my reporting found that there was very, very little documentation of
separation. Sometimes no documentation of a separation at all for about a year until the policy became acknowledged publicly, and then the
administration started to take some account of the separations.
By then, so many had taken place. Hundreds of parents had already been deported without their children. And you had this issue where children were
being sent to one federal agency, the Health and Human Services Department. Parents were being sent to any number of federal agencies that were
different. Some were in ICE custody, some were in U.S. Marshals custody, some were in the Bureau of Prisons custody, some were released into the
United States, and some were deported.
The computer systems across these federal agencies did not speak to one another. And depending on where parents ended up, how their cases were
handled, how quickly they were deported, some left the country without the U.S. government having any way of locating them again. No address, no phone
number. Add to that, that in many cases, we were talking about at this time, asylum seeking families who were fleeing deep, deep poverty in
Central America. So, folks who didn't have steady access to the internet, may not have had a phone, may not have had a firm street address.
A lot of them, of course, were fleeing violence, fleeing unsafe situations. And so, it's not as if even if they did have an address, they return to the
exact same place they left when they saw asylum in the first place. And so, this Biden administration task force has had to try to forensically
reconstruct from any information that exists across these government databases, enough information to reunify families, and it's proven an
almost impossible task.
MARTIN: Do we know anything about the children who still haven't been reunited with family members? Is there any through line to them? For
example, do they tend to be younger? I mean, like, older kids, you know, have some ability to, you know, remember their parents' names or some
identifying details or the names of aunts or uncles or other sort of family members? Obviously, younger children, you know, less so. Or perhaps they
speak indigenous languages. And perhaps Spanish, for example, is not their first language, let alone English.
DICKERSON: The government, the Biden administration really has not given us good information about who these children are, including what their ages
are. I think your guess is probably a really good one, Michel. I spent a lot of time reporting on the babies that were separated from their parents
at this time.
I tracked down the youngest separated child who was four months old when he was taken away from his parents. He spent five months in government
custody. And another great example of what you just talked about, the language barrier. His family was actually from Romania. So, his dad spent
months in ICE custody without an interpreter to explain what his case was. And of course, the baby was nonverbal for the entire time that he was in
So, there were many, many cases of children who were babies and toddlers who were separated. And I think it's a fair guess that it's perhaps those
younger children who've had a harder time reconnecting with their parents just simply because they weren't old enough to speak, to memorize phone
numbers, to know family members who could be contacted to try to track parents down.
MARTIN: So, we've talked about the administration set up this task force to try to reunite families that had been separated, but they also settled a
lawsuit brought on behalf of families who were separated at the U.S. Mexico border. And I understand that this settlement still needs to be approved by
the judge overseeing the case. If approved, what would it do?
DICKERSON: So, this settlement is very significant in the eyes of the ACLU that represented these thousands of separated families. They got almost
everything that they were asking for. Any family who is separated is entitled to re-enter the United States if one or both members was deported,
to apply for asylum and invoke their separation in their asylum claim to be reunited, of course, and also to seek mental health and medical care that
could be paid for in part by the federal government if it's deemed related to the separation itself.
Some families will also receive funding and support for legal resources to pursue these asylum claims and some may even be eligible for access to
housing. The other huge, huge part of the settlement is that it says family separations are outlawed for eight years.
So, of course, a lot of advocates, the ACLU included, would have liked to see a forever ban on family separations. The Biden administration, I'm
told, really put their foot down when it came to that issue, did not want to legislate in a federal court settlement. And so, they landed at a
compromise of eight years.
And so, this is viewed as a great success, you know, with the huge caveat of what we're actually talking about here. We're talking about making
amends for thousands of children having been taken away from their parents. We're talking about what medical experts have said unequivocally can cause
lifelong damage. And we're also talking about those hundreds of families that have yet to be reunited. Will they be able to get access to these
benefits from the settlement is still an open question?
MARTIN: OK. Let me go back again to when the former president first introduced this zero-tolerance policy, the family separation policy back in
2018. I think people may remember there was bipartisan outrage about it.
Somebody like, you know, the former first lady, Laura Bush, even wrote an op-ed about it. A person who was, you know, reluctant to take public
stances on -- you know, on most issues, even when she had the platform of first lady. So, it was quite an extraordinary thing. Republicans even
drafted legislation to outlaw family separation, but nothing happened. I -- just what does your reporting tell us about that?
DICKERSON: You're exactly right, Michel, that the full spectrum of representation in Congress was crying out and demanding, once this policy
became public, that the Trump administration put it to a stop, and they wanted to outlaw everybody from the House Freedom Caucus to Nancy Pelosi,
and it never happened.
And what happened is that the family separation policy, controversial as it was, it really got dragged into the general bipartisan sort of stuckness
and cynicism that has prevented overall immigration reform from happening for so many decades. So, I think once family separation came to a stop, the
reunification efforts started and you had a sort of scapegoat to blame. And Kirstjen Nielsen, the DHS secretary, who lost her job not long after family
separations came to an end, Congress was ready to move on.
And we went back to the status quo where you have Democrats and Republicans widely, widely separate from one another and really no political will to
make progress, even on something that at one point everybody agreed on.
MARTIN: Totally, I think, you know, President Biden is very different from President Trump. I mean, you don't see him going out of his way to demean
people from whole parts of the world as being, you know, criminals by definition. But from a policy standpoint, are there substantial differences
between the Biden administration and the Trump administration, apart from the rhetoric?
DICKERSON: It's important, as you've emphasized, Michel, to say that the Biden administration is taking a very different tone when it speaks about
immigrants, when it speaks about our country's relationship to immigrants and the goals that we have.
But as an immigration reporter, I do have to say that I've seen this administration reach again and again for the same deterrent policies to try
to crack down on border crossing that not just the Trump administration relied on, remember, but also the Obama administration, also the Bush
administration. These are old tools. We have no evidence that they work, but they are part of the political playbook that has not fundamentally
MARTIN: Give an example. I mean, I know what got a lot of attention was this sort of a barrier on the Rio Grande. Like give an example of what you
say is, you know, more of the same, going into the Biden administration.
DICKERSON: So, it's restrictions on access to asylum. I mean, it was the continuation of the Title 42 border policy for a very long stretch of time
that led to, as your viewers will recall, vast numbers of expulsions from people at the southern border who were hoping to come to the United States
to seek asylum but were instead kicked out under the pretenses of the pandemic, even though I traced the history of that policy and it had
nothing to do with COVID-19 when it was put into place. This was just another attempt that the Trump administration tried to cut off access to
the border and to asylum.
And then, as you pointed out, there's the continuation of the building of the wall. The Biden administration has said multiple things at once. You
know, President Biden campaigned and said, not another foot of wall would be built under his presidency. And yet, we do see more wall being built.
Then you had the president saying, well, Congress tied my hands. I didn't want to do it, but I have to. Well, the DHS secretary that he appointed is
saying, I support the idea for this wall.
So, there's a lot of mixed messaging, but the policies themselves point to greater restrictions and more use of deterrent policies to try to minimize
MARTIN: You actually traveled to the Ukraine Poland border. Did you see differences in the experiences of refugees and would be migrants there
versus the -- what you've been reporting on for some time now at the U.S. Mexico border? What was the difference that you saw?
DICKERSON: Absolutely. It was quite stark. I mean, my interest in global migration is to see, you know, this is an international issue. You have
forced migration on the rise really across the globe. And so, I wanted to try to take a look and compare the experiences that I've been able to
What I saw in Poland was quite striking. You know, the Polish parliament had passed emergency legislation to give 18 months of legal status to any
Ukrainian who'd crossed the border, as well as cash support, access to the health care system. Children were enrolled in schools. And it wasn't just a
There was also a social and a cultural difference. You know, walking around in Warsaw, Ukrainians were universally referred to as refugees. It was --
they were sort of treated as synonymous. And that's very different, of course, from the way that the Trump administration looked at Central
Americans who were seeking fundamentally the same type of status, you know, refugee status in the United States, instead of being referred to as
refugees, they were referred to as criminals, as rapists, as we know, as people who were trying to exploit the American immigration system.
MARTIN: Isn't there a difference though between people who were invaded, literally invaded by another country versus people who have been, I mean,
trying to move across the border for -- you know, frankly, for, well, I mean, all kinds of reasons?
DICKERSON: I agree with you. There's a big difference. And for a lot of people, that will explain exactly why Poland was so welcoming to refugees
from Ukraine. Although I will point out, Poland was not welcoming to anybody who had been living in Ukraine who was from another country who
tried to enter Poland, in particular if they were African or Middle Eastern. But for a lot of people, this difference alone justifies the way
that Poland welcomed Ukrainians and the comparison between that and the way that the United States was treating Central Americans.
This is a really good point. Our asylum system is not clear on who is entitled to refuge in the United States and who isn't. But many, many
Central Americans have successfully won asylum cases. And so, while there may be a difference in terms of, you know, just the psyche and the
emotional reaction to the news of the day, the reason for people crossing the border, legally, there isn't always a distinction. And then it becomes
a question of, I think, social dynamics, of cultural dynamics, which are always at play when it comes to immigration.
MARTIN: What I think I hear you saying is that you think race or ethnicity is a part of it.
DICKERSON: You cannot take race and ethnicity out of immigration. So, there were refugees trying to come into Poland who were from predominantly
Muslim countries through Belarus, leading up to and during the war in Ukraine. The leader, the elected leader of Poland talked about viewing
Islam as fundamentally at odds with Polish culture and Polish identity. And so, while Ukrainians were being allowed to cross the border really without
limitation, the Polish border guards were blocking the border from Belarus, and in fact, using things like water cannons, there were people who froze
to death in the forest between Belarus and Poland, trying to get into Poland, and you can't ignore the demographic difference between how these
groups are treated.
MARTIN: So, before we let you go, Caitlin, this is the very hard question, is it possible that some of these children will never be reunited with
their families? Is that possible?
DICKERSON: I think it's absolutely possible. I would even go as far as to say that it's likely. I mean, certainly many parents and children will find
each other and won't report back to the U.S. government about it for obvious reasons. I think lots of these families want to stay as far away
from the U.S. government as they possibly can.
But I think given what we know about how careless the administration went about this effort, how little record keeping took place, and all these
challenges when it comes to language access, internet access, you know, funding to seek out lawyers, I think it's fair to say that it's likely that
some children may never make their way back to the parent they crossed the border with, which is a very troubling reality.
MARTIN: Caitlin Dickerson, thanks so much for talking with us today.
DICKERSON: Thank you so much for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, some sad news about a truly remarkable individual. Ady Barkan, who tirelessly campaigned for universal health care has died
from complications of ALS at just 39 years old. He leaves behind an incredible legacy. Diagnosed with the disease just after his son was born
in 2016, he began a mission to transform America's healthcare system with his campaign, Be a Hero.
While the disease gradually robbed Ady of his motor functions and even his speech, it didn't keep him quiet. In fact, he even grew louder.
Back in 2021, I spoke to him about his inspiring story, which was being highlighted in the documentary, "Not Going Quietly."
And just to note, as Adi had a tracheotomy, we spoke with the help of technology. Here's part of that conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADY BARKAN: Yes, I had received a death sentence, but it renewed my passion and commitment to reducing injustice elsewhere because too many
communities across our country face death sentences in different ways, whether at the hands of police or white supremacist hate crimes or impacts
of climate change that hit black and brown communities the hardest.
I learned to put my suffering in perspective and use it to do what I could to leave the world a little better off.
GOLODRYGA: Your wife, Rachael, is right there at the center of the film with you. You two were college sweethearts. How did she react when you were
diagnosed and how has she supported you throughout these years after?
BARKAN: We were both stunned. How do you react to that? I was only 32 when I was diagnosed with ALS, and Rachael had just given birth to our beautiful
son, Carl. On every front, the wonderful life we had long imagined and built for ourselves had just begun to sprout. We didn't have very much time
to process the death sentence that I was given, but the weight of my diagnosis certainly wore heavily on us as we scrambled to adjust.
The cruel handout we were dealt demanded that Rachel not only be mom to our newborn, and professor to her students at UC Santa Barbara, but now,
caregiver to her husband. Our care situation has since changed as a result of the years spent fighting with our insurance company and because of my
network of very generous friends who helped pay for my care.
Now, I get to live a beautiful and full life at home with my family and watch my kids grow up because of 24-hour home care. Home care saved my
marriage, as Rachael and I got to be partners and co-parents again, instead of patient and caregiver. But my reality is the exception. Even good health
insurance does not cover the full-time care that living with ALS requires.
Because of this, many others with ALS are placed in nursing homes where patients are merely warehoused and isolated from their loved ones. To be
honest, I don't know if living in a nursing home would provide a quality of life that I would be willing to tolerate.
President Biden promised a $400 billion investment into home and community- based services to provide the disabled and aging community the opportunity to live at home. My team at Be A Hero is working hard to ensure Biden makes
good on his promise so that at the very least, the 820,000 seniors and disabled people on waiting lists for Medicaid's home care program aren't
forced to live in unsafe nursing institutions, and instead, can live safely and with dignity at home.
GOLODRYGA: At home with your family, and we get to meet beautiful Willow at the end of this movie. But tell me about Carl, your son. How important
has he been to you throughout all of this? And does he understand now the reality of your condition?
BARKAN: My first goal when I was diagnosed with ALS was to see Carl's first day of kindergarten. I'm overjoyed that I got to celebrate this
milestone with him last week. We've had some tough conversations with Carl and understandably, he doesn't like consuming content related to ALS.
But a few weeks ago, he shared a newfound interest in seeing the film, probably because everyone who has seen the doc keeps telling him how smart
and funny he is. He certainly is. But I wish Carl would share how he bewitched the editors, because they extended him a very generous edit.
Everything is worth fighting for because of Carl and my daughter, Willow. As a father, I'm working to leave behind a kinder and gentler world for my
kids so that as they grow up, there will be enough fertile ground for them to grow a more just an equitable world.
GOLODRYGA: It's clear how much Carl loves his abba, Hebrew for father, for you. You have a great line early on in the film, and that is, the knowledge
that I was dying was terrible, but dealing with my insurance company was even worse. Can you tell us why it was so bad, and how that led to you
campaigning for Medicare for All?
BARKAN: Rachael and I wasted away so much of that early precious time after I had been diagnosed on the phone with our insurance company,
navigating infuriating insurance bureaucracies that are set up to deny us care and enrich the CEOs.
My insurance denied me a ventilator, stating that it was experimental. And then, two weeks after that, they denied me access to an FDA approved ALS
drug. The experience of pleading for my life was completely dehumanizing. And it is a feeling I carry forward with me to fuel the advocacy I do every
Before I was diagnosed with ALS, I spent my 20s in the struggle for economic and racial justice, fighting against powerful special interests as
a young lawyer in New York City. There, I helped a federal judge end the racist policing program of stop and frisk. I co-authored the New York City
Paid Sick Days law. I led a national campaign to reform the Federal Reserve so that our economic policies would actually reflect and support the lives
of everyday Americans.
But as the bills piled up and the need for care intensified, the focus of my work naturally shifted and the lines between my personal life and my
career began to blur. Because of the greed of our pro-profit health care system, too many Americans today either go bankrupt or delay much needed
care. Our system is beyond repair. And though I always supported the movement for Medicare for All, I decided early on that this fight for
healthcare justice was the fight to which I would dedicate the rest of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I know I speak for the entire AMANPOUR team when I say that we were so fortunate to have been able to meet Ady and spend some time with
him talking on the show. What a powerful force he was. And of course, we're thinking of his wife, Rachael, his young children, Willow and Carl, and
sending them all of our love at this difficult time. May his memory be a blessing.
And now, before we leave you, a major blast from the past. The Beatles are back. That's right. Today, one last song from the fab four has been
released. Called "Now and Then," the new track features John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and was made possible with a little help from artificial
intelligence, which isolated John Lennon's vocals from an old demo tape. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: ?How incredible is that, just in time when we need some good music. Something to uplift our spirits.
And a quick programming note. In addition to the show, starting Saturday, you can watch the brand-new AMANPOUR HOUR, debuting at 11:00 a.m. on
America's East Coast, 4:00 p.m. Central in Europe, where every week we'll bring you context, conversation, and analysis of our world with newsmakers,
cultural icons, and the best of CNN in the field. We'll also be taking some questions. What do you want to know about events unfolding in the Middle
East and beyond? Scan the QR code on your screen and send them to the show along with your name and where in the world you are, or just e-mail
The "AMANPOUR HOUR" starts 11:00 a.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Central Europe this Saturday. Couldn't come at a time when we needed it most. We're
looking forward to this and it'll only be on CNN.
In the meantime, that does it for us. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.