Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Supreme Court: Title 42 Will Remain In Place Amid Migrant Surge; Stranger Saves The Life Of A Man Stranded In Deadly Winter Storm; Man Sentenced To Nearly 20 Years In Plot To Kidnap Michigan Gov. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 28, 2022 - 12:30   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is in Washington with more. Hi there, Priscilla. So walk us through this decision, because this is the decision for now, as it works its way through the legal system, right?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. It's a victory for Republican-led states. So this Supreme Court decision essentially allows Title 42 to remain in effect while those legal challenges play out, a process that can take months. In this five-four order, the justices delivered that victory to Republican-led states who sought to intervene in the case and block the termination of Title 42.

Now, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, citing and said with the liberals and his dissent is interesting because it really captures the moment we're in it. He says the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis, and courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. This is a public health order that has been bouncing around the courts since April.

And now we're at a point where, while the administration was preparing for it to end, it instead will remain in place. The Supreme Court said that they will hear arguments in their session beginning in February, which means that this will get a full decision sometime early to mid- next year. Amara?

WALKER: What kind of decision was the Biden administration hoping for?

ALVAREZ: Well, in their filings, the Justice Department was saying that they should be able to end this at this point, again, because the validity of it is in question because it was based on public health to begin with and the pandemic. Now, of course, the administration said that they're going to continue to prepare for the event's reality of it ending at some point next year and that they'll comply with the order. But they also pointed the finger directly at Congress, saying that in this time, Democrats and Republicans should find reform. Amara?

WALKER: All right, Priscilla Alvarez, thank you very much. And joining me now is John Martin. He is the Deputy Director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless in El Paso. Good to be with you. Thank you so much for joining us. So what is your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision?

JOHN MARTIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPPORTUNITY CENTER FOR THE HOMELESS: Well, I mean, it just simply adds to the unknown for us at this point. We're still seeing hundreds of individuals that are having to sleep in the streets here in El Paso. And it's a combination of those that are documented, that have been released by ICE, as well as those that are undocumented, that have crossed the border illegally. But it is a humanitarian crisis at this time because we simply don't have capacity for this large number of folks.

WALKER: If you don't have capacity, I guess, what's the backup plan? What are you doing as a result, then?

MARTIN: Well, we're working with a number of what we call either hospitality sites or local shelters. The difference between the two the hospitality sites are focused on the migrant population whereas the shelters tend to be focused on the local homeless. And many of those shelters, many of those hospitality sites are operating either at or over capacity such as ourselves.

We've not seen reasonable numbers, reasonable being for example within our men's shelter 120 comfortably. We're seeing numbers in the 200, and it actually peaked at 292 within the past week. And so the individuals keep coming. And when you are the opportunity center and if you look at our mission statement, we work with all without distinction. So we're focused on the homeless in general.

WALKER: Are you hearing from the migrants? I mean are they -- are you hearing anything about this decision and what they think it means for them?

MARTIN: It's probably a little bit premature. We're starting to inform the migrants of the situation at this point as they come into our shelters. And the reactions have been varied, many of which have been met with disappointment from the standpoint. And disappointment is an understatement. I do apologize because their dreams lie within coming into the United States.

WALKER: If Title 42 eventually ends how do you think that will impact the shelters there?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, it's sort of loaded question. But if you look at about two weeks ago if my information is correct, we were looking at approximately 2,500 apprehensions per day on average at the border. Last week that dropped down to less than 1,500. And recently we're seeing that number drop even lower at this point.

And so the question about Title 42 is we know it will have a significant impact when it is lifted. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when. The reality of it is we're looking at 5 to 6,000 individuals potentially. Now we have folks at the city of El Paso along with the county of El Paso that are looking to increase capacity and have done so recently thinking that Title 42 could have been lifted as early as yesterday. So my guess is both the city and the county are rethinking or reassessing what the need is at this point as we move forward.


WALKER: What are you telling the city and county in terms of how much more space you have right now to accommodate migrants and for the future?

MARTIN: Well, again, we focus on the homeless in general, and that includes those that have different countries of origin. The need for a dedicated space to work with all migrants, whether they'd be documented or undocumented, is high. I understand the parameters for which the city and the county work with, and so it's going to have to be a private entity that steps up to do it because federal funding cannot be used for the undocumented that are crossing our border.

WALKER: The needs are great. Thank you so much for taking time out to talk with us, John Martin. All the best.

Up next, concerns former Pope Benedict, Pope Francis now asking for prayers for his predecessor.



WALKER: A New York woman is being hailed as a hero today after she welcomed in a man that she found stranded during that deadly winter storm. Gary Tuchman has a story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worst of Mother Nature bringing out the best of human nature. This is Buffalo resident Sha'Kyra Aughtry on Facebook Live.

SHA'KYRA AUGHTRY, HELPED SAVE FROSTBITTEN MAN FROM BLIZZARD: I currently have an older 64-year-old white man in my house. I found him yesterday. I heard him screaming for help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In the midst of western New York's blizzard. Sha'Kyra spotted and heard the man in terrible pain in the frigid cold outside her house on the morning of Christmas Eve. Her boyfriend carried the man inside. That man is, Joey White, seen in this picture at a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game.

AUGHTRY: He got away from his home, that he lives in a group home, he told me.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey's sister says her brother is mentally challenged and does indeed live in a group home. He works at a movie theater. He may have gotten scared during the blizzard and tried to walk home from theater getting lost in the heavy snow outside the Mother of Three's house. Sha'Kyra did her best to take care of him, to comfort him, feed him, and pleaded for help with phone calls and on Facebook live.

AUGHTRY: This man is not about to die over here on 1/11. You all need to get this man some help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But her neighborhood was virtually impassable. Christmas Eve became Christmas Day. Joey was in immense pain with severe frostbite on his hands.

AUGHTRY: Joe, listen to Joe. How are you feeling, Joe? Joe, ready to go. He ready to go. He needs to go because he needs medical attention. I had to -- he had a ring on his finger. I had to use these to cut the ring off of his finger. I'm not no surgeon.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): With her three children by her side, Sha'Kyra tried to comfort Joey.

AUGHTRY: Joe, you're feeling better? You're trying to feel better? Pardon me.


AUGHTRY: No, you're not going to die. We're not talking about death. So you see. This is how he needs help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And that help was about to come. Good Samaritan showing up in a vehicle that could make it through the snow, Joey was on his way to the hospital.

AUGHTRY: I'm right here, Joe.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Sha'Kyra rode with him.

AUGHTRY: Joe, see, I'm right here. You OK? I love you too, sweetie. You OK.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey arrived at the hospital safely.

AUGHTRY: This man could have die, 64 years old could have died outside. I wasn't letting that happen on my watch. And he wasn't going to die in front of my kids.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey has severe frostbite and is in the ICU in the hospital burn unit. His sister Yvonne telling us it's touch and go whether his hands can be saved. But overall, he's in stable condition. And she is so grateful for Sha'Kyra Aughtry.

YVONNE WHITE, BROTHER WAS RESCUED BY GOOD SAMARITAN: UNIDENTIFIED: This woman did something that angel would do, OK, to take in a perfectly stranger, stranger. She took him in your home on Christmas Eve.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey White's life was saved by a woman who cared deeply about a man she had never met.

AUGHTRY: Thank you. I'm right here. I'm right here.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


WALKER: She is an amazing person, that hero in the story. Sha'Kyra Aughtry spoke to CNN this morning about the rescue, as well as the new bond she feels with that man and his family. The man sister also joined Sha'Kyra for the interview. Listen.


AUGHTRY: My family, you know, always taught me, you know, to have compassion, and that's what I did. It was, you know, I just had to jump in, just had to jump in and do what I can do. And I tried to as long as, you know, the help can come to me and his sister, just, you know, we bonded over the time throughout the course of the time of being with me. I made sure to make her at ease, to make him feel comfortable. I sent her multiple pictures. We called. We FaceTime'd. The very first time we FaceTime. He did not understand. What does he say? Hey, what is that? What are you doing?

And I'm like it's FaceTime. He was so surprised. He didn't -- he couldn't understand it throughout the time. My family, my little cousins, my children, because everybody was stranded, we all FaceTime'd him. And I let him know, I say, here, you know, I would say, hey, guys, here's Joey. And he was smirking. He was smiling. And everybody say, hi, Joey.

We just immediately brought men like family. I would do it 100 more times no matter what the situation was. I'm glad I was able to have power. I'm glad I had food. I'm glad I had heat. I'm just so thankful that I was able to give back and actually pay it forward, you know, to him, to his family to show other people, you know, we have to work together regardless of the skin color that we are regardless of the age. Just jump in and just do it. Just do it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sha'Kyra, do you feel like you've gained another family member in all of this?

AUGHTRY: Oh, for sure, for sure. That's Uncle Joey.


Y. WHITE: Joey going to hold you to that, my dear. He's going to hold you to that. He's going to sit there and say, you know, these are my best friends, Yvonne.


WALKER: Uncle Joey, love it. An in person meeting between the two families is in the works.

All right, still to come, another major sentencing in the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.



WALKER: New today, a federal court handed down a nearly 20-year sentence to Barry Croft, one of the men convicted in a 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Croft was the final defendant to be sentenced. Yesterday, Adam Fox, who prosecutors say was a plot leader, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Let's go now to CNN's Jean Casarez. And, Jean, prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Croft to life. He got about 20 years, but that's still a longer sentence than the man who was considered the leader of the plot. Why is that?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Amara, this is really interesting, what just happened in the federal courtroom in western Michigan, because the defense had really made an impassioned plea for leniency, saying that Barry Croft lived in Delaware. Everyone else was in Michigan. He really wasn't involved to the extent that the others were. He attended a few practices, but he wasn't into the recruiting aspect intently like Adam Fox was or getting the money or effectuating the plan.

And, but then the prosecutor, Niles Kessler, came on, and this is an assistant U.S. attorney. He said, Your Honor, he was the spiritual leader here. He was the one that compared himself to a prophet. And then he went on saying that he was like an al-Qaeda leader or an ISIS leader, that he was the one that gave theories that there needed to be a revolution, that you needed, that were going to be the brand new founding fathers. Well, when the judge then was explaining everything, his sentence, you know, the rationale for it, he said, you know, Adam Fox was really against the COVID restrictions, and that's what made him begin all this.

But Barry Croft was deeply embedded in this philosophy well before that because he felt there should be a revolution, that violence was the only way. And he instilled that thought into Adam Fox. And then Adam Fox went from there. So, in a sense, the judge said, Barry Croft is more dangerous in all of this. The defense had said, Your Honor, now that he's sober, he's different, and he understands. He can't even listen to what he may have said before.

But the judge said, I take issue with that, because he did a PBS interview from jail several years ago where he exposed the same philosophies to an associate of his. So I really question that. So the result was almost 20 years in prison and then he will be out, and he's in his late 40s, so he will have life beyond this.

WALKER: Fascinating, fascinating details. Jean Casarez, appreciate your reporting, thank you so much.

Well, there are new concerns today about the health of former Pope Benedict, his successor, Pope Francis says Benedict is very sick and he's asking people to pray for him. CNN's Delia Gallagher is live in Rome with the latest. Hi there, Delia, what do we know about Benedict's condition? DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: So, Amara, what we know is based on a statement from the Vatican earlier this morning, Rome time, saying that his health had deteriorated in the last few hours due to old age. They say he's 95. They say he is with doctors who are monitoring him. And at the moment, they say the situation is under control. This was from this morning.

Now, as you mentioned, it was Pope Francis who first gave this news that the Pope was very ill asking for prayers earlier this morning at his general audience. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who sustains the church in his silence. He is very sick. We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church to the very end.


GALLAGHER: And, Amara, the Vatican says that Pope Francis, after those comments at the general audience, did go to visit the Pope Emeritus, who, of course, lives in a monastery just behind St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. That's all we have for the moment. Of course, we are monitoring closely the situation. We'll bring you any news we have when we get it. Amara?

WALKER: OK. All right, thank you so much for your reporting. I do want to follow up, by the way, quickly on that visit Pope Francis made to Benedict, do we know anything more about that visit?


GALLAGHER: No, we don't have any further information, you know, Pope Francis visits with Pope Benedict several times a year. We saw the last public visit was in August of this year when he brought some new cardinals to meet him. And you could see there, we have video of that, and you could see that the Pope even then was very frail. But of course, he's been battling frailness for some time. It was one of the reasons that he resigned back in 2013. We'll be keeping you posted on any updates from the Vatican. Amara?

WALKER: I'm sure you will. Delia Gallagher, great to see you, thank you so much.

Another potential travel curveball, the U.S. will soon decide whether to impose new COVID measures for people traveling from China as cases rise there. U.S. Officials say a lack of transparent data makes it too difficult to identify any potential new variants.

Now, China responded through a spokesperson saying, measures taken by countries to prevent the epidemic should be scientific and moderate and should not affect normal people to people exchanges. Japan, India, Taiwan, and Italy's Lombardi region have already imposed new travel restrictions on travelers from China. Well, that's it for me, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow. Abby Phillip picks up CNN's coverage right after a quick break.