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At This Hour

DHS Secretary Horrified by Border Agents' Aggressive Tactics; Johnson & Johnson Says, Second Dose Substantially Boosts Protection; Lawsuits Filed against Texas Doctor Who Says He Performed Abortion. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Horrified is how the secretary of homeland security is describing the situation at the border this morning. He's talking about these images of border agents confronting migrants on horseback along the U.S./Mexico border, aggressive tactics to try and push the migrants back into Mexico, keep them from entering the United States illegally.

We want to show you video put out by Reuters of one encounter. The Department of Homeland Security now says that it has launched an investigation into all of this.

CNN's Josh Campbell is live along that border crossing in Del Rio, Texas, with much more on this. Josh, what is the latest from there?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. I want to show you a live video we're getting it right now, we just launched a drone over that migrant camp where thousands continue to remain gathered under the Del Rio Bridge. You can see them on your screen as authorities work to process them.

Now, the number soared to over 12,000 people. Authorities tell us that's of last night, that is down to 10,000. Of course, these migrants have been living in these very terrible conditions, being described as squalid conditions. We know authorities have been working to get food into this camp, authorities also working to process them and repatriate them back to their homes of origin.

Now, this is all coming as the Department of Homeland Security is also having to answer for this disturbing video that you saw, these customs agents on horseback as they were seeking to corral some of the migrants. You see one of the horses at one point appearing to lunge towards one of the migrants, who then falls back. The one of the officers is using the reins of the horse in close proximity to one of these migrants. We also saw video of one of the customs agents actually berating one of the migrants as well.

Now, the homeland security secretary spoke with our colleague, Brianna Keilar, this morning talking about this video. Take a listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEJANDRO MAYUORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I was horrified by what I saw. I am going to let the investigation run its course, but the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people.


CAMPBELL: Now, we're learning now that authorities are also not only trying to get rid of this camp here, to repatriate people, but our colleague, Priscilla Alvarez, also reporting now, CNN has learned that 30,000 Haitians are now seeking to move from Colombia northwards.

So, again, the U.S. government here has a very serious problem. It's not just the 12,000 that are right now, but we're now getting indication that there could be thousands more on their way to the southern border, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Josh, for your reporting. I appreciate that.

Joining me now for more is Democratic Congressman Andy Levin.


He's the co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus. Congressman, thank you for being.

I'm not sure if you can see via Skype but we're going to continue to show these live images of that camp that has been built up under the Del Rio International Bridge. It is still amazing, even though they say it's down a few thousand, it is amazing to see the mass of humanity that has grown there.

You tweeted back to those images of border agents confronting migrants on horseback. You tweeted after seeing those images that these are human rights violations. You say it's actually an understatement to call them that. Those are your words. Why do you say that?

REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-MI): Well, Kate, you're right, I can't see them on Skype, but I don't need to see any more of these images. I mean, to have -- we've had a big growing number of people on our border for a long time during the Trump and the Biden administrations. And, of course, you know, over time, we've had people coming to our country. When all of a sudden, when there's 8,000 or 10,000 or 12,000 black people under a bridge at the border and our government responds with men on horseback and whips and, you know, charging people on horseback, this is beyond troubling. These individuals --

BOLDUAN: You think this is racially motivated?

LEVIN: I do. I do. And I'm not the only one. You know, dozens of us sent a letter yesterday to the government saying that we need to stop these deportations and we need to treat these people like human beings. There are several layers to this, Kate. First of all --

BOLDUAN: But they're interconnected but two separate things, and I want to make sure we get to both, which are these images of border agents on horseback and also the deportation flights, whatever you want to call them, repatriation, deportation flights that the Biden administration has done and has said they're going to continue to do.

But on the images that are coming out that now the secretary of homeland security says he's horrified by of these men on horseback, he says there's an investigation, you say that you think this is racially motivated. The head of -- you think like the head of border patrol believes that?

LEVIN: I don't know. I'm not -- I don't know what any individual thinks, but have we seen -- this is the largest incidence I know of of a very large group of migrants of African origin at our border, and this is the first time I've seen -- have you seen people on horseback with reins or whips, you know, in this way? I have not seen it before. I've been down to the border. You know, since early 2019, when I took office, I followed this very closely.

So, you know, I find the whole thing extremely, extremely troubling. And there's a long history of Haitian immigrants being treated differently than others, famously Cubans and Haitians, the wet foot, dry foot policy, for example, more in Florida than in the southern border with Mexico. So, Haitian immigrants have been treated differently than other migrants for decades and this is the latest and most egregious example.

BOLDUAN: You signed this letter calling for an immediate halt, a total halt to deportations to Haiti because of the earthquake. This was last week even. And the secretary though has made clear that these deportations are going to continue and thousands and thousands of people are at the U.S. border. Where do you want them to go if these deportation flights stop?

LEVIN: Well, so, there're several things. First of all, the government of Haiti says they have no capacity to take them, that they can't feed them, they can't clothe them. Many of these people, as I think you know, did not come recently from Haiti. Many haven't been to Haiti in 5 or 10 or 20 years. They've been living in Panama or Chile or other countries. And so I think -- and then many of them are trying to seek asylum.

So our law, Kate, says that when any person comes to our border seeking asylum, they have a right to a hearing and we have to follow U.S. law and international law. And the idea of hiding behind a health order about COVID is completely unacceptable.


I mean, the COVID situation in Haiti is very dire. We're having -- we're having a lot of trouble getting vaccines distributed there. It has the second lowest vaccination rate of any country in the world after the Democratic Republic of Congo. So don't tell me we're solving the COVID crisis by sending migrants back to a country which is saying openly we have no way of processing these people, of feeding them, of clothing them, of housing them.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This is crisis compounding crisis is what we are seeing unfolding right now. Congressman, I would love to continue this conversation because this is unfortunately not going to be ending anytime soon. Thank you so much for coming on.

LEVIN: You're welcome. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up next for us, important vaccine news. Johnson & Johnson now saying a second dose of its vaccine offers a big boost of protection against coronavirus. What that means for millions of American who is got that shot, next.



BOLDUAN: Some encouraging pandemic news. a new study is out today on Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, and the company says that a two- dose version of its vaccine provides 94 percent protection against symptomatic infection. That puts it right on par with the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccine regimens.

Joining me now is Dr. Aileen Marty, she's a Professor of Infectious Diseases at Florida National university. It's good to see you.

What's your reaction to this study on J&J, 94 percent effective against symptomatic infection?

DR. AILEEN MARTY, DISTINGUISHED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, FLU: My reaction, duh, of course, anyone who knows basic immunology knows that a second dose is going to bring up efficacy. Remember, the J&J is a replication deficient adeno 26 viral vector vaccine, identical almost to the Sputnik's first dose that the Russians did. Of course, the Russians followed up with a second dose. By also lengthening the interval, it's exactly what we would expect to see an efficacy closer to that to Sputnik and actually exceeding it because of the increased interval time between the first dose and the second.

BOLDUAN: Do you think a study like this, this information, will make FDA approval of a booster dose for J&J more likely?

MARTY: First of all, I don't consider it a booster. It should always have been a two-dose vaccine. But, absolutely, it's the exact thing necessary to authorize a second dose.

BOLDUAN: You know, J&J is also saying that adding this second dose to their current one-dose vaccine, it raised immunity as well. And there are almost -- I think the number is 15 million Americans who have received that single dose of the J&J vaccine. And I'm curious what you think all of those millions need to know this morning or what they should be considering this morning with this information.

MARTY: That it's time they get their second dose that should have been planned for in the beginning. Nonetheless, it's good that they have their first dose and now that they're going to get that second shot, which they need in order to get that high level of efficacy, and not just they need it but our community needs it. Because the better vaccine efficacy that we have, the less transmission that there is. And, therefore, the less chance of developing a worse variant and better overall protection for our country.

BOLDUAN: The American Academy of Pediatrics is also reporting that 1.1 million new COVID cases have been seen among kids in the last five weeks. The weekly numbers are 26 times higher than weekly numbers in June. Many of the cases are milder or even asymptomatic, I guess, let's say that's the good news, but is anything short of a vaccine for younger children going to stop this kind of spread that we're now seeing?

MARTY: So, the best way of stopping the spread is to give them vaccine. There's no question about that. However, the next best thing is to vaccinate everyone around those children who's eligible for a vaccine and masking and good ventilation followed by appropriate hygiene.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Dr. Marty, thank you very much. I always appreciate your time.

Coming up for us, a doctor publicly admits to violating the new Texas abortion ban. That doctor is now being sued. But you'll want to hear why these people have decided to sue him. That's next.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, a Texas doctor speaks out publicly, even writing a Washington Post op-ed, admitting to violating the Texas abortion ban. He is now facing two lawsuits, both claiming to be filed by people who actually oppose the controversial Texas abortion law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. So, what is going on here?

CNN's Jessica Schneider is joining me now with some more detail on this. Jessica, what are you learning about this?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Kate, this is how it went down. This Texas doctor over the weekend wrote this op-ed confessing that he had performed an abortion for a woman who he knew was beyond the state's new limit, meaning that a fetal heartbeat had been detected and the doctor did this precisely because he wanted to get sued since that's the only way here that this new Texas law can actually be tested and potentially overturned in the courts.

So, on Saturday this doctor, Alan Braid, wrote this in the op-ed. He said, I fully understood that there could be legal consequences, but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn't get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested. And he says that because the problem here is that this law only gives private citizens the power to enforce it. Anyone from anywhere in the country can sue anyone who assists in performing an abortion when the pregnancy is beyond six weeks.

So, to challenge the premise of the Texas law, you first need a lawsuit and now we have two of them. One is from a former tax attorney who admits he's opposed to the Texas law. The other is an Illinois man who also asserts that the Texas law is illegal.

Now, these lawsuits will soon begin to work their way through the courts, and at that point, that's when judges may finally be able to stop this law if they find, for example, the lawsuits are properly filed, which could be a question, since both of these plaintiffs admit they are only suing to stop the law, and if the judges determined that this Texas law in fact violates the precedent that was set under Roe v. Wade from the Supreme Court that established women have this constitutional right to an abortion prior to viability, which is typically between 22 and 24 weeks.


So, Kate, these two lawsuits that were essentially invited by this doctor, it now sets the stage for these courts to decide if this law is, in fact, unconstitutional, something that we've been waiting for essentially for three weeks since this law was put into place September 1st. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's so interesting. Jessica, thank you for reporting that out for us, I really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for being with us this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Inside Politics with John King begins after this break.