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State of the Union

Poland Welcoming Ukrainian Refugees; Interview With Fmr. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX); Interview With U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; Interview With Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 01, 2022 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Broken system. The Biden administration lifts a pandemic health rule, which could draw a surge of migrants across the Southern border.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain.

BASH: Is the U.S. ready? Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will be here.

Plus: election season. As voters worry about the economy, Democrats brace for a midterm red wave.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think the American people want to see a change.

BASH: Are Republicans prepared to lead? Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is coming up.

And show of support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emphasizes the U.S. commitment to Ukraine in a surprise visit to Kyiv. And Poland is welcoming millions of Ukrainian refugees, but 50 years ago:

KONSTANTY GEBERT, POLISH JOURNALIST: When the anti-Semitic campaign started, we started losing friends fast.

BASH: Is Polish generosity now a way to make up for the past?


BASH: Good morning.

I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is showing solidarity with Ukraine.

And we have breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this morning a surprise visit to meet with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, making her the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded. She spoke at a news conference this morning from Poland.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Do not be bullied by bullies. If they're making threats, you cannot back down. That's my view of it, that you -- we're there for the fight, and you cannot -- you cannot fold to a bully.


BASH: Speaker Pelosi's visit comes as Congress is now considering whether to approve President Biden's request for $33 billion of additional aid for Ukraine.

But, while the White House works to get that passed, the president is also focusing his attention challenges at home as his party gears up for the midterm elections. At the White House Correspondents Dinner last night at the White House, he joked about facing bipartisan opposition to some of his policies.

One of the major issues dividing his own party right now, concerns over a move from the administration to lift Title 42, a Trump era pandemic rule that makes it easier to turn away migrants at the border. A federal judge is keeping that rule in place for now, but President Biden faced bipartisan pushback over his plans to end the policy because of an expected massive influx of migrants at the border.

Joining me now, Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being here.

Let's start with the numbers. About 7,000 migrants are currently apprehended per day. That's the highest in years. But your department's highest projections say that number could double or maybe even triple, as many as 18,000 per day. And that's without the pandemic restriction in place.

Is that number really possible? And are you prepared if so?

MAYORKAS: So, Dana, what we do is, we prepare and we plan. And we have been doing so for months, understanding that the Title 42 authority that the CDC holds is not going to be around forever, because, quite frankly, we want to conquer the pandemic and put it behind us.

And, remember, Title 42 is a public health authority. So what we started to do in September of last year was prepare for its end. And we didn't -- we're not projecting 18,000, but what we do in the department is, we plan for different scenarios so we're ready for anything that might materialize.

BASH: Yes.

And I understand you're not projecting it. But it is an estimate that was put out by -- as you said, by your department. And I just want to be clear, what you're telling me is that, because that is a figure, again, that came from you guys, the department is prepared to handle that very large figure if, in fact, that comes to pass, 18,000 migrants per day?

MAYORKAS: It is our responsibility to be prepared for different scenarios. And that is what we are doing.

And we have incredibly talented and dedicated people. There is no question that if, in fact, we reach that number, that is going to be an extraordinary strain on our system. But we are preparing for it. And that is why the plan we have prepared calls for a number of different actions, not just in the domestic arena, but also with our partners to the south.

BASH: I just want to -- I'm sure you are well aware that there are some of your fellow Democrats who are very concerned about your plans and they're concerned that you don't have plans that are really strong enough, especially some Democrats who are on the ballot in swing districts.


Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, they said that your plan is too little, too late. Congressman Greg Stanton said, you are not prepared, not even close. These are your fellow Democrats.

MAYORKAS: And I respectfully disagree, because the plan that we published this past Tuesday, Tuesday of last week, was not reflective of the fact that we just prepared this plan, but, rather, we have been planning for months and months.

And we heard concerns, do you have a plan? And so what I did was, I published a 20-page memorandum that described our plan in some level of detail to put to rest the concern that we have not been planning. We didn't just start this. We have been doing it for months. That's what we do.

BASH: So, if the 18,000, if the highest projection, not estimate, projection, comes out -- excuse me -- estimate, not projection -- comes out that 18,000 people cross the border per day, you are going to be able to handle that and handle it in a humane way?

MAYORKAS: Dana, that's going to put a strain on our system, precisely why our plan also calls for a regional approach to what is a regional challenge.

And we need countries to the south to manage their borders. This is not a phenomenon that the United States experiences alone. There are 1.8 million Venezuelans in Colombia. The Nicaraguans comprise almost 2 percent of the population in the small country of Costa Rica.

We're seeing migration because of challenges that are not restricted to this area. They are global.

BASH: Yes or no, will undocumented immigrants who are apprehended at the border be subjected to a COVID test? MAYORKAS: So, we have been testing.

BASH: And that will continue?

MAYORKAS: And, actually, we have moved into a different phase where we will be vaccinating noncitizens who are encountered at the border.

BASH: As you well know, there is a big move in Congress to keep what's -- what we're talking about, Title 42, in place.

And some lawmakers are floating legislation to keep it in place and pair it with what you consider must-pass legislation, some more coronavirus funding, funding for Ukraine. If that large legislation passes, would the president sign it?

MAYORKAS: I can't speak for the president. But I will tell you that, as we are concerned in the Department of Homeland Security that Title 42 authority, and as the law provides, is a public health authority driven by a public health imperative, and the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, makes that assessment.

What we do is, we implement Title 42, as we have been. And when it ends, we will use the other immigration enforcement provisions or the authorities at our discretion.

BASH: So, you, as the secretary of homeland security, don't have an opinion on whether Title 42 should or should not be in place?

MAYORKAS: I do not because I'm not a public health expert.


MAYORKAS: But it's my responsibility to plan and execute as it is in place and plan, prepare and execute for the day when it won't be.

BASH: You told me on this show last year that your message was, do not come. That was your message to migrants. What's your message now?

MAYORKAS: The same, the very same, because our border is not open.

What happens now is, individuals are either expelled under the Title 42 authority, or they are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings, and they are removed if they do not have a valid claim under our law to remain.

And so the border is not open. And, importantly, they should not place their lives at risk, in the hands of smugglers who exploit their lives for the mere purpose of profit.

BASH: So, just to be clear, if somebody is watching this from another country considering coming, your message is?

MAYORKAS: Do not come.

BASH: Let's talk about a different topic, which is what you are calling, your department is calling the Disinformation Governance Board. You unveiled that this week.

Republicans are calling it Orwellian and comparing it to the Ministry of Truth in the novel "1984." Can you clarify what exactly is this? What exactly will this Disinformation Governance Board do? Will it monitor American citizens?

MAYORKAS: Dana, I'm very pleased to do so.

It's clear. I mean, those criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do. And I think we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do.

BASH: So...

MAYORKAS: The fact is that disinformation that creates a threat to the security of the homeland is our responsibility to address.


And this department has been addressing it for years, throughout the years of the prior administration, on an ongoing basis, disinformation from Russia, China, Iran.

BASH: Right. We know the problems, but it's still not clear to me how this Governance Board will act. What will it do?

MAYORKAS: So, what it does is, it works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech, protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy.

And the board, this working group, internal working group, will draw from best practices and communicate those best practices to the operators, because the board does not have operational authority.

BASH: Will American citizens be monitored?


BASH: Guarantee that?

MAYORKAS: So, what we do -- we in the Department of Homeland Security don't monitor American citizens.

BASH: You don't, but will this board change that?

MAYORKAS: No, no, no, the board does not have any operational authority or capability.

What it will do is gather together best practices in addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries, from the cartels, and disseminate those best practices to the operators that have been executing in addressing this threat for years.

BASH: Republicans are criticizing your decision, the administration's decision to choose Nina Jankowicz to lead this disinformation board. They say she is not somebody who is neutral.

Your response?

MAYORKAS: Eminently qualified, a renowned expert in the field of disinformation.

BASH: And neutral?

MAYORKAS: Absolutely so.

BASH: Would you be OK, if Donald Trump were president, if he created this Disinformation Governance Board, or, if it is in place, and he wins again in 2024, that he's in charge of such a thing?

MAYORKAS: I believe that this working group that gathers together -- gathers together best practices, makes sure that our work is coordinated consistent with those best practices, that we're safeguarding the right of free speech, that we're safeguarding civil liberties, I think is an extraordinarily important endeavor.

BASH: Before I let you go, I'm sure you have heard that Kevin McCarthy, now the Republican leader, who hopes to be speaker if Republicans take over in November, will consider impeaching you.

Your response?

MAYORKAS: I am incredibly proud to work with 250,000 dedicated and talented personnel, and I look forward to continuing to do so.

BASH: No concern about that?

MAYORKAS: I am not. I am focused on mission and supporting our incredible work force.

BASH: Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming in this morning.

MAYORKAS: Thank you Dana.

BASH: President Biden is planning to go on offense, as his party fears big midterm losses to Republicans. But, if Republicans win, how would they govern? GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson is next.

And innocent civilians fleeing Ukraine now finding refuge in a place that not too long ago was displacing its own. That's ahead.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

It's the final stretch for the Republican candidates battling it out ahead of Tuesday's primaries, the most high-profile, the rough-and- tumble Ohio Senate race, which will test the power of a Trump endorsement more than a year after he left office.

But it's not smooth sailing for Democrats either, as they try to sharpen their midterm message amid some troubling economic signs.

Here to discuss is Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.

Thank you so much for joining me, sir.

So, inflation is at a 40-year high. And the U.S. economy actually shrank over the first three months of 2022. But there are some positive signs, like the labor market is strong. President Biden says he is not worried about a recession. Are you?


I think that anybody that looks at where we are and the fact that we didn't have any economic growth this last quarter has to be concerned about that. Whenever you have had a sustained growth for so many years consistently, you know that you have got to be prepared in the event that comes.

And I think there is a possibility of that down the road. Whenever you have high inflationary pressures, whenever you have interest rates going up to slow the economy down, these are stressors on it. You add that to the supply chain woes that we have, we have got challenges.

And so this administration needs to address those. And they need to do it quickly.

BASH: You mentioned supply chain woes.

A lot of economists -- many economists say that the drop in the GDP was due to temporary factors, like the supply chain disruptions, a big trade deficit due to those supply chain issues. And they point to high consumer spending, business investment as signs that the underlying economy is strong.

HUTCHINSON: Well, here in Arkansas, we have a strong underlying economy, in the sense that we are creating jobs.

We have surpluses in our budget. We have a $1 billion surplus right now. And -- but we also know that underlying that are consumers that are hurting. And so while the state budget is doing well, you have got families that are struggling with gas prices, with energy costs.


And so we're looking at returning that money back to the taxpayer, so that they can have some relief. But that's one solution, that what we worry about is not just the next three months, but the next year. And whenever you're seeing flailing or struggling stock market prices, that impacts families as well.

We hope that we can strengthen this economy by more job creation, but also controlling federal spending. There's a lot of signals that are just bad, such as canceling student debt. These are irresponsible actions that are being put out by the administration in an election year. But it doesn't help us to provide confidence in the direction that we're going. BASH: You mentioned student debt.

Don't you think canceling student debt would be helpful to the residents in Arkansas who are having trouble making ends meet out in the world because they have to pay so much in student loan debt?

HUTCHINSON: Well, sure it'd be helpful to them. It would be helpful to cancel rent for them. It'd be helpful to pay all their utility bills. It'd be helpful to help on mortgage payments.

But the question is, what is the right solution? And, again, we're looking at not providing more relief, but trying to return more of what we're collecting in terms of taxes back to the taxpayers. That will help them. And it's a more long-term solution as well.

And so you cannot have the federal government intervening in all of these areas in terms of giveaway programs. You have got to have a better solid economic plan. And that's what we're missing right now.

BASH: Want to turn to some issues in your party right now.

Leaked audio shows Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy saying then- President Trump bore responsibility for January 6 and that he should resign. In public, as you know, he's lied about that and about what he has fully embraced, which is now Donald Trump.

You served two terms in Congress. Would you feel comfortable with Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House if Republicans take control in November?

HUTCHINSON: Well, of course, Speaker McCarthy or -- excuse me -- Majority Leader McCarthy has his own set of challenges within the caucus.

And he's got to be able to somehow bring that together if we're going to -- if he's going to get elected to speaker if we win the majority, which I believe that we will.

BASH: If you were still there, would you vote for him for speaker?

HUTCHINSON: I'm not going to comment on that, because it all depends upon who the alternative is.

But I would say that we had one message after January 6 among many of our leaders, recognizing the problem with the insurrection. And that tone has changed. And I believe that that's an error. I don't think we can diminish what happened on January 6. We're going to be having hearings there in Congress that's going to be coming out, much of this public, in June.

And that's not going to be helpful for those that diminished the significance of that event. And so that worries me, in terms of not just the majority leader, but also worries me in terms of other leaders that have diminished what happened on January 6.

BASH: Your fellow Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law effectively punishing Disney for its criticism of legislation restricting how sexual orientation and gender identity are taught in schools.

Do you support DeSantis' move against Disney?

HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, Disney has handled this very poorly.

Secondly, the law that was passed is, to me, common sense that in those grades, those lower grades, you shouldn't be teaching sexual orientation and those matters that should not be covered in -- at that age.

But I don't believe that government should be punitive against private businesses because we disagree with them. That's not the right approach either. And so, to me, that's the old Republican principle of having a restrained government.

And so let's do the right thing. It's a fair debate about these special tax privileges. I understand that debate. But let's not go after businesses and punish them because we disagree with what they said.

BASH: So DeSantis overstepped?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I disagree with it. I disagree with a punitive approach to businesses.

BASH: Understood.

HUTCHINSON: Businesses make mistakes they shouldn't have done there, but we should not be punishing them for their private actions.

BASH: Before I let you go, you previously told me you were keeping your options open as your term as governor ends, options potentially being 2024.


You spoke at the Politics & Eggs event in New Hampshire, a traditional stop for any presidential hopeful. Are you seriously considering running for president?


But you have got to get through, of course, this year, but that's an option that's on the table. And that's one of the reasons I was in New Hampshire.

And you had Secretary Mayorkas on. And the border security is such an incredible issue. That's what -- the kind of thing that I'm passionate about whenever you look at, we need to have Title 42 or some equivalent to it. Secondly, we have got to go after the cartels in a more vigorous fashion.

And then, thirdly, we have got to support the states in the role that we play. So there's much to be done there. I care about those issues. And so, yes, I'm going to be engaged this year, and hopefully beyond that.

BASH: Even if President Trump runs, you will run -- consider running? His candidacy won't affect yours?

HUTCHINSON: No, it won't.

I have made it clear I think we ought to have a different direction in the future. And so I'm not aligned in -- with him on some of his endorsements, but also the direction he wants to take our country. I think he did a lot of good things for our country, but we need to go a different direction.

And so that's not a factor in my decision-making process.

BASH: Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, thank you so much for joining me.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Great to be with you today.

BASH: And President Biden cracked some jokes last night. We will talk about how they landed.

Plus, is Donald Trump still a kingmaker?

That's next.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not really here to roast the GOP. That's not my style.

Besides, there's nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn't already put on tape.






BIDEN: This is the first time the president attended this dinner in six years.

It's understandable. We had a horrible plague, followed by two years of COVID.


BIDEN: Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year.

Now, that would really have been a real coup, if that occurred.


BASH: There were some cringes in the audience on that one.

Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Our panel is here now.

We want to start talking about the midterms, because we're seeing a big primary this week in Ohio. Everybody's gearing up for it. And we have a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll out this morning which shows the American people trust Republicans over Democrats on inflation by 19 percentage points. There you see it, 19 percentage points.

And, probably no surprise, people in this poll said that they consider inflation a very important issue to them and to their lives.

Bakari Sellers...



BASH: ... what do you do with that?

SELLERS: ... for coming to me first.

Inflation is the number one issue in the country. I think that everybody would recognize that. Anybody who is paying attention to grocery prices, to the prices of just everyday goods and services just rising and skyrocketing.

And Democrats, outside of Ukraine and Russia, every domestic policy should be looked at through the lens of how it would affect inflation, period.

BASH: Are they doing that, the White House?

SELLERS: I think we are doing it, but I think that Democrats are having the same problem we had during the Obama era, which is, we don't communicate well, we don't message well, we don't punch back at all.

And so when you have a lack of messaging, you allow other people to fill that void. The blessing that we have, though, going into the midterms is none other than Donald Trump, because he's endorsing some straight-up lunatics. And the more lunatics he endorses, it reminds me of Todd Akin when he was running, then the young lady who said, "I'm not a witch."

It reminds me of that time frame, because we're going to have some awful Republican candidates who win and give Democrats a chance.

FMR. REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): But there's also some good candidates that are winning and are going to fuel this red wave that we're going to see in 2022. Also in that poll, the second issue that people were polled on was

crime. And this is an issue, when you look at South and West Texas, that you're going to see near record turnout, if not record turnout of Latinos for Republicans primarily because of the issue of border security.

And when you live on the border, border security is a public safety issue. And this is what's going to fuel some of the -- the fact that you're likely to have three of the five House members that represent the Texas-Mexico border being Republicans.

When I was in Congress, I was the only one. So these are the two issues. And, ultimately, the administration, when it comes on inflation, needs to stop saying they don't have anything they can do about it, right? That's usually one of the leads in saying, it's not our fault.

Nobody wants to hear that. And they want to say, hey, how are you going to get us out of this?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, the irony, of course, is, right, the idea of issues on the border poll really high in places that are nowhere near the border, like Kansas and where there are no minorities.

So it's more of that messaging of being afraid of each other here in the United States, of being afraid of a more browning of America. The idea that the police are the only solution to that, and that the rise in crime is due to Democrats is also false.

There's -- we are coming out of a pandemic. We have rising gun sales. We have social unrest. None of the cities that the Republicans like to cite as -- have high crime spikes had actually defunded the police. So we need to recognize there are serious systemic policies here. It's not just a matter of Democratic messaging.

BASH: Bakari, hang on one second.

I just want -- as a Republican, can you respond?

HURD: Well, I think the new mayor of New York City proves the case that, when you focus on trying to address the issues of crime -- and, yes, let's talk about the fundamental reasons that we're seeing some of these things happen.


But when there is still a narrative -- and I would say the median Democrat does not believe in defund the police. But when the public views the party as more in line with that narrative, that's what's going to fuel some of these losses.

HAQ: And the irony here is that New York City, as an example, paid $750 million just this year in overtime for police.

BASH: Let's -- oh, go ahead. I'm sorry. HAQ: And inflation, right, the idea of a pocketbook issue of

inflation, of how you can help people right now is student loan debt relief.

BASH: Bakari.

SELLERS: I just want to get some coffee and watch these two. This is great TV.


BASH: But, Bakari, as you respond, I just want to give one bit of good news for Democrats in this poll, which is what we call the generic ballot: Do you want a Democrat or Republican to be in Congress?

Democrats are 46 percent. Republicans are 45 percent. It's a bit of an uptick for Democrats.


And I go back to messaging in the way that Democrats message, right? I know that James Carville and Paul Begala probably love the fact that I'm hitting on the fact, we don't have a message or we don't articulate it in ways we should.

If you look at South Carolina, you have Daniel Rickenmann, a Republican mayor of Columbia. You have Henry McMaster, a Republican governor, and violent crime is skyrocketing. They have done nothing to address violent crime, other than pass a CRT ban, right?

But if you look at cities like Little Rock, where you have Mayor Frank Scott, if you look at Randall Woodfin in Birmingham, if you look at Vi Lyles in Charlotte, where you see mayors actually addressing those root causes, and where you're seeing crime level off and decrease, and you see them actively addressing it by supporting police, but also dealing with the root causes, then you understand that we have to change the narrative.

BASH: I want to go back to what you mentioned -- we mentioned at the beginning, which is that there are some Republican primaries coming up starting in just two days in Ohio.

Before we get to that, I should say that you have a new book out, a very good one, "American Reboot: An Idealist's Guide to Getting Big Things Done."

On that note, what we're seeing in Ohio, just like we're seeing in several other big, important Republican primaries in important states, you have a Trump-endorsed candidate, J.D. Vance, and then you have others out there.

This is an issue that Republicans are dealing with in real time.

HURD: Sure. I'm going to -- I'm going to give you all the end of the story, OK? Donald Trump-endorsed -- some Donald Trump-endorsed candidates are going to win, some are going to lose, right?

SELLERS: I mean, that's brilliant. That is just brilliant right there.

HURD: Right? This is -- and so this notion...

SELLERS: It's going to come down to turnout.

HURD: Right. It comes down to turnout. Candidates matter, right?

We love to try to nationalize elections. You were talking about those cases of people running in places like Little Rock. When you talk about the issues that people on the ground matter, then you're going to be able to be successful.

And, yes -- but, look, should some of these people that I probably wouldn't -- I would not vote were to get elected, yes? And the problem is going to be, for Republicans, is that we're going to let what I consider to be the authoritarian wing of the party drive the agenda after we take back the House and likely take back the Senate. And that's going to be a problem.

BASH: And they could lose these Senate seats, could...

HURD: Sure.

BASH: ... if they're what you call the authoritarian wing.

HAQ: And it's not just a matter of messaging or even an endorsement for Trump.

In 2018, Ohio passed a constitutional amendment to not allow partisan gerrymandering, to have the city of Cincinnati, which is half-black, to remain whole. Instead, they are now running on a map that carves up that city, where the white suburbs now have a majority of population.

So, if we don't address the fundamentals of how people get to the polls...


HAQ: ... how they can vote, that one vote, one person promise is absolutely broken and...


BASH: Bakari, last word. Twenty seconds.

SELLERS: No, I actually agree.

But I think that, when you look at the map, and you see candidates like Herschel Walker, for example, when you look at candidates like J.D. Vance, and you see him in this battle with Mandel, none of this -- none of those three deserve to be in the United States.

And I just say that as matter of fact as I possibly can. But yet they're writing this Trump wave. And until the Republican Party deals with the cancer that is Trumpism -- and I understand they love the economic policies. We can have those debates.

But the undergirding of the bigotry, the undergirding of the xenophobia, and the undergirding of the anti-intellectualism, that is the problem. And that, unfortunately, is going to...


BASH: We're going to have to leave it there.

Thank you so much for that great discussion. Appreciate it.

SELLERS: Thank you.

BASH: Nice to see you in person. See you guys...


SELLERS: Go get that book.

BASH: Coming up next: how parts of Poland's dark history may have affected its approach now as it welcomes millions of refugees from Putin's war.



BASH: Poland has welcomed nearly three million Ukrainian refugees since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

It may be, in part, lessons learned from Poland's own history, dark periods, like some 50 years ago, when the communist government forced thousands of Jews to leave.


BASH (voice-over): This is the only major synagogue in Warsaw the Nazis did not destroy, a place of worship once again.

(on camera): How many Jews are left in Poland?


BASH (voice-over): Impossible not only because Adolf Hitler murdered three million Polish Jews. Many he did not kill hid their Jewish identity after World War II, and a more recent reason.

In 1968, the communist government forced many of Poland's remaining Jews to leave the country. SCHUDRICH: March of 1968, there were rumblings in society against the

government. And the government decided that the best way I need to deal with this social tension, the social opposition to the government, was by claiming the Jews -- it's all the Jews doing it.


BASH (on camera): Which is the scapegoat line that has been used for millennia.

SCHUDRICH: Correct, tried and true.

NARRATOR: 1968 was the year of student revolution throughout the world.

BASH (voice-over): It was the late 1960s. Protests were raging, not just on American college campuses, but Polish universities, and the communist government didn't like it.

This exhibit at POLIN, the Jewish museum in Warsaw, illustrates what happened. After Israel's victory over its Arab neighbors in the 1967 Six-Day War, Poland's communist leader, Wladyslaw Gomulka, spoke out against Zionism, thinly veiled hate code.

JOANNA FIKUS, HEAD OF POLIN MUSEUM EXHIBITION DEPARTMENT: He never mentioned the word Jew, but he says he didn't have to. He was talking about Zionists.

After this speech, this huge wave of anti-Semitic campaign began.

BASH (on camera): Tell me your story from 1968.

GEBERT: It's a very typical '68 story.

When the anti-Semitic campaign started, we started losing friends fast.

BASH (voice-over): Konstanty Gebert was a Polish high school student in 1968.

GEBERT: Got beaten up on the street for being a dirty Jew and standing there rubbing my face and wondering, what was that all about?

BASH: His family's life was upended by anti-Semitism.

GEBERT: I got expelled from high school for being of Zionist extraction. This was the official reason.

BASH: Gebert, now a prominent Polish journalist, found a way to stay in Poland. Many Jews forced from their jobs and homes could not.

FIKUS: They were told that they have to leave their home. They were forced to emigrate. They were allowed to leave with one document. This is the -- kind of the passport, which is even not called passport, because it's one-way document, which means that you could only leave Poland and never come back. BASH (on camera): So, one way.

FIKUS: One way.

And they were allowed, as you see here, to have with them only $5, nothing else.

Is that you?

(voice-over): My uncle, Alex Gelber, got one of those one-way tickets out of Poland. In 1968, he was 20 and in medical school.

(on camera): Do you remember the moment when you realized you had to go?

ALEX GELBER, FORCED TO LEAVE POLAND IN 1968: Yes, it was very unpleasant because, I was pulled out from this fairly protected environments to this situation in which I'm essentially like nobody.

You had an official who would stand over you and would say, well, you can take this item or you can take this piece of whatever, some possession, jewelry or something, and then you cannot take the other.

BASH (voice-over): His father, George Gelber, was a prominent doctor and professor and a Jew.

GELBER: He was given a choice. They say, well, you can resign by yourself, or we will fire you.

Obviously, it made no difference. And so he said, no, I am not going to resign. You have to tell me that I'm not worth being here.

BASH: This after surviving Hitler.

(on camera): For your parents, it was only 25 years after the Holocaust.

GELBER: Yes. Yes. Yes. And that was -- and they tried to build this semi-normal future there -- future, and it just didn't -- didn't work well.

BASH (voice-over): Back in Poland, Alex's family on his mother's Catholic side were in the dark.

WOJCIECH ZAREMBA, RELATIVE OF 1968 POLISH REFUGEES: It was a kind of shock. We were behind the Iron Curtain, yes? We had no news, no messages. It was like disappearance of this very rapid, rapid -- in very rapid way, yes?

BASH (on camera): Your family just disappeared.

ZAREMBA: They are just gone. They are just gone, yes?

I mean, nobody know -- knew what happens, what -- how they are leaving. Are they fine or not? BASH (voice-over): Alex finished medical school in Italy, then came

to the U.S. to reconnect with his parents, and met and married my aunt, Dr. Linda Wolf (ph).

His sister became a doctor in the U.S. Army, Colonel Renata Greenspan.

(on camera): When you look at what's happening in Poland now, the Poles are welcoming the Ukrainians with open arms. Do you think it's a lesson learned?

GELBER: I hope so. I hope so.

They're ordinary people who open their homes, and they let people move in. So, this is heartening.

BASH: As a former refugee yourself...


BASH: ... what's it like?

GELBER: It's uncanny similar.


It's this hate, intolerance, and they drive people out, and people are desperate, and they don't know, when will they come back? This passage leaves the mark doesn't leave you.

BASH: Poland's loss is my gain, because I got an uncle out of it.

GELBER: That is terrific.


GELBER: And I gained a wife.



BASH: We will be right back.


BASH: As we confront the forces that are pulling us apart, a new CNN series is looking at the common threads that draw people across the world together.




I'm a black and Jewish man, one who grew up in a pretty impoverished part of America. Even though most kids like me don't have much of a chance, I got out.

The journey from where I started -- I got something out of culinary school, huh? -- to where I am now -- this guy, this is -- has allowed me to move in and out of different places in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a lefty?

MCCOY: I'm not, but it was just right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use your right hand.

MCCOY: Yes. He's like, I'm on the clock.

This thing is huge. Mostly, it was like, how can you eat something that smells like after?

After all, we carry our travels with us to our next destination.

That's so cool.

That's what life is all about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just incredible, huh?

MCCOY: I'm a nomad. Let's do this.