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1000+ Killed After Powerful Earthquake Hits Morocco; President Biden Attends Meeting Of Global Leaders In India; Escaped Killer Spotted Twice In Search Area Friday; Coco Gauff, Aryna Sabalenka Set For U.S. Open Showdown; Hurricane Lee Weakens To Category 3 Storm; Workers Who Rebuild After Hurricanes Refuse To Go To Florida Over New Immigration Law; Union Threatens Walkout Against "Big Three" Automakers. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 09, 2023 - 13:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. And we begin this hour with breaking news out of Morocco where a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck late Friday killing more than 1000 people. It was the strongest to hit the area in over a century. The epicenter in the High Atlas Mountains near Marrakesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rescuers are now struggling to access the hardest hit areas after roads were damaged. Equipment and manpower are limited -- is very much limited in this region. Patients are waiting outside hospitals and residents are sleeping on the streets fearing that intense aftershocks may hit. More than 700 people are in critical condition. And officials believe the death toll will steadily wise.

I want to bring in now CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman for more on all this. Ben, you've been to the area before. Set the scene for our viewers what the topography is like, who lives there, why it's also a tourist attraction. And now how an earthquake of this magnitude can cause so much damage.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This earthquake happened just a few minutes after 11:00 p.m. on Friday evening. And from the video we've seen of CCTV for instance, there clearly was a small jolt followed by this massive earthquake that really started buildings just collapsed. You see in one CCTV video just this block of a building just falling into the streets sending people out.

Essentially thousands -- tens of thousands of people slept outside if they could sleep at all last night. Now the death toll, the last we heard which was a couple of hours ago from Moroccan state television was that 1037 people had been killed so far. More than 1200 wounded, 721 according to state television in critical condition. The hospitals clearly overwhelmed people waiting outside to be seen by doctors other areas, basically beds -- hospital beds been put in the street because there's no room outside. Now people have been lining up in Marrakesh, the main town in that area that has been hit a lining up to donate blood. But there have been aftershocks. More than a dozen in the hour since that earthquake struck. Now, it's important to keep in mind that the epicenter was about 45 miles southwest of Marrakesh in the High Atlas Mountains. And I've been there, I've camped in that area, hiked in that area.

It's some very deep ravines roads that easily blocked by falling boulders. And that seems to be had been what happened. We've seen nighttime video of roads blocked in that area. There are lots of small towns and villages in the High Atlas Mountains. Some of them severely affected by the earthquake. We've seen the accounts from people in that area. One woman Fatima told CNN.

I barely got the chance to grab the children and run out before I saw my house collapsing in front of my eyes. The neighbor's house has also collapsed and there are two dead people under the rubble. Now she told CNN that rescue teams had not reached their town hours after the earthquake struck. So, this is really one of the problems in this area is that in addition to the fact that it's remote, the Moroccans don't have enough manpower and equipment to reach all of these areas in addition to the city of Marrakesh.

So, it's a problem and they desperately need help from abroad. That help is coming but it couldn't come soon enough. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Not at all. All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. And hopefully when it does get there it will assist greatly in trying to finding -- in trying to find more survivors. CNN researcher Benjamin Brown was on a rooftop in Marrakesh when the earthquake hit and said it took a while for people to realize what was happening. Here's more of what he witnessed in the aftermath.



BENJAMIN BROWN, CNN RESEARCHER: A large clouds of dust that had been shaken off the ground just erupted into the sky and covering basically the entire sky in dust. When the shaking then stopped, we -- this is me and other guests in the hotel made our way to open ground far away from high rise walls and toward buildings that may collapse, obviously with the damage they've already suffered, but also with potential aftershocks.

And yes, that's really when the panic started to kick in for people. When people saw the true extent of the damage, but also of the horrific injuries. I saw many people carried out of buildings and stretches. One person wrapped in a carpet being brought into the streets. And some of them what appeared to be very bad head injuries, a lot of blood. And I even saw one instance in which woman had to be turned away by an ambulance crew because ambulance was full of injured people and they simply said they couldn't take her -- take her in the ambulance.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Our thanks to Benjamin Brown for his reporting. For more information about how you can help victims of the Morocco earthquake go to or you can text Morocco to 707070 to donate.

All right. Right now, President Biden is in India where the G20 Summit is underway. Today, world leaders agreed on a joint statement laying out their shared views on a range of issues including climate change and economic development. But the declaration stopped short of explicitly condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Earlier the President met one on one with Indian Prime Minister Modi but noticeably absent from the summit are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

President Biden was asked Xi's absence might affect the summit. And here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Biden, has President Xi's absence impacted the summit?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be nice to have him here but, no, the summit is going well.


WHITFIELD: Let's bring in CNN's Kevin Liptak live for us in New Delhi. So, Kevin, bring us up to speed on today's developments at the summit.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Really, the main surprise today was that joint declaration that Prime Minister Modi announced midday leading up to today. Diplomats had really been working furiously behind the scenes to try and develop some consensus language when it came to the conflict in Ukraine. And remember, this is a bloc that includes Russia as a member.

So, gaining any kind of agreement on that front was always going to be difficult. Now what did emerge fell short of an explicit condemnation of the conflict in Ukraine of Russia's invasion. It would talked in more broad terms about the importance of protecting sovereignty, territorial integrity, about the importance of not using nuclear weapons. And to some observers, it did seem like a watered-down version of what the G20 came up with last year.

When you talk to White House officials, they do say that this is a consequential declaration. That was the word that the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan used earlier today. And they do make the point that President Biden and other leaders were able to get consensus from countries that haven't necessarily been as forceful in the condemnation of Russia countries like India, where we are but also South Africa and Brazil.

And so, certainly, this statement, still reflecting some deep divisions among this grouping. And this is a fractured moment for the G20. Perhaps most explicitly seen in the absence of President Xi and President Putin from the summit. You heard President Biden say today that it's not necessarily affecting a progress on the ground here. And he has been able to use those leaders absences as an opening somewhat to make the case for United States is put sustained of role in the world.

And President Biden did come armed with several proposals, several ideas that would help bolster the United States' role in the developing world in particular, including reforming the World Bank, unlocking what the White House said, could be hundreds of billions of dollars in new loans and investments. Making it a more attractive lender to those countries than China. And of course, the other major announcement that President Biden made today was this new transit corridor that would extend from Asia through the Middle East and eventually on to Europe.

This would really provide a major competition to China as it seeks to bolster its global trade routes. And so, President Biden certainly looking to use his presence here to make the case for sustained American commitment abroad as he concludes this G20 Summit here in India, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kevin Liptak in New Delhi. Thanks so much. All right. Back in this country. The details today on the manhunt for convicted killer Danelo Cavalcante who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison last week.


Authorities telling CNN that he was cited twice within the search area on Friday, evading almost 400 law enforcement officers, canine units and helicopters. Cavalcante has been spotted at least eight times overall since he escaped. Terrifying local residents who have been advised to stay inside and to lock their doors. CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me live from Westchester. Polo, what are you hearing?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it's important to remind viewers that since that escape on August 31st, we have seen those confirmed sightings by authorities on a regular basis. The most recent being two confirmed sightings just yesterday afternoon inside of that search perimeter, Fred. That is critical here because it tells investigators that it's safe to assume that this 34-year-old escaped convict is still in that area that continues to be searched by air and by land.

As of the latest update this morning, that search perimeter, a majority of it includes Longwood Gardens. For those viewers that aren't familiar with this, this is a botanical garden. It's about 1000 acres roughly, of meadows, gardens, of course, and woodlands as well. And that's what really concerns authorities here over and over again. I actually step out because this is interesting. You actually see a USPS vehicle approaching one of the roadblocks.

The driver of that has to step out and open up the back of his vehicle so that the state patrolman can actually take a look. This is what's happening time and time again, as authorities really try to keep close to this perimeter, only allowing a select few individuals to make their way inside. I should mention, Longwood Gardens. That has been closed due to public safety that they said in a statement that their safety of the staff and also of their guests is priority.

So as a result -- as a result, because of this escape, they've closed down, but really on any other late summer weekend that would be packed with families enjoying festivities. But the reality for the residents in this particular part of Southeast Pennsylvania, that man is still on the loose and because of that, there certainly still sort of a sense of fear among some. But also, for the most part, we have seen people go about their day to day lives except for the occasional interruption just like what you saw here, Fred, as Cavalcante continues to be on the loose.

The last sidings just yesterday afternoon in this particular space. It continues to be searched by authorities.

WHITFIELD: And then, Polo, what about security at the prison?

SANDOVAL: Well, we learned yesterday that one of the staff at the -- one of the members of the staff at the prison was terminated accorded to officials. There's certainly still an investigation that is ongoing. Authorities making it clear that this is an individual that should have at least seen or reported Cavalcante escape back on August 31st and failed to do so. And because of that, that termination happened.

Of course, the investigation still moving forward with the Chester County District Attorney's office making it clear that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. But the big priority right now is finding this 34-year-old convicted killer.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval. Thanks so much. All right. Still to come. A judge rejects Mark Meadows' bid to move his Georgia election interference case to federal court. Why it could be a troubling sign for the former President Donald Trump next.

And much later. A much-anticipated women's final at the U.S. Open. American Coco Gauff takes on a Belarusian Sabalenka. We have details straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. A federal judge has rejected former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' bid to move his Georgia criminal case to federal court. The district judge found the allegations against Meadows on election subversion charges were largely related to political activities and not to Meadows' role as Donald Trump's chief of staff. Meadows has appealed the ruling. CNN's Paula Reid has details.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The judge in this case, noting that the bar for Meadows was pretty low. The standard was not that high, but he still was not able to meet it. Now Meadows lawyers had hoped that they could remove his case to federal court and then tried to get it dismissed using laws that extend some immunity to federal officials. But according this ruling, that is not going to happen for Meadows unless he somehow successfully appeals this.

The judge found that everything that Meadows did in his role as Chief of Staff in this alleged conspiracy, they were political activities. Even though Meadows' attorney insists that the things that he did and the allegations in this indictment were all related to his official duty to his federal job. But interestingly, the judge even uses Meadows' own words against him, cites his own testimony or Meadows was asked to define the limits of his authority. Couldn't do that.

And also, notes how Meadows acknowledged that the lawyer is on that infamous call with the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, those were not government lawyers. Those were campaign lawyers. So, the judge firmly finding that all of these were political activities, not part of his official duties. So, Meadows will not be successful in removing this to federal court. Now Meadows is the first of five defendants trying to move their cases to federal court and spoken with sources in this case.

And everyone was watching Meadows' case because they believe that Meadows had the strongest possibility, the strongest likelihood of succeeding. And the fact that he has not been successful at getting his case moved to federal court. Not a great sign for anyone else who wants to try to do this. Former President Trump is a slightly different case but also not a good sign for him either.

Though, the judge officially says that his ruling has no impact on anyone else's case, and each will be decided individually. Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: All right. With me now to talk more about these developments is John Dean. He is a CNN Contributor and a former Nixon White House Counsel. John, great to see you.


All right. So, the judge rejecting Mark Meadows' bid to move his case to federal court saying he failed to meet even the quite low threshold for removal. So how devastating do you believe this is for his case?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's very bad for Mark Meadows' case. And while the judge was very expressing, saying he wasn't really on or trying to influence his thinking on the other cases, it's clear he did. And he does, because of the very clear analysis. A very careful 49-Page opinion that he wrote that is not likely to be overturned on appeal.

WHITFIELD: And now Donald Trump's lawyers say they are considering asking to move his case to federal court as well. But doesn't that ruling from Mark Meadows kind of obviate, you know, any kind of move like that?

DEAN: There are different situations. One of the points that the judge made about Mark Meadows is that he like all federal employees is under the so-called Hatch Act, which prohibits campaign and political activity by federal employees in the folks in the executive branch in particular. So, the President though is exempted from the Hatch Act. So, he's outside that, but yet the President still has to show he was acting under color of his office and disrupting a state constitutional process that's delegated by the Constitution to the state of Georgia is not an easy hurdle to overcome.

In other words, the President has no business in getting himself involved in a Georgia election.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let me pivot now to that unredacted Georgia special grand jury report, which was made public yesterday. And in it, the grand jury recommended charges against 39 people, including Senator Lindsey Graham and two former U.S. senators from Georgia. But Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis ultimately indicted 19 people, including Trump. So, what do you make of that decision by Willis?

Did that kind of remove, you know, arguments that she made -- that she was in any way influenced politically by who she indicted and why?

DEAN: I think it shows she's a very careful prosecutor. She -- the evidence was presented. Apparently 75 witnesses appear before the special grand jury. They were guided in the law, the special grand Jurors by her staff. So, they have the whole picture. They reached conclusions, but it shows how careful the prosecutor, Fani was in making her ultimate decision and narrowing that list down virtually cut it in half.

WHITFIELD: There was also another big development this week in the federal case over Donald Trump's handling of classified documents. A former attorney for a Mar-a-Lago I.T. worker says he has struck a cooperation agreement with the special counsel's office in exchange for not being prosecuted. So, what's the significance of that and how might that impact that case?

DEAN: He would -- this is a witness who was originally represented by a lawyer who's representing a number of Trump employees. Still is, not one of the defendants is amongst his clients. And there's a request now pending before the court to have what's called a Garcia hearing where Nauta and others can do what the witness who now has broken rank has done is get advice as to what indeed is all his options are.

Not I might well decide after the Garcia hearing. Hearing that he has other options he might to break because this this lawyer is being paid for by Donald Trump. The new -- the new witness -- the witness who's cooperating is getting assistance of a public defender. So that option may be available for Nauta well. This could blow up in Donald Trump's face paying for all these lawyers.

WHITFIELD: All right. John Dean, we'll leave it there for now. Good to see you. Thanks so much.

DEAN: You too.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up. American tennis star Coco Gauff about to play her first Grand Slam final. The 19-year-old will face world number two Aryna Sabalenka for the U.S. Open title. We'll go live outside Arthur Ashe Stadium next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WHITFIELD: All right. After two gripping weeks of action on the court of the U.S. Open, it all comes down to one match for the women's title this afternoon. Between home favorite Coco Gauff and world number two Aryna Sabalenka. Carolyn Manno joining us live from outside the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. I mean, I'm not there, but I can feel the excitement, the anticipation. I mean, Carolyn, these last couple of weeks have been crazy.

I've been staying up every night. I'm still sleepy. But today I will be wide awake to see what happens.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN REPORTER: Yes. You know, Fred, she's captivated America's attention over the last couple of weeks. But really the last couple of years because tennis fans have been waiting for this moment, for Coco Gauff since she burst onto the tennis scene as a 15-year-old. And in the last couple of months, she has really evolved into a player that is ready for this moment. She's retooled her coaching staff.

She's shored up some of her techniques, particularly on her forehand and, you know, she believes in herself and you're seeing that confidence. I think what she's proven over the course of the last two weeks is that she can meet the hype that's been placed on her for so many years. And she's fully capable of ending the day as a Grand Slam champion. It's going to be a very day difficult tests against the likes of Aryna Sabalenka who will be the top ranked player in the world by the time this tournament wraps up.


Sabalenka is a power hitter. She is so strong. She's mentally tough. She's won a grand slam. She's been on this stage before.

So it's going to be about can Coco handle this moment? I mean, the crowd will be in her favor. So many people will be watching and cheering for her at home.

And she spoke to that. She spoke to staying focused and having that belief.

Take a listen to what she had to say.


COCO GAUFF, PRO TENNIS PLAYER: I do think that I'm giving myself more credit. It's definitely -- speaking things into existence is real, so I've been trying to speak more positively of myself and actually telling myself that I'm a great player.

I'm trying to enjoy the moment, but also knowing that I still have more work to do. Yes, the final is an incredible achievement, but it's something I'm not satisfied with yet.


MANNO: Fred, she has a remarkable way as a teenager of keeping everything in perspective. She is so wise beyond her years. When you hear her, after these matches, diagnose what went right and what went wrong.

She said it there. If she comes into this match believing that she can do this, she will.

It will be such a fantastic moment for so many people who are here to watch her. It's been an incredible run the last two weeks.

WHITFIELD: I mean, incredible. She is so poised. And it's been so fun to watch, watch her, watch her growth over the years. Something very special was on display in this go-round.

You're right. She's seemingly very mature. Hard to believe she's 19.

All right, Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.

Let's talk more about all of this with CNN sports analyst and "USA Today" sports columnist, Christine Brennan.

Christine, I mean, the excitement is palpable. This has been so exciting. Today is even more so.

First of all, women's tennis overall is electric. Coco Gauff being the first teen to be in the finals since Aryna, who happens to be a big, you know, inspiration to Coco. We've seen the power volleys, Sabalenka and Coco Gauff.

What is it about women's tennis that seems to have been elevated even further when already it seems like women's tennis had reached an apex?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Absolutely, Fred. Women's tennis and equality for women is really synonymous with the game of tennis.

The 50th anniversary is being celebrated over these two weeks at the U.S. Open, the 50th anniversary of equal pay for women.

I mean, think about it, the women's soccer team, exciting for them a year and a half ago. Some of the other women don't have equal pay.

And tennis, the U.S. Open, 50 years ago, it paid women the same as men.

So there has been a history of inclusion and diversity and openness in tennis that has not existed in really any other big sports that American women play. We're seeing the fruits of that now.

So when you've got Althea Gibson, a wonderful athlete, a black woman who won grand slam tournaments in the late 1950s. Think about that sentence. That happened in the late 1950s.

Of course, this is a sport that then has led to Venus and Serena and, of course, Sloane Stevens and Madison Keys, of course, Coco Gauff.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. And it's been so lovely that all of those players in different arenas and moments, whether it be during the U.S. Open and otherwise, have made that acknowledgement of the shoulders on which they stand. I mean, the legacy is very clear.

And the continuous odes to Billie Jean King. Who can forget the battle of the sexes and everything else that Billie Jean King made an imprint on?

So now, today's match, if we were to focus in on today's match, you were to become fixated on certain things about the play between Sabalenka and Gauff. This power of tennis and the endurance on display, what is it you think will symbolize where women's tennis is today?

BRENNAN: I would like to see, if I were not a journalist but a fan - obviously, as a journalist, I've covered quite a few of these.

But if you're cheering for Coco Gauff, if you want her to win, and I think most of America does, you want to see her get off to a good start.

Because Sabalenka is a force with her booming plays, her booming serves, her power, her strength. We saw that on display the other day against Madison Keys where she was blown away 6-0 in the first set and then came back and won the next two sets by tie-breakers.

A really, really tough match for her. Sabalenka is now the world number one, as Carolyn said.

And she's been a semifinalist at least in all four of the grand slam tournaments this year.


She won the Australian Open. She will be number one. She is now, of course, in another final.

And so Coco Gauff has it in her to do this. But she's got to understand that power game of Sabalenka. She's got to control her emotions. The crowd will be crazy for Coco. I mean, this is an incredible "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."


BRENNAN: -- in women's tennis, right?


BRENNAN: And so what Coco Gauff needs to do is control those emotions. And she has. She's a pro. She's fantastic.

And play the game that she knows well and ride that wave of emotion at the U.S. Open in that tennis center on Arthur Ashe Court and Stadium. I think that's how she wins it. WHITFIELD: Oh, I think that's so great. I have to write that down. I like that "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." I think that's --


WHITFIELD: You know, "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." There you go, Coco.

And I admire Sabalenka also but there's something very refreshing about what we've been seeing over the last couple of days. And what a nice -- icing on the cake for today if a Coco win happens.

Christine Brennan, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, straight ahead, we are tracking Hurricane Lee. The slow- moving storm is expected to create dangerous conditions along the east coast. And we'll bring you the latest forecast.

Stay with us.



WHITFIELD: Hurricane Lee has weakened to a category 3 storm but is expected to strengthen again as it makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean.

Let's go to CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, in the CNN Weather Center.

Three is nothing sneeze at.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, it's really not. Again, it's still a major hurricane at this hour. We've got sustained winds of 115 miles per hour but gusting up to 140.

That forward movement still to the west-northwest at about 12 miles per hour. It's going to continue on that trajectory, at least for the next 24-48 hours.

You'll notice here, we do anticipate it is going to restrengthen, likely in the next 24-48 hours.

It's going to hit a much more favorable environment with less sheer that's going to allow it to strengthen, likely back up to at least a category 4 as we get into Monday and Tuesday.

But then things start to change. We start to see that track begin to shift. Now here's the thing. Not all the models agree on exactly where this storm is expected to go in the next few days.

You can see most of them fall within this box, but some push a little bit closer to the U.S., others a little bit closer to Bermuda.

The reason for the discrepancy is a lot of factors are going to come into play the next few days. Right now, Lee is being driven by this, what's called the Bermuda

High, this high-pressure system that's basically steering it to the west.

But once we get into Monday and Tuesday of the upcoming week, we have a secondary high-pressure system as well as this trough that are going to come into play.

Those are really going to be the focus of where Lee goes once it starts to edge a little bit closer to the U.S.

Now, what that means is it could end upcoming much, much closer and skirting right there along the eastern seaboard as it slides north. Or it could go a little bit farther to east, hugging closer towards Bermuda.

Regardless, both Bermuda and the east coast of the U.S. likely to experience some high surf and maybe even some significant rip currents over the next several days.

So it's definitely something to keep an eye on as we start off the next couple of weeks to know which path this storm is likely to take.

Now another thing to keep in mind, in terms of strength, right now, it's in about the warmest water it's going to be in. It's going to be encountering much cooler water in the wake of Hurricane Franklin from a few weeks ago -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Still very volatile.

All right, thank you so much, Allison Chinchar.

It's been two weeks since Hurricane Idalia pummeled the Florida coast, but now immigrant workers who raced to help rebuild after Hurricane Ian hit south Florida last September say they are staying home.

The reason? Florida's new immigration law, which was championed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

The measure went into effect on July 1. It includes provisions that make it a felony to knowingly and willfully transport someone who is undocumented into the state.

And requires businesses with at least 25 workers to use E-Verify, a federal program that checks workers' immigration status.

Well, Saket Soni is joining me right now. He has a nonprofit, a group called Resilience Force, and that group, Resilience Force, has about 2,000 members, many of which are undocumented immigrants who help respond to disasters.

Saket, good to see you.

Help me understand how Resilience Force has really become a force as it pertains to responding to natural disasters like when hurricanes hit. SAKET SONI, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RESILIENCE FORCE: Well, you

know, we've seen, since Hurricane Katrina, how climate change has made disasters more frequent and more destructive.

Year after year, more and more Americans are forced to leave their homes, which are damaged or destroyed by hurricanes, floods and fires.

All these homes, hundreds of thousands of homes each year sometimes, need to be repaired and rebuilt. All of that recovery work is carried out by a new workforce that we've seen emerge over the last 15 years.


We call this the Resilience Workforce. These are the people who go from city to city rebuilding American homes after disasters strike.

These are mostly immigrant workers. Many of them are undocumented. They're the ones who arrived after Hurricane Ian last year to rebuild Florida.

My organization, Resilience Force -- as workers follow the storms, my organization, Resilience Force, follows the workers.

And we protect them. We make sure they get paid fairly, that they're safe as they work. And we train thousands of workers to join the workforce.

WHITFIELD: And after Ian, that hurricane cost about $122 billion in damage. After Idalia, it cost between $100 billion and $200 billion in damage. Lots of damage, lots of repair work to do.

But now you're hearing from a lot of the people that you usually employee, they have said they're not going to go to Florida right now because they're worried about that law.

Tell me what their concerns are about how about how their troubles would begin if they go to Florida to try to help in any rebuilding efforts?

SONI: You know, Floridians are hurting right now. The repairs from Hurricane Ian last year are still under way. You know, there are still homes to be repaired from last year's hurricane.

This year we had Idalia, and more Floridians had their homes damaged. And what I'm hearing from workers is that they refuse to go.

They're too scared. They're worried that driving into Florida to help with this recovery will be dangerous. They're afraid to risk being deported.

You know, this is a law that was passed soon after Hurricane Ian hit. These are the very workers who rebuilt after that hurricane.

In the place of gratitude, you had Governor Ron DeSantis grab headlines and turn this bill into law. The legislature watered down that bill, but even in its watered-down

form, the law represents the most draconian anti-immigrant state law in the country.

So immigrant workers who have gone from storm to storm in the last decade sometimes worked five, six, seven hurricanes each year, are saying they won't go.

Now, there are a small number of workers who remained in Florida after Hurricane Ian. They're still there.

They're more afraid than ever even as they do the repair work, because they worry that if they face labor exploitation, if they don't get paid, if they face unsafe conditions, even coming forward and blowing the whistle, they would be risking being deported.

So they're -- you know, they're in fear at work. Meanwhile, thousands of other workers I'm talking to are afraid to drive there to work.

WHITFIELD: OK. We did reach out to Governor DeSantis' office for comment. Of course, when we get that, we'll bring that to our viewers.

Saket Soni, thank you so much. Glad you could be with us.

SONI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: The "Big Three" U.S. automakers are facing a possible costly strike. The United Auto Workers union, which represents more than 140,000 in the industry, says its members will walk if there's no deal by the time their contracts expire next week.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to rumble?


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a showdown in Detroit.


YURKEVICH: The United Auto Workers Union is less than a week away from a possible strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis --

(SINGING) YURKEVICH: -- teeing up what would be the second-largest U.S. labor strike in a quarter century.

UAW says their demands have not been met, waiting nearly a month on new proposals.

SHAWN FAIN, UAW PRESIDENT: I'll tell you what I want to do with their proposal. I'm a file it in its proper place, because that's where it belongs, the trash.

YURKEVICH: Tensions have been high between the two sides.

The union, representing 145,000 workers at the three automakers, even filed unfair labor practice complaints against GM and Stellantis, accusing the companies of not bargaining in good faith, which they deny.

GERALD JOHNSON, EVP OF GLOBAL MANUFACTURING, GENERAL MOTORS: These negotiations are serious and they matter. The outcome impacts all of us, every team member and, quite frankly, every stakeholder across the country.


YURKEVICH: GM sent a new offer Thursday with higher pay raises. UAW says it doesn't come close and to, quote, "stop wasting our members time."

Ford also sent a new offer the UAW is reviewing. The union called their previous proposal an insult.

Stellantis says it will have a counter by the end of the week,

FAIN: This trash can is overflowing with the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that the Big Three continue to peddle.

YURKEVICH: For the first time ever, the UAW could strike all three automakers at once.


The last strike in 2019 against General Motors cost the company $2.9 billion over six weeks. A strike against all three could mean $5 billion in losses in just 10 days.

JULIE SU, ACTING U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: We respect their process and are hopeful that they are going to grapple through some hard issues and, hopefully, come to an agreement that's a win-win.

YURKEVICH: President Joe Biden and the acting labor secretary have stayed out of negotiations.

But Biden appointed trusted White House Senior Advisor Gene Sperling to keep tabs.

Despite talks coming down to the wire, the President said he believes a strike can be avoided.

The union has some ambitious demands, asking for a 40 percent pay raise over the course of the four-year contract, restoring cost-of- living increases and pension plans for all workers.

FAIN: They've had our demands from the outset. And we told them we expect to get there by September 14th. And that is September 14th is the deadline, not a reference point.

YURKEVICH: And as the Big Three pivot to electric vehicles, they're planning 10 new battery plants, not under UAW contracts.

The union is hoping these next contracts protect their members in the future.

FAIN: Workers can't be left behind in this transition.

You're talking about 20 percent of the powertrain workers in the Big Three that stand to lose their jobs down the road, if we go from ICE engines to battery power.

YURKEVICH: Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: In a quick programming note, former NFL pro, Coy Wire, dives deep into the issues behind football injuries and how the game is evolving to find new ways to protect players.

"THE WHOLE STORY" with Anderson Cooper, tomorrow night at 8:00, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.