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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Supreme Court Orders Title 42 Maintained as Challenges Play Out; Southwest Airlines Apologizes, Still Days from Normal Operations; Death Toll Rises in Storm-Battered Western New York; Putin Bans Russian Oil Export to Countries with Price Caps; Families Rejoice After Beijing Ends Inbound Quarantine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 28, 2022 - 05:00   ET



WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Whitney Wild, in for Christine Romans.

A permanent resolution to the crisis at the southern border has been postponed again. The Supreme Court ordering the Trump era border policy known as Title 42 to remain in effect for now as legal challenges play out. The justices agreed to hear the appeal of the Republican-led states this term, in this session that begins in February.

Their 5-4 order, a defeat for the Biden administration which had hoped to end Title 42, saying that it outlived the pandemic it was designed to fight.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The court is not going to decide until June apparently and in the meantime, we have to enforce it. But I think it's overdue.


WILD: The decision is also a huge disappointment for migrants who have streamed to the southern border hoping to claim asylum as soon as Title 42 ends.

Thousands have been desperate enough to cross anyway.

CNN's Rosa Flores has more on all of that from El Paso, Texas.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One-year-old Brenda has no shoes. Her tiny feet, bear on the cold pavement of an El Paso parking lot.

Are you going to sleep outside again? What are you going to do?

Her parents, Anthony Blanco and Glenda Matos (ph), say they wrapped this rosary around her ankle for protection when they left Venezuela four months ago, and say it has saved her life multiple times in the Darien Gap, a dangerous jungle between South and Central America.

He says that the most dangerous part of the journey was through the Darien Gap. He and his daughter almost lost their lives three times, and they say that they saw adults who died. They saw children who died.

Brenda's most recent brush of death, they say, crossing the Rio Grande into El Paso. She says that she thought her daughter was going to die overnight, because it was so cold. They had just crossed the river. They were wet, desperate.

Matos (ph) says she started knocking on doors asking for help.

She says that she prayed to God that she hugged her daughter as tight as she could, and tried to warm her with her own body heat as much as she could to try to save her daughter's life.

The Blanco family is part of the growing number of migrants who are crossing into the U.S. during this latest surge, this as the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump-era pandemic public health rule known as Title 42 remains in place, while the legal challenges play out.

Migrants like them line the streets of El Paso near a Catholic Church that turns into a shelter overnight. Many here have no money for transportation and some have no family in the United States.

He says that they don't know anyone.

The Texas National Guard erected over two miles of fencing along the U.S side of the Rio Grande in El Paso in the past week. The barrier is not deterring up to 1,600 migrants border patrol has encounters every day, a federal law enforcement source says.

Migrants, like Selena Varela, a Venezuelan mother of two has decided to wait in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where she says shelters are at capacity, which means sleeping on the street.

Officials there say they don't know how many migrants are waiting in their city for Title 42 to end. Advocates and officials in the three northern Mexican cities of Tijuana, Reynosa and Matamoros estimate nearly 22,000 migrants are waiting in shelters, on the streets and in camps.

As for the Blancos, they credit the rosary with a tiny image of our Lady of Guadalupe for saving them during their journey.


FLORES (on camera): Brenda's parents and other migrants here in El Paso are confused about the implications of the Supreme Court ruling. They just don't know how it's going to impact them.

Now, I'm also in contact with advocates and officials on the Mexican side of the border. And their leadership is afraid of delivering the message to migrants, because they are afraid of how they're going to react. I'm in contact with at least one migrant in one Mexican border city, who says he just wants to cross over legally into the United States.

Now, a lot of the people that you see behind me, that's where they were before they crossed the border.


Some of them taking the risk of entering the country illegally.

Rosa Flores, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

WILD: They certainly remain in limbo. Rosa, thank you.

No reprieve this morning for the thousands of passengers caught in Southwest Airlines holiday travel meltdown. Of the 2,700 U.S. flights already canceled today a stunning 92 percent are Southwest. The airline CEO addressing customer frustration with a series of apologies and explanations, and promises to do better.


BOB JORDAN, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CEO: The tolls used to recover from the destruction service, 99 percent of the time. Clearly, we need to double down on our existing plans to upgrade systems. So that we never again face what is happening right now.


WILD: CNN's Lucy Kafanov is on the ground in Denver.


ANNOUNCER: Unfortunately, our next available seats for rebooking are the 31st and beyond.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's another day of travel chaos.

DANIEL MARQUEZ, PASSENGER: Every flight is canceled so I don't know when I go back home.

KAFANOV: Another day of flight cancelations, delays, and frayed nerves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phone calls were busy. You couldn't get a hold of anybody. It's awful.

KAFANOV: Exhausted passengers braving long lines only to receive more bad news.

STEVAM PEREZ, SOUTHWEST PASSENGER: Because they said even if you go through this line, it might be up to New Year's to get a flight.

KAFANOV: Travelers on Southwest bearing the brunt of the post- Christmas cancelations. Many stranded until the New Year.

MANDI ANGELO, SOUTHWEST PASSENGER: The next flight that was offered was in January. And they couldn't even get us home back to Pittsburgh.

KAFANOV: Southwest's CEO Bob Jordan warned of more tough days ahead, according to a transcript of a companywide message CNN has obtained. While the chief operating officer Andrew Watterson said the airline's systems were unable to match available crews to available aircraft. And it had to be done by hand.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: From what I can tell, Southwest is unable to locate even where their own crews are, let alone their own passengers, let alone baggage. Their system really has completely melted down. And I made clear that our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure that this can't happen again.

LYN MONTGOMERY, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT ATTENDANT UNION REP.: This is a deep failure of management not to have supported its IT infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I don't know where my luggage at.

KAFANOV: The travel chaos leaving mountains of lost luggage.

In Las Vegas, a sea of unclaimed bags. Some passengers told it would be days before they can get their luggage.

Denver's airport leading the nation in terms of delays and cancelations. Passenger Nick Fabasa (ph) has been stuck here since December 21st.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will never fly southwest airlines again. And I will tell anyone I know never to fly Southwest Airlines again.

KAFANOV: What do you want them to do different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you just can't leave people stranded for eight days and just say it's the weather, when it's not the weather.


KAFANOV (on camera): The Denver Airport hit hard by the delays and cancellations. And although there is not a lot of folks behind me in line at the Southwest ticket counter, the problems are far from over for Southwest. The company's airline CEO Bob Jordan releasing an apology video, saying that the plans for the next few days include flying a reduced schedule, adding the company is optimistic that it will be back on track before next week.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Denver.

WILD: The days feel so long in that situation. Lucy Kafanov, thank you.

The death toll from the blizzard that battered the country over Christmas weekend now stands at 56. Thirty-one of those deaths happened in Erie County, New York. The city of Buffalo and most of Western New York is still digging out

from the historic storm.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has the latest from there.


MARK POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Please, please, you heard the mayor beg, I'm begging you, stay home.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Erie County officials over it, calling help halt to keep nonessential drivers off the road.

POLONCARZ: One hundred military police are being brought in as well as additional troops from the New York State Police Department are coming in to manage traffic control, because it has become so evident that too many people are ignoring the ban.

MARQUEZ: The death toll continuing to rise. More than 30 dead in Buffalo and the surrounding areas.

CRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ-DABNEY, DEPUTY MAYOR, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Some are sad stories of carbon monoxide poisoning. Some are in vehicles, and sadly some are outside. We have snow banks and some of our first responders are not hopeful about what we are going to find once those snow banks are cleared.

MARQUEZ: The storm, blowing through. Record snowfalls in an area accustom to snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the front of our house. We are buried. I can't make it to the front door.


MARQUEZ: As of Tuesday morning, Buffalo's snow total for the season came to exactly 100 inches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what it looks like outside our front door. One, two, three.

MARQUEZ: That's the fastest the city has ever reached 100 inches of snow with records that date back to the 1880s.

MARY MCGORRAY, BUFFALO RESIDENT: I would definitely classify this as the worst storm that I've ever seen in the entire upstate New York.

MARQUEZ: The snowplows running 24 hours a day, but the Buffalo Niagara International Airport remains closed. Too much snow. It might re-open Wednesday.

JULIA HALL, BUFFALO RESIDENT: People were not fully prepared, and it all happened so quickly. And it was about big drifts of snow and gusts.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Buffalo, New York.


WILD: Miguel, thank you.

Meanwhile in the West Coast, 7 million Americans are facing wind alerts overnight. A powerful storm is pushing inland, and it's bringing flooding and heavy snowfall to much of the western third of the United States.

Chad Myers is tracking that system from CNN Weather Center.

So, Chad, what's in store for places like California, Nevada, and the entire Western Seaboard?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, you're going to hear this term over and over again over the next three or four days, atmospheric river. In the old days we used to call the pineapple express, although this one isn't coming from Hawaii.

It's the moisture in atmosphere pouring on shore in California, and now moving into Arizona. Look at the wind, though, at brought in within, over 100 miles an hour. If you take a look at that. Cat two wins. Category two equivalent gusts across parts of Mount Hood and the like.

More rain is still going to come down over the next three days and three systems that would come in. You've already had quite a bit of rain. This is beneficial rain, look at me wrong. We need the rain in this part of the country. We desperately need to fill up the reservoirs for the summer. We just need this to come down a little bit slower.

We are seeing snow on the ground with some spots over 100 inches. And believe it or not, the American computer model yesterday afternoon over the next 10 days had 311 inches of snow forecast for the highest peaks in Yosemite. I know, hopefully, no one is out there but that is what is still coming. More and more in the form of snow with wave of wave of moisture, one today, one tomorrow and even possibly on Saturday. We will take the snow on the Rockies, we'll take the snow even in the rain in Flagstaff and Phoenix, they are in a desperate drought as well.

And some of this snow will melt. And we'll get into Lake Mead by summer. More snow coming down over the next 24 hours in some spots. Picking up an awful lot of snow. We will take it when we get it.

But you need to be very careful in the West. Just as you need to be careful in Buffalo and East, because this is dangerous snow, getting down below the past level, below down where you're going to be driving. So, you don't want to be there. Some spots will see ten inches of liquid equivalent, which means that when he melted down, it will be ten inches of water. But some spots out there, it could be ten feet of snow, Whitney.

WILD: Oh, my gosh. Chad Myers, that is crazy. Chad Myers, thank you.

All right. Russian President Vladimir Putin is banning oil shipments to countries trying to impose price caps on Russian oil. The U.S., Canada, European Union, Japan, United Kingdom, and Australia all agreed to caps earlier this month.

Clare Sebastian has the latest from London.

Clare, what is in this decree that Putin just signed?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESONDENT: Yeah, Whitney. Russia promised a response to the E.U. and G7 for the price cap that came in December 5th. It took three weeks to get the response.

On the face of it, yes, it is a retaliation they promised. But you dig a little deeper and it really smacks of Russia trying to have a both ways, to appear to retaliate while at the same time not shooting themselves in the foot and cutting off their biggest export.

In the tactical degree, it basically says that oil sales are banned to foreign governments or legal entities where their contract for the sales directly or indirectly provides for the use of the mechanism to fix the price on. Perhaps, if not mentioned in the contract, it could go ahead.

It's also temporary, for some the 1st of February until the 1st of July next year. So, just five months. And there is a clause that the president himself can essentially waive the whole thing. And allow a sail to go ahead anytime that he chooses. That could perhaps leave the door open to continue selling to China and India, which has a course become a release valve for the Russian oil that has not been so that the places like Europe.

So, this, of course, means that Russia could still sell its oil in many cases. Really do not want to shoot itself in the foot. Well, prices are down today, they are probably more concerned about a COVID surge in China than about Russia potentially cutting production.

WILD: All right. Clare Sebastian, thank you.

Just ahead, tragedy in an ice covered lake in Arizona. Plus real backlash over a congressman's elects fake resume.

And next, the Supreme Court rulings could mean for thousands of migrants now stranded at the southern border.




MAYOR OSCAR LEESER (D), EL PASO, TEXAS: This is just a band-aid on a broken immigration system. System has to be fixed. We can't continue to go this way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WILD: That is the mayor of El Paso, Texas, right after the Supreme Court ruled Title 42. Border rules put in place during the pandemic will stay in place while legal challenges play out. That means that thousands of migrants waiting near the border will have to wait even longer for the chance to enter the U.S. illegally.

So, let's bring in Suzanne Monyak. She's an immigration reporter at CQ Roll Call.

So, Suzanne, one of the big storylines we've been talking about here, with the way the Biden administration has approached Title 42, is that they want it pulled back. They want to repeal. But don't want it repealed in an instant.

And I wonder, if while outwardly they are saying that, you know, this is -- this is not what they're looking for, that they're going to have to continue to wait. They are also saying that they are going to have to continue to enforce this. I wonder if this buys them the time they were looking for, even though outwardly they're still trying to push for its repeal.

SUZANNE MONYAK, IMMIGRATION REPORTER, CQ ROLL CALL: It's certainly hard to say what's going on in the minds of the Biden administration officials. But you are correct that the Supreme Court order. The federal judge's ruling that struck on the program does give the administration some time to prepare. They have been saying they've been preparing for the end of Title 42. They've had months and months of notice at this.

But there's been a lot of questioning by congressional lawmakers of both parties. So yes, you are right. The Supreme Court order does give the administration a little bit of breathing room to prepare more, for the eventual end to the policy, if it is eventually allowed to end.

WILD: So, let's -- let's play a hypothetical scenario.


What happens if the Supreme Court comes back after hearing this case in February and says, okay, Title 42 is done? What happens in that moment at the border?

MONYAK: It will certainly depend on the contours of the Supreme Court's decision. If it takes effect immediately, that would certainly be an operational challenge for the Biden administration. But likely, effectively at the border, even if there is a delay to the effect of a decision like that, we are going to see migrants trying to cross. News of that kind of decision would get out.

We are already seeing that the extent people of garden in border areas waiting to see if they might be able to cross. So, you know, this back and forth in the courts is certainly one that is going to cause confusion for border agents trying to do their jobs but also for migrants as well, maybe hoping to come to the U.S. seeking protection. WILD: When you look at the split, here it was a 5 to 4 split. It was

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch who joined with liberal justices. Was that the split you were expecting?

MONYAK: It's always hard to say what you are expecting to see from the Supreme Court. I think that given the conservative majority, a lot of people were prepared for the Supreme Court to stay that Washington ruling to keep Title 42 in effect.

You know, I think it is hard to say whether I was surprised to see that from Neil Gorsuch, but, you know, I think his dissent was certainly, you know, concise and very clear, and I think it was interesting to see the concerns raised by a justice who is from the conservative wing of the court when it comes to Title 42. That he was concerned that the policies intent was to start the tenth of COVID-19.

But Republican states that have been trying to keep Title 42 in place are saying I think it's necessary to control immigration emergencies. And in the dissent took issue with that. He said the Supreme Court should not be able to policy makers, substituting their judgment for that of the administration about why Title 42 should be kept in place to control an emergency when it was not intended to control that. It was intended to be a COVID-19 measure.

WILD: All right. Suzanne Monyak, thank you.

So, quick headlines from across the country now.

A Michigan judge a sentence the man convicted of leading a 2020 conspiracy to kidnap the state's Governor Gretchen Whitmer, to 16 years in federal prison. Adam Fox was convicted in August.

Two men and one woman have died in Arizona after falling through the ice on a frozen lake. First responders say they pulled the woman out but were able to save her.

GOP congressman-elect Nick LaLota is now calling for a full ethics investigation into felony or Republican George Santos. Santos admitting this week that he lied during the campaign about his career and his education.

All right. Just ahead, swimming with sharks. Tourists face their fears to help fierce ocean predators. And a travel rush in China after the country scrapped some of its COVID restrictions.



WILD: China's partial reopening after years of COVID lockdowns and isolation bring relief to families who have been separated for three years. On Monday, Beijing announced it will scrap quarantine requirements for incoming international travelers on January 8, even though case numbers surge in recent weeks.

So, let us go to CNN's Paula Hancocks. She's live in Seoul. Paula, has there been a rush to book travel into China? Certainly,

there has been a rush to book travel out of China. Let's talk a bit about how people are reacting.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Whitney, what we are expecting to see is that by the end of January, when you have the lunar New Year, in important holiday in China, we could see a massive influx of travelers. Of course, it has to be pointed out that the international airlines and airlines within China will have to ramp up their operations and that does not just happen overnight as well.

But just anecdotally, I mean,, this is one online booking website in China and they said that it hit a three-year peak. The online searches traveling inside of China for overseas hotels and most of them were for the end of January, so the lunar New Year could be fairly busy.

But again, it is about ramping up the ability to be able to travel after three years as well. But there is also the other part of it, the fact that there is this explosion of infections within China. It is concerning countries around the world. Some are rushing to put plans in place to try and restrict the traveling.

For example, we have reports that the U.S. is looking into travel restrictions. China's ministry of foreign affairs has already responded to that before as been announced, saying that countries have to work together scientifically to make sure they can move people around. Taiwan has made sure that in the coming days, all of those traveling from mainland China will have to have a test on arrival, the same in Japan and India -- Whitney.

WILD: Paula Hancocks, thank you.

Some quick headlines from around the world now.

Pope Francis asked for a prayer for former Pope Benedict. Pope Francis called his predecessor very sick. Pope Benedict is 95.

Taiwan will extend its mandatory military service from four months to a year starting in 2024. That decision comes after increasing territorial threats from China. Taipei had shortened conscription in 2018.

Australia welcomes back Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic a year after he was banned and deported for refusing the COVID vaccination. The 21-time grand slam champion is set to open next week in Adelaide.

It has been a big year for space exploration and innovation and discovery. Here is CNN's Kristen Fisher with the most important space stories of the year.


KRISTEN FISHER, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristen Fisher with the top ten space stories of 2022.

Coming in at number ten -- the first private mission to the International Space Station.

Texas-based start-up Axiom Space brokered the trip for four private citizens not affiliated with any government space program, to launch on top of a SpaceX rocket -- and spent 15 days conducting experiments alongside professional NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, ushering in a new era for commercial space flight.

Number nine may look and sound like basic boot camp for soldiers or sailors.