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Border Crossings Drop After End of Title 42; Farmers in Florida Continue to Rely o Guest Workers to Fill Jobs Americans Won't Do; At Least 50 Dead, Hundreds Hurt in India Train Crash; U.S. Seeks Talks with Russia on Nuclear Arms. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 02, 2023 - 15:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO CNN HOST: Many politicians and experts had predicted a surge of migrant would overwhelm the U.S. border with Mexico. Instead something else has happened. The number of migrant encounters is actually dropping and by a lot. CNN's Rosa Flores is taking a looking at the new data. Rosa, this is fascinating. It is not what was predicted. First, tell us just how much these encounters have fallen at the border.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know they have dropped significantly. Let me take you through the numbers. Now according to the U.S. Border Patrol chief, migrant encounters at the border are at about 3,300, 3400 daily. Now if you look back at May 10th for example, the day before Title 42 lifted, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the time the migrant encounters surpassed 10,000. So, if you just look at the numbers that's nearly a 70 percent drop.

Now despite those numbers being so low the governor of Texas Greg Abbott has continued to call on the nation's governors to send troops to the border. In fact, right now there are troops, according to his office, from Idaho, Florida, Nebraska and Tennessee.

Now Jim, I'm in constant conversations with people on the border including border sheriffs. And in recent weeks they told me that they feel that the situation on the border is under control. That the federal government has it under control. But even then, more troops from other states around the country are arriving in the state of Texas.

SCIUTTO: So the administration in advance of the expiration had made a number of changes including getting the message out that if you attempt to cross illegally it could be a five-year ban, right, on an attempt to come back in the country. When you speak to folks down there, law enforcement and experts, what do they contribute the drop to?

FLORES: And it's exactly what you're describing, Jim. What I'm hearing is that migrants are waiting in Mexico because they want to enter into the country legally through CBP-1 or one of the other legal pathways that was created by the Biden administration in the lead up of the lifting of Title 42. Now there's one other interesting dynamic. CBP-1 was expanded after

Title 42 lifted. And it included that migrants didn't have to wait in northern Mexico per se for their appointments. They could also wait in central Mexico. So just guess what has happened. Well, central Mexico, Mexico City in particular has seen a huge spike in the number of migrants who are waiting there.

The head of the refugee agency there telling me that during a portion of May, Jim, they saw such a huge increase in the number of migrants seeking asylum there that they are launching an app -- Mexico is launching its own app next week to deal with that influx. And then if you're wondering, wait, are migrants planning to stay in Mexico? Is that why they're seeking asylum there? No, the head of the agency tells me that these migrants are waiting for the CBP-1 app. They're just filing for protections in Mexico while they wait -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Really important update. Fascinating one. Rosa Flores thanks so much.

Well, new immigration policies in places such as Florida have some concern about shortages of workers. A new law there aims to put more requirements on places that higher undocumented workers. And farmers worry though it puts a new burden on their operations which they simply cannot find Americans who are willing to do the often grueling work. CNN's Gary Tuchman decided to find out why himself.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 07:30 a.m. in humid north Florida. The beginning of a long day, on a large farm where hired workers are in the middle of harvesting roughly 2.2 million watermelons, about 32 million pounds worth over the course of about six weeks. With more than 150 people working to harvest the watermelon.

I ask farm owner Trevor Bass this question.

TUCHMAN: How many U.S. citizens pick crops on your farm?



BASS: Zero.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Actually, on this day, there is one U.S. citizen. Me. I requested a chance to work for one day on this farm to learn more about why so many farmers have such a difficult time getting Americans to work on their farms.

TUCHMAN: OK, so this watermelon is ripe. It's ready. We turn it over so the yellow part is on top. So then the people who pick it up know it's ready because they see the yellow part on top.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Everyone I'm working with here is from Mexico. All part of the U.S. government's guest worker program known as H-2A. American farmers can hire foreign nationals under the H-2A program as long as they follow strict provisions, which include only hiring them after trying to employ Americans first, which this farm owner did and got no takers.


TUCHMAN: The idea is we have this chain here, and we're going to be taking these watermelons, putting them on this bus, and we're going to be doing it for hours straight.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dustin Blank is a farmer and also represents other farms when selling finished product to stores.

DUSTIN BLANK, OWNER, B&H FARMS: I own two farming operations.

TUCHMAN: And you represent how many farms?

BLANK: Over thirty.

TUCHMAN: And how many U.S. citizens do you know of who work on any of those farms?

BLANK: Florida management, zero.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Under H-2A guest workers can't get paid less than Americans. Florida's minimum H-2A salary is $14.33 an hour. And at this farm, the Mexicans are permitted to work for as many hours as they want. With extra bonuses for the amount of work done. They can easily make more than $1,000 a week. They are subject to income tax.

Edgar Hernandez is a husband and father who sends all his money home to his family. I ask him why he doesn't think there are any Americans harvesting with him.

It's heavy, he says. The work is hard.

These farm owners don't disagree with that assessment. Americans have other choices and just don't want to do this, they say.

BASS: I would say this work on a scale from one to 10 would be at a nine. I mean, it's about as hard as it gets.

TUCHMAN: There are about 18,000 pounds of watermelon on each of these buses. In addition to these being heavy, it's extremely monotonous.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Both these men describe themselves as politically conservative. However, they say this government program is not only a necessity but should have an application process that is faster and more flexible.

BASS: Yes, we don't need to open the borders and let everyone across, but these guys are coming here for a reason. They're coming here for serious work to try to support their families in Mexico or wherever they've come from. They're not here to play. I mean, it's very obvious. Look behind us. TUCHMAN (voice-over): There is a lot of work to do and many of these

men work into the evening, all of them except for me will be back for several weeks to come.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Newbury, Florida.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Our thanks to Gary Tuchman.

Ahead why the United States is trying to get Russia to come to the table to discuss nuclear weapons. CNN NEWS CENTRAL is back in just moments.



SCIUTTO: Authorities in India tonight say at least 50 people are dead after a violent collision between three trains. All of this happening in the city of Balasore, in the eastern part of the country. Officials say search and rescue efforts are underway. The death toll sadly is expected to go up. CNN's Isa Soares, she's been following the latest developments for us. Three trains goodness. Tell us what we know.

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds pretty horrific. Hi Jim. What we know -- and this of course is a developing story. What we know from authorities, this happened roughly about 7:00 pm. local time, about six hours ago or so. 50 people are dead and hundreds injured in this training accident in the state of Odisha. That's southeast India.

Now officials said the number actually of injured exceeds 300. Authorities are telling us, Jim, that two passengers trains collided and then a goods train collided. What we don't know is how the carriages actually came off the tracks then hitting, of course, the goods train.

Now rescue teams have been rescuing -- are going to the scenes, rushing to the scenes of this horrific train crash. More than 50 ambulances, we've been told, have rushed the scene. Can see one of the trains is actually on its side. We know -- as you can see there, everyone trying -- we don't know the number of people trapped. That's something we do not know. But I imagine given that this happened at 7:00 p.m. local time, Jim, that it would be very crowded indeed. But we have more than 50 ambulances, several fire units present.

The Indian Prime Minister, Jim, Narendra Modi says he's distressed by the train accidents -- this is a tweet that I saw in the last 40 minutes or so. And that is says that his thoughts are with the bereaved families. The government has also announced, Jim, compensation.

Now India -- for those of you, I'm sure will now -- has one the largest rail networks in the world with millions of people using trains every day, just crisscrossing the country of course. So, we are keeping an eye on developing stories. But at the moment 50 dead, expecting the number possibly to rise. But it sounds like a horrific train crash in southeast India -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question, sad events there. Isa Soares covering from London -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Staying on international news, the United States is making a new push to stop the spread of nuclear weapons by trying to get Russia and China back to the negotiating table for talks and nuclear arms control. Russia's Vladimir Putin has control of the world's largest nuclear arsenal. And the United States fears that he is ready to expand that stockpile after pulling out of a key arms treaty over tensions with the United States on the war in Ukraine.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now. And Kylie, how does the United States plan to entice Russia and China to come back to the negotiating table to have a discussion?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a really good question. And what we heard from the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan today, is first of all, the Biden administration is willing to sit down with both Russia and China without preconditions. Essentially saying that it is more useful to have a conversation, than to have a conversation with requirements for them to take action to get to the table.


With regard to Russia, the administration is now really focused on what Russia is doing. Because Russia is out of compliance. No longer abiding to the new START Treaty. That is the singular lasting nuclear arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia.

And one thing that the United States just announced they're going to be doing, is no longer providing information to Russia that they had previously provided to them when they were still in that treaty. And that's of course because Russia is no longer providing that information to the United States. But if Russia sits down, the U.S. is willing to give that information.

The other thing that the United States is doing, is modernizing their own nuclear force. And that's really significant here. Because they think that if the U.S. modernizes their own force that would be really key in serving as a deterrent for these other countries to not build up too quickly. But the size of the nuclear arsenal that the U.S. has right now, as of now the national security advisor said that that is adequate. They're not working to build that up.

But numbers do matter here. And even though the U.S. and Russia are no longer abiding by the new START Treaty, they are both following the limits of that treaty. What that means is that the U.S. and Russia both have about 1,550 nuclear warheads deployed but China is quickly coming on their heels. They have about 400 stockpiled nuclear weapons right now. That could grow to 1,500 by 2035. So that is really what U.S. official are watching. What is China going to do that is going to impact what the U.S. has to do and what the world has to do with regard to nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation.

SANCHEZ: And the back drop of all of this are rising tension with China over Taiwan. And obviously statements made by Russia indicating the potential for the use of nuclear weapons in the invasion of Ukraine. Kylie Atwood, great to have you on set. You're usually at the State Department but here with us today. Thanks so much -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right, coming up, another spellbinding finish in a new spelling bee champion. Would you have gotten the winning word, right? I certain I wouldn't have. We're going to find out right after the break.



SANCHEZ: A Pittsburgh police officer took the stand in the trial of the alleged synagogue mass shooter. The chilling details from Officer Michael Smidga. Who said he came face-to-face with gunman Robert Bowers after arriving at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Bowers is now facing the death penalty after being accused of killing 11 Jewish worshipers back in 2018.

The trial is reigniting the spotlight on the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. CNN's Bianna Golodryga is in for Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD" today. And Bianna, you have a unique voice on the show today discussing how to combat the sentiments behind these hate crimes.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, that Tree of Life massacre, unfortunately, is not a one off. But it speaks to the cancer that continues to plague the country, the world really. And that is the rise in anti-Semitism. Jews make up about 2.4 percent of the U.S. population and according to the FBI, they makeup antisemitic attacks, they makeup more than 60 percent of reported motivated hate crimes in the country. And in terms of ADL statistics, antisemitic attacks have been at their highest over the past two years -- since they started churning these numbers and that was 1979 when they began doing that.

So, given that I'm going to be speaking with actor Joshua Malina. You may remember him from TV shows like "Scandal" and "West Wing." He's actually now on a Broadway show which is just phenomenal and it's based on Tom Stoppard's play Leopoldstadt. I saw it a couple of weeks ago. And it talks to the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism in Europe in the early 20th century. And obviously, the horrific catastrophe that resulted in the Holocaust. And it teaches us some valuable lessons that we could learn today.

Just last week the Biden administration announced plans for the first national strategy for combating anti-Semitism. So, we're making some strides. We're making progress in addressing this crisis but it continues to grow and is important we're going to have this conversation with him.

SANCHEZ: It's so important to look at history and depictions of history to make sure that these sorts of things doesn't happen again. Bianna Golodryga, we look forward to watching you on "THE LEAD." It starts at 4:00 p.m. -- don't miss it -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, the civil war and Guatemala is long over. But the country is still struggling with the aftermath nearly 30 years later. And father of this week's CNN hero was killed in that conflict. And now she is working to give children living in extreme poverty in that area, helping them to build a better life. Have a look.


BRENDA LEMUS, CO-FOUNDER, YO'O GUATEMALA (through translator) (voice- over): the children come to the library looking how to do homework because they don't have the resources at home. The parents don't know how to read.

LEMUS: Hi, my name is?

LEMUS (through translator) (voice-over): They began to come with the desire to get ahead. Then, I began to realize that there were more obstacles that impede them from studying.


We provide educational opportunities and the tools so that they can break the cycle of poverty. We now have children who say they want to be engineers or that they want to be chemists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Away!

LEMUS (through translator) (voice-over): we are hundreds of people involved. We give to people love, respect and dignity.



SCIUTTO: So, we have a new champion -- not an NBA champion yet. I know Boris is watching. 14-year-old Dev Shah of Largo Florida took the trophy and a $50,000 prize at last night's Scripps National Spelling Bee. After three days in the verbal pressure cooker, it all came down to one word. That word is psammophile -- silent "P" at the beginning there.

I was just explaining to Boris in the break that psammophile of course is an organism that prefers sandy areas. You know, we talk about that all the time in regular conversations.


Shah, he told CNN about his strategy of studying the roots of words.


DEV SHAH, 2023 SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE CHAMP: It's pretty important because it could be used as a backup plan too. Because when you're on stage the nerves get to you. Even though if -- or even though if spars don't show, the nerves do get to us and pressure does get to us. So, if you've heard that a word, even so, piece it back together. Like a backup plan.


SANCHEZ: Congrats to him. But they know that there's a spell check, right? It's a commonly known thing.

SCIUTTO: Some people do the hard work and study the roots of words.

SANCHEZ: The L-E-A-D with Jake Tapper starts in just moments.