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Migrant Surge At The Sounthern Border Strains States And Causes Friction Between Democrats And The White House; House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Faces Republican Tensions Amid A Government Shutdown Threat; Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Pleads For More U.S. Help Against Russian Strikes; Rising Republican Opposition To Aid For Ukraine Complicates Funding Efforts In Congress; Concerns Grow About A Potential Government Shutdown With Just Nine Days Left; Wage And Contract Disputes Key Issues In Auto Workers' Labor Negotiations; Hollywood Writers' Strike Negotiations Continue With Hopes For Resolution. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 21, 2023 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: There's a new migrant surge at the southern border, and the impact is not just being felt there. Several states saying they are overwhelmed, and it's driving a big wedge between some Democratic leaders and the White House.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And Republican tensions hit new heights. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accusing hardliners in his own party of wanting to burn the place down, as they deal him another blow in his fight to prevent a government shutdown. And Hope in Hollywood. Key talks really at a make-or-break moment between big studios and writers. We are following these major developing stories and many more, all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SANCHEZ: President Biden is now responding to growing pressure at the border as a new surge is underway. CNN has just learned there were 8,600 arrests in the last 24 hours throughout the southwest portion. Now President Biden is sending another 800 troops to that region, as he also addresses concerns miles to the north.

New York state officials have been pleading for his help, saying their facilities are overwhelmed with asylum seekers. In response, the president is opening up work permits to hundreds of thousands more migrants. We begin the hour in Eagle Pass, Texas. The border town declared a state of emergency because of the surge. CNN's Ed Lavendera is there, not far from the river. Ed, take us there. What's going on behind you?

ED LAVANDERA,CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN Well, this scene continues to unfold here in Eagle Pass. The group of people, this large group, at least 100 people or so, just moments ago, crossed underneath all of this concertina wire and have turned themselves into authorities. And this is what you're seeing unfold now. This is the process that is starting to change a little bit, because now the mayor here in Eagle Pass just told me a little while ago that he has signed an affidavit, a partnership, if you will, with state authorities to arrest people who cross illegally into the U.S. onto private property. So all of these migrants that you see behind me are now going to be, from what we understand at this moment, processed and arrested on trespassing charges by state authorities.

And what we've been told by federal and state officials here in the last 30 minutes or so is that they're separating the migrants into groups of single men and single women who will be arrested on the state charges. That's all of these people that you see behind me. Many of these migrants that I've spoken with say they're from Venezuela in this large group.

If you look just beyond here where these troopers are standing, that's where the family groups have been taken. They're being taken over to border patrol processing. So they're being separated at this point. This has been a bit of a controversial and contentious issue in terms of arresting migrants on these trespassing charges.

But that is once again beginning to unfold here on the banks of the river. Many of these people, these migrants, I've been speaking with them and asking them why they're choosing to cross this way, given the stiffer penalties for people who cross illegally. And they say that to a person, all of them, Boris, have been telling us that they have been waiting for months and months to get through the legal channel of applying through what is known as the CBP One app and requesting an appointment to make and present their asylum case. And many of these people say they've been waiting for months and months on the Mexican side, and they're simply tired of waiting at this point.

And that's why they've chosen to cross over in these large groups that we've been seeing unfold here in Eagle Pass over the last few days. The sheriff told us it was about 3,000 migrants that crossed over yesterday, some 2,700 the day before. I'm not sure if we'll reach those numbers again today, but there are clearly large numbers of migrants here once again crossing the river into Eagle Pass once again and officials here say they're simply overwhelmed and trying to handle all of these people arriving here in this small border town. Boris.


SANCHEZ: So Ed, walk us through what the process is like after this. Where do many of these migrants wind up going?

LAVANDERA: Well, the ones you see behind me, Boris, these are from what we've been told and exactly how this is going to play out in the next couple of hours isn't exactly clear, but the best we can tell at this point, these people will be processed. They will be facing the state trespassing charges, so they will be essentially put through a traditional U.S. and Texas court system.

That has, as I've mentioned, been very controversial over the last few months. And then, of course, there's the other family units -- the family units you see over there sitting behind that car beyond where the troopers are, those folks will be turned over to Border Patrol and processed as well. So it will take days and days for many of these people either to be deported or released from custody. It is not exactly clear where eventually these people will end up, but for the time being, they will be processed through the various state and federal systems here and where they end up, if they end up getting the paperwork they need to be able to present their asylum case in the U.S. It will take some days to really kind of get a clear answer as to where exactly all of these people will end up.

SANCHEZ: Ed Lavandera, live from Eagle Pass, Texas. Thank you so much, Ed. Let's turn now to CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, who's in Washington for us. So, Priscilla, walk us through this expansion of work permits and what the Biden administration is trying to accomplish with the expansion.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Boris, picking up there on your conversation with Ed, a lot of Venezuelans go into the United States as they go through their immigration court proceedings, many of them seeking asylum from a country that has been undergoing political and economic turmoil. And many of them went to the state of New York. And over the last few weeks, we've been covering those tensions between New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the White House over work permits and making sure that these people can work as, again, they go through their immigration court proceedings.

And that was the big announcement yesterday evening, which is that the White House is expanding what's called a temporary protective status to make 472,000 Venezuelans already in the United States eligible for these work permits, as well as giving them deportation protections. This is significant. This is the largest expansion of this status that we have seen to date. And it is indicative of the challenges this administration faces with this particular population.

Given the frosty relations between the United States and Venezuela, it is very hard for the U.S. to deport people back to Venezuela. And that's exactly the population we're seeing the most of along the U.S. southern border. And so by now allowing some of those who are already here the potential to work, it can at least start to relieve some of the pressures in some of these northeastern cities and interior cities elsewhere in the United States.

But to be clear, Boris, this only applies to those who were residing in the U.S. on or before July 31st. Those people that you saw crossing there behind Ed would not be eligible for this status.

SANCHEZ: Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much for the details. Brianna.

KEILAR: Now to Washington, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pleading for more help in the face of more deadly Russian strikes. Here in about an hour, he will be meeting with President Biden at the White House. But this morning, he was meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It's a much different place for him than it was the last time that he visited in March of last year.

This time, Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives. The speaker is skeptical of sending more aid to Kiev, and some GOP hardliners are willing to shut down Washington over it. Let's get to CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy Zelenskyy has a much more receptive audience than President Biden than he just had with Speaker McCarthy, for sure. What are we expecting to come out of their meeting, though?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're expecting President Biden to announce a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine using that drawdown authority that he has used time and again to provide Ukraine with additional weaponry and financial military support. This latest package, we're told, will include air defense capabilities as well as artillery, anti-armor and anti-aircraft capabilities. It will not, however, include those attackums, those long-range missile systems that the Ukrainian president has been asking Washington for. And that is despite those requests from President Zelenskyy and Zelenskyy's impassioned pleas to Washington for that very system.

That being said, the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that President Biden ultimately decided not to provide those systems at this very moment after assessing Ukraine's battlefield needs as well as the United States' own needs for its defense. But he did make clear that this system is not off the table. And we have seen, Brianna, time and again the Biden administration saying no initially to certain requests from the Ukrainians for specific military hardware, and then ultimately acceding to those demands later down the road.


This moment, though, this meeting between President Zelenskyy and President Biden comes at really a critical moment, not only on the battlefield in Ukraine as Ukraine continues to push its counteroffensive to try and retake territory that Russia took during its invasion last year, but it also comes at a critical moment here in Washington.

The Biden administration has asked for $24 billion of additional financial support for Ukraine from Congress, but Zelenskyy is coming to Washington now at a moment that is very different from the one where he,-- a very different backdrop than the one he faced when he was here last December.

And that is in particular because Republicans are in charge of the House, and we have seen this skepticism from Kevin McCarthy and a number of House Republicans about providing additional aid. Despite that, the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, expressed optimism that Congress will indeed appropriate those funds. We will see exactly how that happens, because for now it seems like an uphill battle that both the president and President Zelenskyy are facing together. Brianna.

KEILAR: Certainly does. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for that report. Let's go down the road now, kind of up the road to Capitol Hill, where CNN's Mani Raju is. Manu, we've heard Republicans today, Senator Mitch McConnell echoing Biden's case for backing Ukraine. Of course, this is an uphill battle, as we just heard Jeremy describe. How do they get to that point they need to in order to fully fund Ukraine as they want?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's a major question here on Capitol Hill. Uncertainty about that $24 billion aid package, despite the plea from President Zelenskyy behind closed doors meeting with senators today. I'm told from attendees in the room that what Zelenskyy said, he said, quote, you give money, we give lives. That was one of the messages that he said. He also said that if the money dries up from the United States, it could have a cascading effect.

European countries could follow suit. And he warned that Ukraine could fall to Russia if the U.S. backs away. All coming as a major debate is playing on on the Hill about whether to provide that money this month as part of a bill to keep the government open by October 1st. No final decision had been made about how they will deal with that. But that is a debate particularly happening on the Republican side of the aisle. There is a large number of support among Senate Republicans. There's a large number of opposition among House Republicans. But there are a faction of Senate Republicans like Senator Josh Hawley, one who is sharply critical about providing more aid to Ukraine, arguing that it is not in the U.S. interest.


JOSH HAWLEY, SENATOR FOR MISSOURI (R): Oh, they're totally wrong.


About this and so many other things. But listen, I mean, they're wrong. Number one, we've spent 115 billion on Ukraine. What I heard last night from the administration is that may be just a very -- and not only maybe, it is just the very beginning. They want 25 billion more now. They're going to ask for more later. There's no end in sight. We were told this could literally go on for years. It's another forever war.

THOM TILLS, SENATOR FOR NORTH CAROLINA (R): Quite honestly, I don't believe you can convince Josh Hawley to change his opinion. So why waste the time? Go focus on the vast majority of the members who are prepared to support it. And let's see what we can get on the House side.


RAJU: And the House side is the major question at the moment, because Speaker McCarthy decided not to have any public photo op with Volodymyr Zelenskyy today. In fact, he was only seen behind closed doors. Pictures that were obtained by our colleagues, CNN's Annie Grayer, got pictures of them behind closed doors. They didn't have a public meeting. He also denied a joint meeting of Congress for Zelenskyy to speak to, unlike what he did in the Democratic controlled Congress.

All raising major questions here, Brianna, about exactly how the speaker will deal with this. He has made no guarantees that he will move forward on this aid package, certainly not as part of a bill to keep the government open. But will he do it later in the fall? He simply will not say as he faces pressure on his right flank not to move ahead. Brianna.

KEILAR: It's a really interesting moment that just shows the shift in the Republican party. When you think of how they hearken so much back to Reaganism and, you know, what, what his role was when it came to Russia and Gorbachev. And now you

have McCarthy who will not even publicly be seen with Zelenskyy. It's really, really stunning. Manu Raju live for us on Capitol Hill. Thank you so much, Boris.

And also be sure, I should say, to catch Manu's debut, the big debut. He is hosting the Sunday edition of Inside Politics. That is this Sunday at 11 a.m. We will not be missing it, Boris.

SANCHEZ: You should tune in for that. Manu is most likely going to be talking about the other big story on Capitol Hill that's unfolding. There are just nine days left to avoid a potential government shutdown. And the roadblocks for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are ample. Just a short time ago, his own party blocked efforts to pass a defense spending rule highlighting fractures that could cost McCarthy his position as speaker.Earlier this morning, he vented his frustrations in front of reporters. Listen to the way he describes members of his own party.



KEVIN MCCARTHY, HOUSE SPEAKER (R): It's frustrating in the sense that I don't understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate. And then you got all the amendments that you don't like to do. This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. It doesn't work. I know it's an obstacle, but I find it as a challenge, and we're going to solve it.


SANCHEZ: So if they couldn't pass this rule for a defense spending bill, what does it mean for the potential for a government shutdown? Let's ask CNN's Melania Zanona, who's live for us on Capitol Hill. Melania?

MELANIA ZANOAN, CNN CAPITAL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, well, it's back to the drawing board once again for House Republicans as they struggle to govern. As of right now, Kevin McCarthy is huddled in his office with all the chairmen of his spending committees as they try to figure out a path forward on funding bills. And one of the things being discussed is making some changes to that defense bill that went down on the floor a little bit ago. One of the ideas being discussed is cutting Ukraine assistance from that bill.

It includes $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. But that is money that has been allocated to Ukraine since 2014. It is different than the $24 billion aid package that hardliners are also opposed to. But even though that might win over some of the hardline critics, it's unclear if the rest of the party would go along with that. A number of defense hawks and moderates and appropriators are very still supportive of Ukraine money, and especially on the day that Zelenskyy came and visited the Hill pleading for more resources.

But I think more broadly here, there is serious concerns and doubts about whether House Republicans are going to be able to pass a broader bill to avoid a government shutdown in nine days from now. Even though the House GOP came up with a plan and they loaded it up with conservative goodies to try to get the right flank on board, there are still a number of hardliners who are opposed and they don't have the votes at this moment to proceed ahead with that bill to avoid a government shutdown. And it's created a lot of frustration and tension inside the ranks. Just take a listen to Mike Lawler, who represents a Biden won swing district in New York.


MIKE LAWLER, BIDEN REPRESENTATIVE: I think you have a handful of people who are choosing to be obstinate for one reason or another, some of it personal. The vast majority of Republicans are here to do our jobs and to govern. And we'll get there. You know, we have to bring them kicking and screaming, but we'll get there.


ZANONA: So Kevin McCarthy has a choice here, whether he's going to keep catering to his right flank, which could be a dead end because that wouldn't avoid a shutdown with the Senate, or he can try to work with Democrats. But that could put his speakership at risk. So not clear how they're going to get out of this mess with just days to go before the government funding deadline, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Congressman Matt Gates of Florida describing any potential cooperation between Speaker McCarthy and Democrats as a, quote, political death warrant. So we'll see what the speaker decides to do. Melanie Zanona from Capitol Hill. Thanks so much, Brianna.

KEILAR: Well, we are just one day away from another deadline for a deal between the big three automakers and the union to avoid more walkouts. I'll be speaking to the president of an Ohio chapter about negotiations next. In the meantime, striking Hollywood writers and big studios could be nearing a deal. There is a critical meeting underway today. We'll have the latest on that. Plus, we're following a major shift in the media industry. Rupert Murdoch announcing he's stepping down as chairman of Fox Corporation. You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We'll be right back.



KEILAR: The nation's big three automakers are facing increasing pressure under the threat of a union strike expanding. The United Auto Workers expected to call for more walkouts at noon tomorrow if there's not significant progress on a new contract. And so far, you have workers who are striking at just three factories, one for each automaker. Nearly 13,000 union workers are striking at those plants. Another 2,700 workers have been temporarily laid off at other facilities. That includes 68 Stellantis employees at the Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Joining me now, we have Tony Totty. He is the president of UAW Local 14, which is in Toledo. Tony, thanks for being with us again. We do appreciate it. There is, I think, thinking that this is going to be very tough to meet this noon deadline tomorrow. Is this looking like you are in for a bigger, longer, more painful strike? And are union members ready for that?

TONY TOTTY, PRESNIDENT UAW LOCAL 14 TOLEDO: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I just left the strike line over at the Jeep facility and spirits are high. Hopefully we can get a breakthrough. You know, President Fain didn't say that we had to have a deal by tomorrow. He just said that we need improvements at the table by tomorrow. So hopefully the corporations can see it's in nobody's best interest to expand this or extend it. You know, the quicker that we can come to a resolution is the quicker that we could get back to making quality products.

KEILAR: Tony, these union workers who are striking, they're getting $100 a day of strike pay, right? How is that enough over the long haul?

TOTTY: Well, nobody's missed a check yet, right? And it's $500 a week. Nobody can live off that. You know, we're not professional strikers. We're professionals at what we do, and that's build quality products for the consumers. The thing that we're having an issue with is you have members working side by side, one making 15 bucks an hour and the other one making 32. And that goes years on end, especially at Stellantis. And that's just not right. When you look at CEO compensation, our CEO at General Motors, Mary Barra, makes 29 million dollars a year. Now that's 362 times the average worker, but when you look at the temporary worker that they're really exploiting, that's over 600 times what they're making. So that's really what's at hand here. And until they come up with a better solution to that problem, we're gonna stay out as long as it takes.


KEILAR: Yesterday, GM idled about 2,000 employees at a plant in Kansas, where they've been affected actually by the factories that are striking. So you're seeing this ripple effect from the targeted strikes. Were you expecting that?

TOTTY: Yeah, it's a trickle down. I mean, we produce transmissions at our facility and we provide the transmissions for Wentzville. And that same facility that caused Fairfax to go down will impact our schedules. And it's only a matter of time when that facility was taking 500 to 600 transmissions a day. And with us still producing transmissions at some point, that's gonna impact us as well.

KEILAR: Would it be sufficient enough to members of the UAW to see a sizable increase in hourly pay without having the automakers get back into the business of healthcare and pensions? TOTTY: You're talking about for our retirees? You know, all these

things are what they're dealing with at the table. It's not just the wages. Our contract is broken ever since the restructuring in 2009. And that's the two-tier whole system that we gave up during the hard times and we knew that was gonna be a thing.

And even the corporation at the time said, when we get to a better time, we'll adjust this. Well, we're at that better time. Year after year of record profits. They're making record compensation. The stockholders are getting the buybacks to take care of them. And when it turns to us, they say, oh, well, we can't afford that. Well, yeah, you can, because you're a publicly traded company and we get to see what your profitability is.

So, I understand everybody's looking to say, well, how much is good enough for you? And we leave that to our negotiators at the table. But it'd be nice if the corporations get real and understand that this is just an adjustment that they need to make to be right by their people that make them these profits.

KEILAR: Do you have concerns that doing some of that might end up with the automakers right back where they were leading to the bankruptcies that we saw?

TOTTY: Right, and I understand that. And we care about that as well. We don't want to kill our jobs and we know that that would lead to that. But these corporations, when you look at Stellantis, $12 billion a year in the first 6 months alone in profit, General Motors, $12 billion last year and on pace for that again, they can't afford it. Now, we don't want to put them back there, but what also got us into that situation was the housing market credit crunch that sunk the industry, as well as the corporations were doing a pretty bad job of running their business.

They shut a lot of brands and we're just in a healthier place. We don't want to kill the companies. We know that their longevity is to our benefit and we don't want to jeopardize that, but we deserve a raise. We deserve some of these things back that we gave up.

KEILAR: Tony TottY, thank you so much for joining us again. We appreciate it.

TOTTY: Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: Boris.

SANCHEZ: Still to come, that other strike we're following. Are Hollywood writers about to get the happy ending they've been pushing for? The latest on negotiations with big studios when we come back.