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Tropical Storm Now Forecast To Become A Category 4 Hurricane; Growing Number of Migrants Traveling by Sea. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired September 25, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Happening now in the Newsroom. All eyes on tropical Storm Ian as it rapidly intensifies and targets Florida. Plus, Russians fleeing Russia to avoid the draft as Ukraine Zelenskyy offers sanctuary to any Russian soldiers willing to lay down arms. And--
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I'm going to make sure Donald Trump, will do everything I can to make sure he's not the nominee. And if he is the nominee, I won't be a Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Congresswoman Liz Cheney taking a stand saying she'll do whatever it takes to keep Trump and other election deniers out of office, including campaigning with Democrats. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.
Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield and welcome to a new 11 AM Eastern hour here on this Sunday at the Newsroom. Alright Florida, under a state of emergency this hour as Tropical Storm Ian gained strength. Ian is expected to become a hurricane today and may peak as a Category 4 storm before weakening and making a direct hit on Florida as early as Wednesday. We're expecting an update from Governor Ron DeSantis minutes from now.
CNN's Allison Chinchar is in the weather center. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is traveling with the president in Wilmington, Delaware, who just announced a federal emergency for this state. So, let's begin with you, Allison, in the weather center. You just got an update from the National Hurricane Center and tell us what you're learning.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we've got a few changes. So, let's take a look at the breakdown. What we know right now is the sustained winds are at 50 miles per hour, gusting up to 65. That forward movement has increased ever so slightly now up to 14 miles per hour to the West Northwest. Now another place where we've seen some of those changes is actually where we're talking about the watches and warnings. (Inaudible) Haley push this forward, so we can show you some of those watches and warnings.
Here where you see this pink color that hurricane watch, we're now starting to see some of those begin to transition into hurricane warnings. We do still have the one for the Grand Cayman Island. But we're now starting to see more of them added along Cuba's coastline as well. And the reason for that is the intensification. We anticipate the storm to get stronger, which means that storm surge along that southern coast of Cuba is expected to be nine to 14 feet. That is very significant storm surge for that area. We've talked about the reason for that is more strengthening will occur. We anticipate this will become a Category 1 hurricane later today or by tonight, then it will strengthen even further as it makes its way across Cuba, potentially reaching that major hurricane strength at that point.
Then starting to make more of that right hand turn back towards Florida as it makes its way through the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Now here's the ultimate question everyone wants to know, where is it going and when is it going to make landfall and the part of the problem here is the models are very split on both of those things.
For example, the American model is calling for landfall right around Panama City Friday morning. But the European model is much faster trying to make landfall Wednesday evening, and much farther south, likely between Tampa and Fort Myers. So that uncertainty is huge with this particular storm. Now again, when we talk about some of the impacts, rainfall is certainly going to be one of the most significant ones with this storm in addition to the winds, we know that somewhere is likely to pick up at least a foot of rain. But again, it depends on where the storm goes. And that will ultimately determine where the target point is for that heavy rain.
One thing we do know though, Fred, is that somewhere we are going to have that target point over Florida. So, beginning Tuesday and Wednesday, you are going to start to see that flash flood threat begin to increase across Florida. And hopefully we can get that cone of uncertainty narrowed down considerably in the next 48 hours.
WHITFIELD: Alright, Allison, thank you so much. We look forward to the next update. Priscilla to you. So, how might this storm impact the president's plans.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Biden was expected to go to Florida this week to deliver remarks on social security and health care, as well as time to DNC rally, those plans are now canceled because of the storm. Now, as you mentioned earlier, Biden issued an emergency declaration for the state of Florida as the storm approaches. As Allison mentioned, this is a storm that is intensifying over the next couple of days, the White House getting ahead of it with this Declaration, which will authorize FEMA, to coordinate all disaster relief efforts as well as provide additional assistance. This is a storm that the White House has been monitoring for some time and is now getting ahead of and freeing up those federal resources for when it makes landfall. Fred WHITFIELD: Alright, Priscilla Alvarez, Allison Chinchar, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. Alright, let's bring in now FEMA's Assistant Administrator for Response and Recovery, Anne Bink.
Anne, so good to see you. So, how are you all trying to get ahead of the storm?
ANNE BINK, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR FOR RESPONSE AND RECOVERY, FEMA: Thank you, Frederica. And thank you so much for having me on today. As you can see behind me, we are fully activated in preparation for the storm. And thanks to President Biden's swift approval of the emergency declaration that was requested by Florida, we're now quickly moving in, not only specialized teams to support our efforts, but also commodities, things like food and water.
So, WHITFIELD: what should people across Florida be doing right now because as you heard our Allison Chinchar, when we talk about a possible hit within the Gulf side of Florida, it could be anywhere between Tampa or say Panama City.
BINK: That's right, that forecast will continue to firm up overtime. But the message really is prepare now, know your evacuation routes, if you're in an evacuation zone, be prepared to think not only about your family, but your pets, make sure you have your preparedness kit with you to support at least three days, things like food, water, battery chargers, for your phone, even things like your insurance documents, take pictures of them, so you have them with you. So, if there is damage, when you return to your home, you're prepared to get those resources you need post-storm.
The really big thing here too, there's a focus on folks that are medically dependent, wanted to make sure that we get the message out that if you are medically dependent, please go to the Florida Division of Emergency Management website and register if you have needs, medical needs that require electricity. If you have medications, you will need post-storm. That is very important. The state is leaning forward and we're leaning with them to make sure that we can take care of the most vulnerable, should the storm hit your community,
WHITFIELD: We were just looking at pictures as you were talking of people putting bottles of water in their vehicle. So, they're stocking up as best they can. But already in lots of places. There are no more bottles of water or even plywood for people to make their preparation. So, what if anything can you do because of some shortages in some areas.
BINK: Certainly, it's critically important not only to prepare and execute your plan, but to check on each other, right? If you don't have the supplies you need work with your family, friends, your networks to ensure that you're taking care of each other, not only to support those physical needs you may have, but also any emotional needs, right? These are communities that have been impacted by storms in the past. And this is the time for action. Other resources to think about are ready.gov. That will also tell you where shelters are in your area, they will have food and water and other commodities. So, if your needs exist, and you need to fulfill those, check that app out, make sure you can get what you need.
WHITFIELD: Here we are at the end of September, it has been a relatively slow start to what was forecast to be an above average hurricane season. So, are you concerned about complacency, with just about two months left in this Atlantic hurricane season?
BINK: We expect rapid intensification with this storm. And really we're only partly through the hurricane season. We want to stress to please listen to your local officials and take those evacuation orders seriously. This could be a very serious storm surge, rainfall and wind incident. We're expecting a major hurricane. So, my message is, please take this seriously. And please listen to your local officials.
WHITFIELD: Anne Bink of FEMA, thank you so much and all the best over the course of the week.
BINK: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Alright, still ahead, racing to the border. Russians trying to get away from Putin's orders to fight in Ukraine as Ukraine's Zelenskyy offer sanctuary to those soldiers willing to lay down arms. And a CNN exclusive inside the mission of the U.S. Coast Guard as they grapple with a surge of migrants crossing into the U.S. from Cuba.
WHITFIELD: UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has only been on the job a bit over two weeks, but she's already tackling a domestic economic crisis and how to steer the UK response to the war in Ukraine. Truss sat down with State of the Union anchor Jake Tapper for her first international interview since taking office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You called on Western democracies to stay united against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. So, Putin is calling for 300,000 more reservists to come into Ukraine to join the fight. He insists he's not bluffing when he talks about potentially using nuclear weapons. Some people think he's effectively preparing and threatening war with NATO. Have you and President Biden discussed how the West would and should respond if Putin escalates matters even more?
LIZ TRUSS, UK PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, the reason Putin is doing this is because he isn't winning. And he made a strategic mistake, invading Ukraine. And I think he has been outsmarted by the Ukrainians; we've seen the Ukrainians continue to push back against the Russian offensive. And I think he didn't anticipate the strength, the reaction from the free world. And we should not be listening to his saber rattling and his bogus threats. Instead, what we need to do is continue to put sanctions on Russia and continue to support the Ukrainians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And you can watch Jake's full interview with Prime Minister Liz Truss next hour on State of the Union. Meantime, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has a dark warning for Russians caught up in Putin's plan to draft up to 300,000 citizens for his war, calling it a mobilization to graves. Thousands are protesting the move in cities across Russia and even more are fleeing the country with Finland reporting more than 8000 Russians crossing into their border on Saturday alone.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is live for us in Kharkiv, Ukraine. So, Ben, Zelenskyy has a message to Russian soldiers, tell us what he's saying and how he's conveying the message.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Federica, he said this in his nightly address, he basically said, called upon Russian soldiers to surrender or perhaps die, he said, however, if they do surrender, they'll be treated in a civilized manner in his words, and the circumstances of their surrender will remain secret. Now that's important, because of the Russian part of Duma, parliament recently passed a law in which if a soldier surrenders voluntarily to the enemy, he could when he returns home, face up to 10 years in prison, and President Zelenskyy also said that in the event of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, and there are Russian prisoners of war who do not want to return home, Ukraine will respect that desire.
Now, he also called upon Russian soldiers in Ukraine, to sabotage and interfere with Russian military operations, and also to pass on critical intelligence to the Ukrainian side. Now, this sort of psychological warfare the Ukrainians have gotten pretty good at. In fact, I was up near the Russian frontlines the other day with my Ukrainian phone. And clearly it pinged with Ukrainian intelligence. They sent me a message, it says soldier of the Russian Federation, you are fulfilling a criminal order, you will die, surrender to captivity, you will return home. Federica
WHITFIELD: Wow, a stark message being conveyed. Ben Wedeman in Ukraine, thank you so much. Alright. So, let's bring in now Colonel Cedric Leighton. He is a CNN Military Analyst and a retired Air Force Colonel, so good to see you. So, do you think Zelenskyy's message to Russian fighters will make an impact?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it just (inaudible) Frederica, and I think it's very innovative to say the least the way they're doing it, and coupled with the telephone messages that Ben just mentioned. And this way to circumvent to the Russian law that was just promulgated by the Duma and signed by Putin, those things are, I think, pretty effective, because a lot of Russians don't want to fight this war. And for them, this might prove to be a good way out. And especially if this - let's say they surrender, the circumstances of their capture being kept secret, I think is a very innovative and nifty idea from the Ukrainian point of view.
WHITFIELD: Yes, innovative indeed. So, we're also seeing that there are protests and you know, in Russia, and people are fleeing that country after Putin announced his plan to mobilize thousands of Russians. Do you think this mobilization plan might be just the beginning of a bigger military draft?
LEIGHTON: I think it might be. There are indications, Frederica that they may want to draft at least a million people, until will a million soldiers. And that is a lot of manpower that would more than double the size of the current Russian army, and it would significantly have an impact if they were well-trained on the battlefield. Now, make that big caveat there, because I think they are not going to be well- trained, at least most of them won't be well=trained. So, we'll probably have bigger the effect of volume. But it won't have a real tactical or operational impact on the war at this juncture, at least,
WHITFIELD: Because the deficits are remarkable. I mean, I read that the Russian military pre-war military has been depleted by 50 percent. And if there was this mobilization to round up, possibly a million soldiers, many of whom might be ordinary folks who are coming from far remote areas. They may be farmers, mechanics, fishermen, deer hunters, how could the Russian military possibly utilize them, be able to train them for the effort that they're trying to make in Ukraine?
LEIGHTON: Well, yes, of those that you mentioned, probably the deer hunters would be the most effective because they could potentially be trained as a sniper assuming that they understood the types of rifles that they'd be issued. But that aside, most of these people really don't have the training and you can't create that training on the fly, you can't have somebody come in and get two weeks of training and then expect them to be an effective soldier on the frontlines.
It just doesn't work that way. That's why, for example, the U.S. military has more than six weeks of basic training and some cases 10 weeks of basic training, I - and it goes into a much more extensive specialization, a series of training events for each career field. And that's something that the Russians would have to replicate in order to be effective. And that takes upwards of a year to make a real effective fighting personality out of a U.S. soldier that's a raw recruit.
WHITFIELD: Right. And there has to be a willingness, right, to go in there to kill people not to catch fish or kill deer. I mean, that seems like a gigantic undertaking.
LEIGHTON: Yes, absolutely. And the moral component of this is something that somebody like Putin is obviously not considering, because I think a lot of people in Russia have moral objections to doing this, as they rightly should. And this is something that puts them in a curious position, puts them at risk, when they don't really need to be at risk in order to live a good life. And that's, that's something that I think is really the fuel behind people fleeing across the borders in places like Finland and Georgia, and Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
So that makes a for a big difference. And I think that the Russians are going to find that they will have created a tremendously hollow force and their equipment who will not be able to keep up with the number of recruits that they may impress into service in this manner.
WHITFIELD: Significant ripple effects in so many different directions right now. Colonel Cedric Leighton, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.
LEIGHTON: You bet, Frederica. Good to be with you.
WHITFIELD: Alright, straight ahead, Florida on alert as a rapidly intensifying storm sets its sights and the Sate Governor DeSantis is set to give a storm update in just a few minutes. We'll take you there live, next
WHITFIELD: Alright, live pictures right now, where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will be giving an update just moments from now. Everyone getting into position. Of course, it happens. We'll take it live. The state of Florida bracing for the first major hurricane to hit since 2018. And Florida is under a state of emergency as now Tropical Storm Ian continues to pick up strength. Ian is expected to become a hurricane today and its forecast to peak as a Category 4 storm in the Gulf. And before weakening ahead of landfall as early as Wednesday.
Alright, joining me right now is Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter, a city in the storm's path. Mayor, good to see you. It looks really placid and calm behind you now, but then tell me, you know, at what feverish pitch is the preparation taking place?
MAYOR JOHN GUNTER, CAPE CORAL, FLORIDA: Yes, thank you. Nice to be with you this morning. Right now, of course, we are like many other cities, we're preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. We have our emergency operations center that's been activated at an enhanced level. And we have our staff monitoring the storm very closely on a daily basis, and we are just being prepared for the worst. So that's where we are now. Just getting our preparation in order.
WHITFIELD: And tell me what kind of preparations your residents are taking. I mean, there you are a coastal city. So, you've been through storms, tropical storms, hurricanes, you faced the threats before, so you know the vulnerable areas, and what people really need to do to be safe to keep their property safe. And so, what is likely happening right now.
GUNTER: Yes, we're monitoring the storm. Of course, there's two components with any storm, you have the storm surge that we have to be concerned with. And also, the winds, so we are watching the storm. Both of those things are a high priority for us, looking at the storm surge and the winds. So, we are just monitoring and seeing exactly what type of intensity that we will experience. Of course, we are preparing for the worst. We've mobilized equipment throughout the city, our EOC, Emergency Operations Center has an enhanced activation. So, we are monitoring everything throughout today and the days to come to make sure that we can get the message out to our residents exactly how prepared they need to be and what the threat of the storm is.
WHITFIELD: Federal and state emergencies have been declared for all of Florida ahead of the storm. I just spoke with someone with FEMA who talked about the kind of reinforcements assistance that is underway. And I wonder for your area, is there enough bottled water to go around? Are people picking up sandbags? Is there enough plywood? Do you have everything needed for folks to brace themselves?
GUNTER: Yes, I will say that we are OK on those supplies now. But like we have learned in the past if we do have a substantial hurricane hit our city as far as a direct a hit, then we will probably need more of those supplies. And that's when we would reach out to our - our state and federal agencies to make sure that we have exactly what we need for the residents of our city
WHITFIELD: Alright. All the best to you. From Cape Coral, Florida Mayor John Gunter, thank you so much.
GUNTER: Thank you. It was nice to be with you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. And of course, we continue to watch the latest in this press room where Florida Governor will be momentarily. He'll be addressing folks about all the precautions being taken and all the instruction that will be given from the governor's office. Of course, when that happens, we'll bring it to you live. We'll be right back
WHITFIELD: Alright, live now to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There are some models that want to tug this thing more deep into the Florida Panhandle. There are also some that want to bring it for landfall in the Tampa Bay region. So, from the Tampa Bay area all the way up to Escambia County along Florida's Gulf Coast, you could potentially see it make landfall in any of those places as of right now.
Now as this goes, there'll be more clarity. They have nudged it further west as they've looked at this over the past 24, 36 hours. But just because that DOD is in a particular place, it's too soon to say that there's not going to be a wobble or there's not going to be any type of curvature back into the Florida Peninsula. And basically, you have one model is taking it there, the European model, the American model is taking it further west. And what the National Hurricane Center does is basically try to come in the middle of what the models are out there.
So, expect heavy rains, strong winds, flash flooding, storm surge, and even isolated tornadoes. Make preparations now. and I know a lot of people have been doing it throughout the state of Florida. And the things that they you should be prepared with are things like food, water, batteries, medicine, fuel, anticipate particularly the closer you are to where the either storm makes landfall, anticipate power outages, that is something that will likely to happen with a hurricane of this magnitude, anticipate fuel disruptions. That's something that could happen with a hurricane of this magnitude. And also anticipate that in certain areas of the state, if you are in a very vulnerable area, there may even be evacuations that are issued.
So, listen to your local officials and heed those warnings. But just prepare that with a hurricane of this magnitude, those are things that will likely to happen. And it's more likely to happen obviously where that is making landfall.
For those folks who are new to the state, who have not experienced this yet. I know we've got a lot of people that have moved into the state of Florida. Just make sure you make your preparations, also make sure that if you're doing things like using generators, that you're using those properly, those generators cannot be operated inside your structure, your home, the exhaust has to go outside if it's inside, then that could be something that is fatal. So please, if you're going to use a generator, make sure that that exhaust is going outside your residence.
We have declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties given the uncertainty of the path of the storm. We've done things like waive weight restrictions for commercial trucks, we want to ensure that adequate resources are able to be brought into the state of Florida. We also are authorized emergency refills of prescriptions for 30 days and so if that's something that you need to do, you have the ability to do that.
Florida Department of Emergency Management is working with all of the fuel and the utility partners throughout the state of Florida. Once this storm hits, there's going to be a need and a strong effort to get the power back on for as many people as quickly as possible and they are working with those partners. We have activated the Florida National Guard. They are activating 2500 guardsmen at the moment and if there is a need for more, then we could do more and our state EOC is at a level one.
I want to thank everybody for working hard, not just here at the state of Florida, but also at all our local counties who do a really good job with emergency preparedness and emergency management.
We're going to keep monitoring the track of this storm. But it really is important to stress the degree of uncertainty that still exist. And so, anybody from Tampa Bay all the way to Escambia County, there are different tracks that would take it into any one of those places.
And I would also say to other Floridians, even if you're not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there's going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the state. You're going to have wind, you're going to have water, there could be flooding on the East Coast of Florida as a result of this. It's a big storm. So, just prepare for that and understand that that's something that may happen. I'm going to have Kevin Guthrie come up and give an update from the Emergency Management.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor.
WHITFIELD: Alright, you're listening to Florida Governor DeSantis there saying all 67 counties need to take this storm very seriously. Of course, underscoring there's a lot of uncertainty that comes with this storm, as it makes its way through the Gulf Coast, potentially impacting the western side of Florida anywhere from Tampa, through Escambia County, as he mentioned there, 2500 guardsmen are at the ready, but he's also impressing upon people that there's great volatility with this story. And it really can take a turn, go any kind of direction, but to be at the ready, and stay close to any form of communication to find out what kind of instructions might be coming your way. Alright, we'll have so much more straight ahead right after this.
WHITFIELD: Alright, the border crisis continues as more migrants travel into the United States. And now there's an alarming rate of migrants traveling by sea near Miami from Cuba. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has more on the growing trend and how officials are trying to tackle it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a look at that one, that's washed up ashore.
ALVAREZ: A grim reality out at sea, migrants relying on makeshift sail boats to get to the United States. Nowadays, it's a regular sighting for Coast Guard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it uncommon to see at least two to three different ventures all just in a span of five hours.
ALVAREZ: U.S. Coast Guard crews have interdicted more than 6000 Cubans since last October making it the highest number of Cuban migrant interceptions since the 1990s and thousands of migrants have also made it to shore. So far this fiscal year, border authorities have encountered nearly 3600 migrants in the Miami sector that's up from just over 1000 last year.
WALTER SLOSAR, CHIEF PATROL AGENT, U.S. BORDER PATROL, MIAMI SECTOR: Seeing the uptick for us is really concerning and the fact that we're seeing more individuals on not so seaworthy vessels putting significant amount of those individuals at very dangerous risk for loss of life
ALVAREZ: Vessels includes surfboards tied together and boats with limited provisions and no navigation system for what is a day's long journey. For years, Cubans have been fleeing the island, but recent unrest, persecution and shortages of basic goods have pushed more to leave.
Immigration Attorney David Claros who's based in Miami is hiring additional staff to meet the demand of Cubans arriving to Florida
DAVID CLAROS, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: For the most part, individuals have come to us with stories or persecution from the local government for their inability to participate in certain events for just their - for not agreeing with local and the communist policy of the island.
ALVAREZ: Patrols here are complicated by the varying terrain requiring coordination among agencies on land, air and sea or CBP, air and marine operations also patrols for incoming vessels. And it's not just Cubans they're looking for, officials are also grappling with an increasing number of Haitian migrants. More than hundred people traveled on this vessel from Haiti, a journey that can take about a week if you look you can see the clothes and the snacks left behind what is a makeshift sailboat. Chief Patrol Agent in the Miami sector. Walter Slosar acknowledged the demand on resources to address the new trend.
SLOSAR: We're all working with finite resources. And as we encounter these individuals, you don't know who's on that boat. It takes our agents time to bring them into our custody. Make sure that you know that they're healthy and that they're clean and that they're fed and that they're safe and then identify exactly who they are
ALVAREZ: Administration officials can see the jump and Cuban migration not only at sea, but at the U.S. Mexico border poses a challenge. This week, the administration said the U.S. embassy in Havana is preparing to resume full immigrant Visa processing for the first time since 2017. But out at sea crews prepare for the worst.
What goes through your mind when you do see them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can be traumatizing and it's sometimes very sad, depending on the scenario that you find these people in.
WHITFIELD: Alright, thanks to Priscilla Alvarez for that report. Alright joining me right now to further discuss Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of Texas. Congressman Gonzalez, so good to see you.
REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): Good to see you. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Alright, so we just heard in that report, that it's not just the land border that's overwhelmed. More migrants traveling to the U.S. by sea. So, what is the bipartisan solution.
GONZALEZ: So, the solution that I have proposed called the Safe Zone Act is creating a safe zone on the border of Guatemala and Mexico that would allow everyone south of Mexico which is about 80 percent or 90 percent of migrants that come to our southern border, to check in at that juncture, to go through the exact same processing that they do on our southern border. And if we're going to allow them in under the credible fear standard, which is a pretty low standard, if we're going to allow them in any way, when they get to our border, let's just give them a document and have them fly to their final destination.
Right now, migrants are paying cartels between $6000 and $8000. ahead to get to our southern border. Last year, we calculated that they made about $5 billion. And I think, if we did this further away, like in Guatemala, it would take the pressure off our southern border, it would allow the Border Patrol and law enforcement to do what they're trained to do. And it would take the cartel element out of the equation. And I think it's the only real idea and proposal that would alleviate the issues that we're dealing with on our border.
WHITFIELD: So, you're proposing then there has to be some kind of government to government cooperation, Guatemala--
GONZALEZ: That's right.
WHITFIELD: The U.S. I mean, how feasible is that?
GONZALEZ: It's very feasible. I've spoken to President Giammattei in Guatemala, who is open to the idea, this would be a pilot program, if it works, we might be able to do it in other parts of the world. This is an idea that I've had since the last administration, something that I spoke to President Morales at the time in Guatemala, and I pitched it to President Trump at the time who was interested in it, but COVID hit, Title 42 was triggered and all that did was put a band aid on the problems that we have on our southern border.
What I'm proposing is a long-term infrastructure investment, made further away from our border on and allowing people to process at that juncture. Right now, we have three countries that are mostly migrating, which is Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Down the road, it could be Ecuador, and Colombia or Venezuela, or who knows what.
But until we make those long-term infrastructure investments, we will always be dealing with this issue on our southern border, our asylum laws were written during World War II, the world has changed and our laws have not changed. This is a law that would be in the books that would allow for asylum seekers to process further out, and that we deal with them thoughtfully, humanely. It would be a first class operation, still American run. And this would work and we would create a safe zone similar to the green zone that we had in Iraq, in cooperation with other governments.
WHITFIELD: So, until that time, for now, governors in Florida and Texas are taking matters into their own hands. And of course, you're seeing they're sending migrants by bus, plane to other northern states, they're wanting to call blue states. They say they're going to do it, to call on the Biden Administration to take action. But will - do you think that their tactics will actually expedite a solution?
GONZALEZ: Absolutely not. It's a dog and pony show, it's red meat that they're feeding to their base. But I think this is going to backfire on them especially on Governor DeSantis who took Venezuelans. Venezuelans, who he organized in San Antonio are here for about a week in a hotel to put the show on for the American people, and I guess for his people in Florida. But these were people who are running from an authoritarian communist regime to our country, we have always welcomed people who were running from authoritarian governments, whether they were Cuban, or North Korean, or Vietnamese or Russian, or depending who at the time was that regime.
And right now, Venezuela is that. He took Venezuelans who were already broken from a communist regime, who had come to the United States of America who welcomed these people historically, and put them in a plane or on buses and send them to Massachusetts, I find that so disgraceful and un-American.
WHITFIELD: So, help me understand the differences of what you're proposing, because you said people would be processed and say, Guatemala, if there's this government to government cooperation, many of the people, the migrants who were taken to Martha's Vineyard or Washington, DC, many of them had already been processed to a certain extent, and they were going to be awaiting their hearings, and then perhaps they would be transported to other locations for those hearings. But how were these two plants different when we were still talking about people who will be relocated after being processed or registered along the border?
GONZALEZ: There would not be different - you're talking about the Venezuelans.
WHITFIELD: Yes, your plan versus what we're seeing taking place right now.
GONZALEZ: Yes. So, it would be any - any migrants coming from south of Mexico would process at this juncture. And that would be South America, Central Americans, people who fly in from another part of the world into that area would must be processed in this green - in this safe zone. And if they were to be - if they were to show up to our southern border without being processed, knowing that they had to be processed at this place, the law would allow us to remove them back to that location to be properly processed and if we're going to allow these people in, we should do it in an orderly way.
And we need to come to terms with the fact that we have a labor shortage in this country.
We have a labor shortage, they need the jobs, let's find an orderly way to get them to work.
WHITFIELD: So, we're about a month away from midterms right now. Do you think the conversation around immigration will be front and center, whether it be for your party or for the Republicans in terms of helping to promote an anecdote a remedy here?
GONZALEZ: I think that's been a conversation for the past decade. And I think it will be one of the conversations, I think, also women's rights will be another conversation. I think Republicans trying to defund Social Security and Medicare by privatizing it or setting sunset rules would be something very important for senior citizens in this next election. So, if that would be part of the conversation, we're improving our economy, a lot of great things are happening. We have a record low unemployment, and Americans are making more income now than ever before.
So, we know there are tough times out there. But things have improved dramatically from the last administration and continue to improve. Gas prices have come down, I think six or seven weeks in a row, I just filled up my tank here in Texas for $2.92 a gallon, which is shocking, if you had looked at the prices just six weeks ago. So, things are moving in the right direction. We did - we are going through a complex patch and we have in the last few months, but things are getting better.
And we're going to continue to work to improve our economy, to have everyone back to work with higher wages with dignified insurance, with so - we need a Social Security increase to assure that our seniors are living well. And that their monthly check matches the increase at the grocery store.
WHITFIELD: Alright. We'll leave it there for now. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez. Glad you could be with us today. Thanks so much.
GONZALEZ: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Alright, tonight a real life story of succession, the Murdochs, Empire of Influence premieres with two episodes at 9 and 10 PM right here on CNN.
WHITFIELD: So fascinating. Don't miss this new CNN original series. It all starts tonight. 9 o'clock.
WHITFIELD: I won't be a Republican quoting now the words from Congresswoman Liz Cheney if Donald Trump is the 2024 GOP nominee, Cheney was removed from House Republican leadership last year over her criticism of Trump and her role on the January 6th Committee. She also lost this year's primary election to a Trump backed candidate, CNN Congressional Reporter Daniella Diaz joining me now from Capitol Hill. Daniella, so what else did Cheney say?
DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: In this wide-ranging interview, Fred, she dodged questions about whether she would run for president in 2024. She said she has not made a decision about that just yet. But really notable Fred as you said that she said that she would not be Republican, she would leave the party should former President Donald Trump win the Republican Party's nomination in 2024. Take a listen to what she said in this interview. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I think that Donald Trump is, he's the only president in American history who refused to guarantee a peaceful transition of power. And so now, the fact that my party has refused in a month since then to stand up to him, I think does tell you how sick the party is. I'm going to make sure Donald Trump; I will do everything I can to make sure he's not the nominee. And if he is the nominee, I won't be a Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAZ: Such a contrast, Fred, who was once seen as a rising star in the House Republican Party. She of course, is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, a conservative as well. Look, she was also talking about the Arizona gubernatorial race specifically, and trying to say she would ensure that the GOP nominee Kari Lake, the former television journalist who has become a leading voice in Trump's lies about election fraud would not be elected. She said, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure she's not elected. And when asked during this panel, whether that included campaigning for Democrats, Congresswoman Liz Cheney said yes.
Of course, she would not go as far as to say that she wants Democrats to take the house in the 2022 midterms. But she urged voters during this interview, to be aware of who they're voting for and what policies they're pushing and to vote against those candidates, Republican candidates, namely, that continue to push the lies that former President Donald Trump had the election stolen from him the 2020 election. She is of course, urging voters to be aware of who they're voting for during these 2022 midterms. Fred.
WHITFIELD: Alright, making lots of news today. Thank you so much, Daniella Diaz. Appreciate that. And thank you so much for joining me. I'm Frederica Whitfield. I'll see you back here at the 2 o'clock Eastern hour back in the Newsroom.