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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

DeSantis Sends two Planes Carrying Migrants to Martha's Vineyard; Biden: Republicans are "Playing politics with Human Beings"; Asylum-Seekers Facing Legal Challenges Amid Immigration Backlog; Putin Concedes Xi has Concerns over Ukraine; King Charles III & Queen Consort Visit Wales. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 05:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST, EARLY START: All right, here we go. It is Friday, September 16th. It is 5 am in New York. Thanks for getting in "Early Start" with me. I'm Christine Romans.

Playing politics with human beings that accusation from President Biden leveled against the Republican Governors of Florida and Texas for shipping migrants unannounced to Washington, D.C. and Martha's Vineyard.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings usually see them as props. What they're doing is simply wrong. It's un-American, it's reckless.


ROMANS: The White House says the migrants were misled about where they were being taken, and what would be provided once they arrived. We get more from CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER (voice over): Dozens of migrants are set to spend the night on Martha's Vineyard sent there by Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis as part of his promise to send migrants to democratic cities.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Our message to them is we are not a sanctuary state. And it's better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.

ALVAREZ (voice over): On Wednesday, the Republican Governor sent 50 migrants all from Venezuela, on two privately chartered airplanes to Martha's Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts.

DESANTIS: Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens. ALVAREZ (voice over): But municipal officials and lawmakers said they received no advance notice of the migrants' arrival and scrambled to respond.

REP. BILL KEATING (D-MS): They were taken totally off guard. Private chartered plane evidently they were to not cheap.

ALVAREZ (voice over): The flights are in front of the Biden Administration over its handling of the U.S. Mexico border. Over the last several weeks Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have sent thousands of migrants out of state an effort that's cost them millions of dollars.

Just this morning, 100 more migrants arrived by bus from Texas and were dropped off in front of Vice President Kamala Harris' home at the Naval Observatory. In a tweet, Abbott criticized Harris's claim that the border is secure. Democrats though are calling the actions a political stunt.

KEATING: Two Republican Governors, one who was using taxpayer money for chartered jets and reportedly his own video photographer to capture this resulting political benefit, taking advantage of women and children men who didn't know where they're going.

ALVAREZ (voice over): Immigrant advocates in Florida are also condemning DeSantis' actions. MARIA CORINA VEGA, AMERICAN BUSINESS IMMIGRATION COALITION: This shameless action, hoisted upon our defenseless people fleeing persecution and violence is a mere political ploy in his quest for power, and won't go unnoticed.

ALVAREZ (voice over): And the people at the center of this all are seeking asylum in the United States, sharing stories about the treacherous journey to the border.

UBALDO ARCAYA, 27-YEAR OLD MIGRANT FROM VENEZUELA: Only the bus left is here and now. He didn't tell us where we were, but they left us here. It's very difficult to bring the child here its eight days of jungle through the - jungle something extremely difficult.

ALVAREZ (voice over): There were three options he says Washington, Utah here, Massachusetts, whatever was available, the plane left and brought us here. While DeSantis sees the flights as a solution.

DESANTIS: We've worked on innovative ways to be able to protect the State of Florida from the impact of Biden's border policies.

ALVAREZ (voice over): Others do not.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact that Fox News and not the Department of Homeland Security the city or local NGOs were alerted about a plan to leave migrants, including children on the side of a busy D.C. street makes clear that this is just a cool premeditated political stunt.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALVAREZ: We've also learned that the flights that arrived in Martha's Vineyard originated in Texas and it's unclear whether anyone boarded in Florida. The Biden Administration is condemning the Florida Governor's actions.

And in a statement the Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said "Failure to coordinate is irresponsible and creates unsafe conditions for vulnerable migrants as well as receiving jurisdictions". Republican Governors, however, are not standing down. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Miami.

ROMANS: All right President Biden as you heard calling it un-American and reckless and he didn't stop there. CNN's Jasmine Wright joins me this morning from Washington. What else did the President say Jasmine?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Christine. Well, the White House is not happy. And President Biden last night was very clear about that. He slammed both Governors DeSantis and Abbott not by name but slammed their actions for sure when he was speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala last night in D.C.


WRIGHT: And he parroted what his administration had said earlier was basically that they were using migrants as political pawns. Now President Biden made the case that bussing migrants is not the way and said he said that it was finally time for Republicans to come to the table and try to pass some bipartisan immigration reform. Take a listen.


BIDEN: We have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We're working to make sure it's safe and orderly and humane. Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging a political - these political stunts.

It's long overdue for Senate Republicans to come to the table provide a pathway for citizenship for dreamers, those in temporary status, farmworkers and essential workers. We need to modernize our laws so businesses get workers they need and families don't have to wait decades to be brought back together.


WRIGHT: So there we heard from the President, he has been saying something similar about immigration reform since taking office last year. But the reality here, Christine is that there is basically little to no appetite to get bipartisan immigration reform pass in the Senate or in the House side, making their chances basically slim to none.

Because this is something that Republicans feel like they can run on. Still, this is something that the White House would want to see though. It's not necessarily among the priorities that they want to see passed between now and the midterms. Still, though the White House is not happy about this. And they made that very, very clear. Earlier in the day, we heard Karine Jean-Pierre Press Secretary really saying was shameful and reckless and premeditated and cruel. So I expect that we will hear more from the White House on this as these actions by these Republican Governors continue, Christine.

ROMANS: Alright, Jasmine, thank you so much. To be clear here, the migrants we're talking about our asylum seekers, they have already begun to apply for more permanent refuge in America. It's a challenging process on many levels. Let's bring in Suzanne Monyak, Immigration Reporter at Roll Call - CQ Roll Call.

Nice to see you Suzanne, thank you for coming in this morning! You know, our Miguel Marquez, our reporter there was interviewing someone in Martha's Vineyard, who has an asylum hearing already in San Antonio in Texas next month, but has been sent to Martha's Vineyard instead. Walk us through the process of being granted asylum and what these people - what sort of the loopholes are - what they have to jump through the hoops they have to jump through here? How difficult is it?

SUZANNE MONYAK, CQ ROLL CALL IMMIGRATION REPORTER: It's absolutely a very complex and challenging process. Asylum seekers once they cross the border initially need to pass what's known as a clinical CR test, which will just be an initial screening to show that they have a "Significant possibility of ultimately qualifying for asylum".

But then there are quite a few hurdles ahead. The immigration courts are very backlogged at the moment, almost 2 million cases, so many of them will wait years before getting their final hearing input. And they ultimately have to show that they need they haven't well-founded fear of persecution based on their religion or their political beliefs or their membership in a particular social group. Just showing that you fear for your life is ultimately not enough.

ROMANS: Yes, these people who are in Martha's Vineyard at the moment are from Venezuela, which of course is a left wing, a dictatorship. So that's presumably what they're going to try to use as an asylum reason, you know, so they've already gone through this excruciating process of getting asylum status, right if that happens, then to get a permit to legally work in the United States. How long does that take? And how hard is that to do?

MONYAK: Well, there are sort of two components here. Asylum seekers are able to work in the United States while their cases are pending. And they mentioned because of how backlogged immigration courts are, that can be a years' long period of their lives.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Immigration Agency that processes visas, is also much backlogged right now? So asylum seekers are currently waiting months to get more permits, and that's on top of the 150 day waiting period, they already have to wait before they can even apply.

Of course, once they are granted asylum, there's another backlog waiting for them to ultimately get their green cards. So it's really just a backlog after backlog for these people. And for those trying to make their cases that work permit obviously that can be very difficult for them to support themselves in the country to afford an attorney. More importantly so these are all challenges that asylum seekers are going to be facing as they navigate this process.

ROMANS: So what's the government response to all these process delays? I mean, it feels to me like as long as I've been a reporter, there have been too few immigration judges and too long of lines for Citizenship and Immigration.

MONYAK: The government has said nothing, you know, how do you address it? Obviously, as I said, these are delays affecting multiple agencies at once. So USIS Directors - who's handling the work permit side? She has said that addressing backlogs is a top commitment for her as for the immigration courts you know the Biden Administration has said they plan to hire more immigration judges.


MONYAK: So these, you know, are works in progress, but at the moment, the backlogs are just so long, that only so much that can be done quickly.

ROMANS: OK. Suzanne Monyak thank you so much for joining us with that a great breakdown, thank you!

MONYAK: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: You're welcome. A Florida judge has appointed a Special Master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case Raymond Dearie was the only choice the Trump legal team and the Justice Department agreed. Dearie has been a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York since 1986. He retired in 2011, is now a federal senior judge.

Dearie also served on the FISA court and was one of the judges who approved the surveillance of Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page. Dearie has until November 30th to review more than 11,000 potentially privileged documents seized from the Former President's home the DOJ losing its bid to resume its criminal probe while that review is taking place.

All right, a gruesome discovery in a liberated Ukrainian town mass graves. CNN is live there, plus Tropical Storm Fionna strengthening overnight and bearing down on Puerto Rico and just hours from now President Biden meeting with the families of two Americans being held in Russia.



ROMANS: At least 440 unmarked graves have been discovered in a recently liberated city in Eastern Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the mass burial site was found in Izyum after Russian forces retreated.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Bucha, Mariupol now unfortunately Izyum. Russia leaves death everywhere and it must be held accountable for that. The world must hold Russia to real account for this war.


ROMANS: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Nick after months of occupation by the Russians now Ukrainian authorities have to piece together what happened there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, certainly look. And it's important to point out that each one of these bodies removed from the site there in Izyum is a family experiencing extraordinary grief here is a life that was not last until on February 24th decision by Vladimir Putin to enter Ukraine and begin this brutal invasion.

But it's important also too to see these sites with a bit of context. They do appear to some of them be marked as best as they can be. They're in a relatively easy to find area in sand. And so possibly you might say here, this is part of the gruesome task of whoever dug these graves trying to deal with bodies during either occupied times in Izyum or the moments possibly before Russian forces went in.

We just don't know at this stage, President Zelenskyy you heard him there very clear to draw comparisons with Bucha where there were utter shocking evidence of war crimes by Russian forces against the civilian population there Mariupol where they were clearly indiscriminate, or possibly even targeted strikes against civilians in key areas, even bomb shelters in that port city during the earlier days of a war.

Here there is a job now that police that investigators have to do of trying to work out who these people are? Are they civilians killed in the initial Russian onslaught? Are there civilians killed by Russians during occupation? Are they Ukrainian soldiers killed in that early phases of the war? Or are they Russian soldiers killed during the Ukrainian counter offensive back into the town?

As I say all of those, marking a family in grief 440 separate sites, that's an enormous task, certainly in itself. And it marks I think, part of this next phase of the war where Ukraine take stock of the civilian toll, a lot of focus on the military casualties. But we know that day by day, endlessly, civilians are dying from the Russian onslaught here.

And now we begin to get a sense of the scale of how that's materialized. It comes down in a context of Ukraine continuingly dictating the narrative here to some degree, and in fact, Russian officials have been reporting what they say well, Ukrainian strikes on areas of the border regions between Ukraine and Russia in the Belgorod Oblast region there.

That's near where we were yesterday up by the border very quiet when we were. We could hear the distant rumble of what sounded like incoming shelling somewhere and outgoing and incoming too but far away. And this is essentially part of the new chapter. Now Ukraine is pushing up to Russia's border.

Do they bring similar infrastructure damage and tax on targets inside of Russia? Now their artillery is within range. And there are of course calls in Russian state media for Moscow to up their attacks against Ukraine's critical infrastructure. So a very different phase here. Now Russia is palpably on the retreat and losing terrain. And Ukraine is faced with choices in this war where for months, it's simply been trying to retain as much of its territory and protect its own people back to you.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for that in Kharkiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin is praising China's balanced position on the war in Ukraine. After a face to face meeting with President Xi Jinping during this regional summit in Uzbekistan. Putin also conceding that perhaps Moscow does not have an unconditional ally in Beijing when it comes to this bloody conflict. CNN's Ivan Watson has more.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two leaders united by their dislike of the U.S., Xi Jinping, making his first trip outside of COVID locked down China in more than two years. Face to face with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who quickly addresses the elephant in the room?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA PRESIDENT: We highly appreciate the balance position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. We understand your questions and concerns in this regard.

WATSON (voice over): Questions and concerns about Russia's deadly war in Ukraine a shift in tone from the last time these two men met.


WATSON (voice over): At the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, Xi and Putin announced a friendship with no limits, and called for a new world order not dominated by Washington. But only weeks later, Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, and it has not gone according to plan.

Russia's military battered. Its economy increasingly isolated. Putin now needs China more than ever. But in his public comments, the Chinese Leader made no mention of Ukraine. The White House argues when it comes to this war, Chinese friendship does have limits.

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: We haven't seen the Chinese do anything overtly to support the effort by Mr. Putin inside Ukraine. Clearly they haven't publicly condemned it. I think the Chinese as they watch what's going on here. They recognize how isolated Moscow is from the rest of the international community. They recognize the economic costs and consequences that this war is having on the Russian economy.

WATSON (voice over): Thanks in large part to the ongoing COVID lock downs of entire Chinese cities. The Chinese economy is also taking a beating something Xi can't afford to ignore as he prepares to grant himself a third term in office.

The Chinese and Russian navies are conducting joint patrols in the Pacific Ocean. But these types of shows of force had been challenged by the fierce resistance displayed by a much smaller military fighting on the battlefields of Ukraine. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


ROMANS: All right, President Biden is expected to meet with the families of WNBA Star Brittney Griner and a Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan today. Both remain in prison in Russia. The White House has offered to exchange convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Boot for Whelan and Greiner as part of a potential deal to secure their release.


JEAN-PIERRE: The Russians should accept our offer. They should accept our offer today. We will keep working diligently until the day we get to share that good news.


ROMANS: Greiner, of course was convicted on drug charges for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. Whelan was convicted on espionage charges that he denies. All right Great Britain's new King and Queen about to touch down in Wales. CNN is live on the ground for this historic arrival and yet another hurdle for Americans who are trying to buy a home.



ROMANS: King Charles III and his Queen Consort Camilla arrived in Cardiff Wales this hour. It is their first official visit to the country since Queen Elizabeth died last week. They will attend services at Llandaff Cathedral. Let's go to CNN's Nina Dos Santos standing by in Cardiff. Thousands Nina expected there. What are you seeing?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Yes, we're seeing a line that's growing by the minute. Actually, Christine, a lot of these people in this line I've been speaking to say that they set off with their young children and elderly relatives as early as 4 am in the morning from various parts of Wales and also over the border in England too, to make sure that they could catch a glimpse of the King as he makes this final trip on the tour of all four parts of the United Kingdom.

Now remember that the UK is a country composed of four different countries and some parts have their own devolved powers and parliament's including Wales, which has had a long and difficult sometimes history with the English Monarchy.

Remember that King Charles spent much of his life being called Prince of Wales. And now that title has been bestowed to his heir apparent Prince William, not everybody in Wales is entirely comfortable with that, in particular, the Welsh Nationalist.

But the atmosphere here is completely different as you can see where it Cardiff magnificent Castle this is where King Charles III is expected to come in about three hours from now, after he touches down in Wales probably in about an hour from now he'll take part in that service of remembrance of his late mother in Llandaff Cathedral.

Then he'll move on to the Senate, which is the Parliament of Wales be greeted by parliamentarians there including some Welsh Nationalists who believe that Wales should be independent, and eventually head here to the crowds. The numbers aren't obviously a sizable as the ones we're seeing in London, but as you can see, we still got members of the army helping out with crowd control, and the crowd continues by the hour.

But people are very, very excited here to get their first glimpse of King Charles III and his Queen Consort, Camila, Christine.

ROMANS: Alright, Nina, thank you so much for that. This morning thousands of mourners and admirers are standing in a five mile line in London, waiting patiently to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall. She will lie and stay there until Monday's funeral.

Let's go to CNN's Nada Bashir live in London.

Some people Nada waiting what 14 hours in line it looks so civilized, to be honest, the way the Brits are queuing there to pay respects to their Queen?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Christine it has been very carefully organized in there about least thousand volunteer stewards and members of the Metropolitan Police Service all along this queue as well as first aid and ambulance staff across the queue which of course stretching about five miles now to ensure that this is moving in an orderly fashion. That all people in the queue are safe because of course it is quite cold.