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More Countries Hit Pause On AstraZeneca Vaccine; Hong Kong Conducting Snap Lockdowns, Forced Testing; Grieving Families, Friends Of Politicians Allege Torture In Myanmar; CNN Marks 10th Anniversary Of Freedom Project; Syria Devastated As Conflict Remains In A Stalemate; Border Patrol Has 4,000-Plus Migrant Children In Custody. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired March 16, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, what's wrong with the AstraZeneca vaccine?

After an abundance of caution but in the midst of the pandemic, 4 European countries suspend a vaccine rollout.

All alone and most not even 10 years old a record number of migrant children held at the southern border, with the Biden administration struggling to find a solution.

Finally, it is here. The My Freedom Day, the once-a-year moment where students around the world to stand up for human dignity make a stand against human trafficking.


VAUSE: The questions and concerns, beginning last month, was the AstraZeneca vaccine safe for people over 65?

The WHO said yes it was. Last week, a handful of European countries suspended distribution over blood clot concerns. Now those concerns spread to European capitals. Health experts and the drugmaker says that there is no evidence that the vaccine increases the chances of blood clots and benefits outweighs any risk if there are any.

Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France also suspending the AstraZeneca rollout.


EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): A decision, which has taken, in conformity with our European policy is to suspend by precaution vaccinating with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the hope we can resume quickly, if the European Medicines Agency gives the green light.


VAUSE: While they wait for, that new COVID outbreaks flare across much of the region. This is last week, compared to the previous week. CNN's Cyril Vanier, reporting, from London.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A majority of European countries, now fully or partly suspended, AstraZeneca vaccinations. Raising questions about the safety of the vaccine. Germany, Italy and France, following in the footsteps of other E.U. nations on Monday after severe blood clot incidents post inoculation, including several deaths.

Italy reported, a man with no known illnesses fell ill and died after receiving his first dose of the vaccine. Norway, announcing that one of the three vaccine recipients admitted to hospital recently with an unusual combination of symptoms had died.

All of the countries that have suspended AstraZeneca say that this is a precaution. There is no proof that these incidents are caused by the vaccine. Still, they want to comprehensive assessment by the European Medicines Agency, which is expected Thursday, before they resume the rollout.

In the meantime, they are maintaining its green light for the vaccine, as is the World Health Organization. As for the vaccine maker itself, AstraZeneca says the data from 17 million recipients in the U.K. and E.U. shows that blood clots are no more frequent among vaccine recipients than they are in the general population -- Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.



VAUSE: Dr. Carlos Del Rio is a distinguished professor of medicine, specializing in infectious diseases, and the executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine.

Thank you for being with us, Dr. del Rio.


VAUSE: AstraZeneca, it defended its vaccine by pointing out 37 reports of blood clots, more than 70 million people vaccinated, in 28 countries, that's the E.U. and Britain, and no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of blood clots. The last point, raised by officials at the WHO on Monday. Listen to this.


DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, WHO CHIEF SCIENTIST: People do get thrombotic events, primary embolisms and people die every day. So the question, really, is the linkage with the vaccine and this is why we need to look at all of the data.


VAUSE: What is the linkage here?

The drugmaker says the 37 blood clots, that number, is lower than what would be expected among the general population.


DEL RIO: This is what happens when you give vaccines to millions of people, 70 million people, things will happen, blood clots, accidents, all sorts of things. The challenge is to piece out what is correlation, what is association, versus causation.

For that, we need to look at data. In my mind, from a pathogenesis standpoint, I don't quite understand why blood clots would be associated with this vaccine. Again, I do think it needs to be studied carefully and studied at length.

Out of an abundance of caution, many countries have held vaccinations with this vaccine but it simply means they're doing the right thing. Regulatory agents are saying, let's put a hold until we figure out what's going on and it's a pause. And a pause that, we all should be relieved, that regulatory agencies are having that kind of sensitivity to ensure that there is no risk.

VAUSE: There was a long delayed during U.S. trials last year for the AstraZeneca vaccine. It took weeks to provide evidence that it wasn't responsible for neurological side effects in two volunteers. Now there's a Europe wide suspension and also in Thailand as well.

How much of a problem does AstraZeneca have now in terms of public confidence?

DEL RIO: I think they have, clearly, a problem. I think they're going to have more of a public relations problem than anything else.

From a scientific standpoint, I want to look at their data, I want to see the U.S. trial data, I want to see it completed and presented to the FDA. The FDA advisory committee, the verb pack (ph) and the FDA scientists, they record a lot of information.

Those packages from Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, they're hundreds of pages long, very complete, have a lot of information in there. They have been quite available to the public. There is transparency in the discussions, the discussions are available, so you can (INAUDIBLE) them.

So that transparency, that data, is what I'm waiting for before I make a decision about this vaccine.

VAUSE: It's a bit odd to stop a rollout of a vaccine in the midst of a pandemic, isn't it? DEL RIO: It's very complicated. Very complicated. But we have other vaccines. My biggest concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine is that this was a vaccine that we were very hopeful for. It is inexpensive, AstraZeneca and Oxford, have granted the rights to produce billions of doses to India.

So really, it was a vaccine we were talking about producing not just the in millions but the billions, to try to immunize the world. We know the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are simply too complicated to give on a global scale.

So a lot of us have confidence in AstraZeneca, having confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. So I think it is just a matter of waiting and seeing. At this point in time, I think the right thing has been done but from a communication standpoint, it is exceedingly difficult to communicate.

VAUSE: Very quickly, your time reporting as the U.S. is sitting on 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, right now. It is still waiting for emergency authorization. Around the world, countries for approval of been begging for access to the stockpile.

"The Times" says that the fate of those doses is the subject of an intense debate among White House and federal health officials. Some arguing, the administration should let them go abroad where they're needed, others, not ready to relinquish them yet, according to senior administration officials.

Where do you stand on this?

Given the problems that it is pushing the AstraZeneca vaccine down the preferred list, should they release these vaccines to other countries?

Especially Brazil?

DEL RIO: No, I think that might be the right thing to do but I do want to be sure that it's not a bad vaccine. Then we would be releasing something that's not optimal. I don't want to have a vaccine for Americans and for the rest of the world.

Vaccine equity means you wouldn't give someone in Brazil something you wouldn't give to someone in the U.S.

VAUSE: Good point to finish on. Doctor, thank you for being with us as always.

DEL RIO: Delighted to be with you.


VAUSE: A brutal third wave of the coronavirus has forced Italy to propose new pandemic restrictions, a year after ordering the first pandemic lockdown in Europe. Cities like Rome and Milan have fallen quiet once more. Nonessential businesses have been ordered to close. Residents told to stay indoors. Right now, these restrictions apply to half the country, but will

extend to every region over the Easter weekend. Set to expire, 3 weeks from now.

Hong Kong, a different approach. Authorities are imposing flash lockdowns on different neighborhood. Residents, forced to stay indoors until their results for mandatory COVID-19 tests come back. The latest round turned up no new cases. CNN's Will Ripley, has our report.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Hong Kong fights to fend off a possible fifth wave of COVID-19, nowhere is immune. This weekend, hundreds of health care workers and police sealed off several upscale neighborhoods.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Ordering thousands to line up for testing and locked down to wait for results.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a little all of a main (ph). We didn't know what to expect and suddenly, the building was taped up and there was a lot of cops. And there was a medical crew that walked in in hazmat suits. So it was all very sudden.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Hong Kong began ambush style lockdowns in late January, targeting clusters in densely populated lower income areas. These are the first to hit the high rent districts, full of expats, foreign residents, finding themselves on the front line of Hong Kong's latest outbreak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Granted, that we've had a COVID for about a year and then suddenly this comes up?

We were a bit surprised. But I guess these measures need to be taken to a next wave outbreak.

RIPLEY: The hundreds of people who live in these buildings and others in the area, will not be allowed to leave until all of this testing is complete. They have to stay in their homes.

Health authorities say, the latest superspreader event started here, at this popular fitness center, raising questions about safety, just weeks after Hong Kong allowed gyms to reopen.

RIPLEY (voice-over): More than 100 cases, linked to this single gym. The cluster has closed schools, offices and force hundreds into government quarantine centers. Locked down for 14 days, including single mom, Jen Berman (ph).

JEN BERMAN (PH), SINGLE MOM: The most stressful thing is just the uncertainty and it was, the not knowing, it's getting that phone call. My main concern was my son. It was really, just not knowing if he was going to have to quarantine with me, what the results are going to be. Because if I turned out to be positive, it means that my son would

have to quarantine and go through this process, too. Obviously, as a mom, it's your worst nightmare for them to have to go through something like this.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Children may have a harder time coping with quarantine, mental health experts say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In young children particularly really thrive on safety, security and consistency. And so when their whole world is kind of turned upside down, that can be really disruptive. And as I mentioned, it can be quite traumatic.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Hong Kong has one of the world's harshest quarantine policies. Up to 3 weeks for incoming travelers, two weeks for anyone in close contact with the infected.

The city is just beginning COVID-19 vaccinations, most may have to wait months before they can get a shot. Potentially meaning, more outbreaks, more lockdowns and more damage to the already devastated local economy. Just as many hoped life was, finally, getting back to normal -- Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


VAUSE: Despite Myanmar's military using increasingly violent and belligerent tactics to end pro-democracy demonstrations, protesters are not backing down. One rights group counts almost 100 dead after clashes with the security forces in just the last 2 days. Martial law has been declared in parts of the biggest city, Yangon, and, reportedly in Mandalay, to the north as well.

CNN's Paula Hancocks, following these developments, live for us from Seoul.

There does seem to be an almost like the military is at war with the people of Myanmar right now.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly John, the level of violence they're willing to use against protesters increase. The U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he is appalled by escalating violence in Myanmar, also saying they're hearing about killings, arrests and reported torture of prisoners.

We do know that there were two former politicians of the National League for Democracy, who both died in custody, within the police and security forces system, those around them allege that they were tortured.

This upcoming report does contain some graphic images.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): An all too familiar scene in Myanmar these days, the funeral, for yet another killed, by increasingly violent security forces. Kim Vun Lap (ph) was a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

The 58-year-old politician was supposed to be part of the new democratic Myanmar, instead fiercely critical of the military coup. Witnesses say he was taken from his home in Yangon in the middle of the night and was dead within a day.

His family showed us photos of the body, which showed wounds suffered while in the junta's custody. The wound, at the back of the head, one friend says he believes it is clear what happened.

He says, "The wounds he received could only be from intense torture."

The military has not responded to our request for comment. Just days later, Zom Yat Lin (ph) was arrested in the early hours of the morning. He, too, was dead within a day. Footage of his body shows significant injuries to his abdomen and face. The junta says he fell from a building onto a steel fence while trying to escape.

His wife says there is no steel fence near their home.

She says, "The soldiers have bayonets on their guns with a serrated edge on one side and a blade on the other. I think that is what was used to kill my husband.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): "His neck is sewn up as well. They cut his neck and stabbed his stomach and killed him brutally and inhumanely."

The U.S. State Department, condemning, quote, "security forces' actions that resulted in the deaths of two NLD members."

The U.N. envoy from Myanmar said she has heard direct accounts of prisoners being tortured. The nighttime arrests continue, including NLD member Jamal (ph), seen here, on CCTV footage, being pushed in to the back of a military jeep. His family says they've heard nothing since. One of hundreds that have disappeared, hundreds more in hiding.

"I am constantly on the move," he says, "constantly switching places. I too have been to prison for over 10 years and I was tortured, made to sign confessions. I can't be arrested again."

Zom Yat Lin's (ph) widow says that she has lost all hope and direction. But has to carry on for their 10-year-old son. She says she is heartbroken but proud of her husband for showing the world how brutal the military can be.


HANCOCKS: Advocacy group AAPP says well over 2,100 people have been arrested or charged or sentenced. For many of them, those we've spoken to on the ground say they don't hear anything from family members who are arrested or from fellow protesters. Once they are taken into custody, that is the last they hear of them.

VAUSE: Paula thank, you Paula Hancocks live in Seoul with the very latest, thank you Paula.

We will take a short break and when we come back, students around the world pledging to do their part to end modern day slavery. It's CNN's fifth annual My Freedom Day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Tehran to Italy and I'm signing My Freedom Day pledge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Julia from Italy and I'm signing My Freedom Day pledge.





VAUSE: British prime minister Boris Johnson says the government is taking immediate measures to ensure the safety of women at night but many remain outraged by an aggressive police response to a weekend vigil in, London for murder victim Sarah Everard.


VAUSE (voice-over): Protesters say a policing bill does more to protect statues from vandalism than it does to protect women. A police officer has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard. She was abducted and killed earlier this month while walking home in south London.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Tavi (ph), I'm from Kurdistan, freedom to me means traveling around the world without anything stopping you.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me is free speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Germany and I'm against modern day slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Fabian and from Germany and I promise to take action to help end slavery. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Ah, listen to those voices, today a very special day for us here at CNN. We celebrate the fifth annual My Freedom Day, part of a decade long Freedom Project aimed at ending modern day slavery.

This, hour we head live to Hong Kong with CNN's Kristie Lu Stout.

Kristie, what's happening there in Hong Kong?

What are the kids doing?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: It's happening not just in Hong Kong but across the region and today is a special, day the fifth anniversary of MyFreedomDay. it is the 10th anniversary of the CNN Freedom Project.

We hosted a special webinar with students along with two modern-day abolitionists. Modern-day slavery is real and immense. According to the Global Slavery Index, some 40 million people are enslaved today

Here in the Asia Pacific region, 25 million children, women and men are enslaved, 25 million, that's roughly the population of the entire continent and country of Australia.

Now with students again from across the region and with two activists, we discussed the issue of modern day slavery and crucially how to end it.


STOUT (voice-over): Say hello to Asia's next generation of freedom fighters.

STOUT: We are excited to have with the scores of students joining us by video chat from schools across Asia. We've got Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok and India joining us. We have two modern-day abolitionists based here in Asia.

MATT FRIEDMAN, THE MEKONG CLUB: We as human beings buy things and a certain percentage of what we buy is tainted by modern slavery. We don't know which items are tainted. But the relevance of this is that, kind of like global warming, it's kind of like the carbon footprint.

It demonstrates that we are a part of the issue. And as a result of, that we also have to be part of the solution.

VICTORIA AHN, FAIR EMPLOYMENT FOUNDATION: What's even more surprising, is that businesses and brands themselves also have a hard time knowing this information. We need to learn more about the journey and stories of migrant workers themselves.

We need to hear about their experiences because that's also what's going to change people's minds and hearts and attention to this issue.

STOUT: Let's open up to Q&A to all of you out, there this is your chance to raise a question. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do the victims of human trafficking, self-

identified as a victim of a crime.

FRIEDMAN: Many people that I've met who are victims of human trafficking don't even realize that they're victims of anything. they just realize that they're in this bad circumstance, they're being threatened. They made choices, the choices resulted in them being there.

And they're often surprised if you say you want to go and help them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What role does education play in alleviating this issue?

AHN: When people are aware what it takes to get the products we have, we are going to want our brands to hold themselves accountable to better standards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are some of the ways that we as students can highlight the issues that are pertaining to human trafficking so that the government is compelled to take action and not ignore them.

FRIEDMAN: There is a point at which we, as human beings, just have to say, enough is enough. We have to step up, we have to take a stand. And it's often students that lead this. This is what is going to bring the change about. That's why this day is so important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are some ways we can make people more conscious about their spending habits?

AHN: We choose something because of the stories behind that product. And if you think about the fish you eat being caught by someone on a slave boat, I think it would become much less appetizing. If you could buy something that was ethically made, wouldn't you love that more?

STOUT: Victoria, thank, you

OK, everyone. Now is the time to decide on a solution.

What is the best way to convince the largest number of people to commit to stopping forced labor?

There is no right or wrong answer here. The poll result is in, become more aware of how goods are made and take into consideration a company's business practices before making a purchase.

That's going to be part of the action plan from Asia, to contribute to the 2021 freedom pledge that's going to be available online for students and educators around the world to sign.

So let's continue to work together to deliver the freedom for people across the world and across here in the Asia Pacific region.


STOUT: And you can find that at, with thoughtful questions from the students from Insight, from the two modern-day abolitionists there, Matt Friedman of the Mekong Club and tied to this day, the fifth anniversary of MyFreedomDay and the 10th anniversary of the Freedom Project.

The Mekong Club has launched a moon goal to end slavery.


STOUT: According to its moon goal, the objective is it wants the private sector to eliminate forced labor and human trafficking from its supply chain by the year 2030, without any negative impact on productivity.

You can find details online Twitter at the Mekong Club. It's on my timeline as well. It's a special day, 10 years of the Freedom Project that CNN has been shining a light on the issue of human trafficking. NGOs tell, us that our reporting and documentaries have led to changes in corporate policies, changes in laws in various countries around the world.

But the biggest impact has yet to come, it's coming from the students. The students you saw speaking out there, who are so engaged, so passionate about ending this horrific practice. They are the ones who are raising awareness and raising the bar to finally end modern day slavery, John.

VAUSE: Kristie Lu Stout for us there in Hong Kong, appreciate it.

And you can share your pledge on social media, using the hashtag My Freedom Day. Tune in this weekend for a very special global forum. Hear from hundreds of students posting comments to spread awareness and eradicate modern day slavery.

Japan and South Korea are hosting two top Biden administration officials this week, North Korea apparently not so happy. A message from Kim Jong-un's powerful sister, just delivered to the United States, we will tell you what it is, when we come back.




VAUSE: Welcome back, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause.

Despite waging a long and brutal civil war, there are still parts of Syria that remains beyond the control of president Bashar al-Assad. Thousands of Syrians, rallying Monday in the country's last rebel stronghold of Idlib, marking 10 years since the anti government uprising begin. Many still hope to topple the regime, despite the already staggering toll the war has taken.

In a joint statement, the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy pledged not to abandon the Syrian people and said Bashar al-Assad and his backers bear responsibility for the years of war and human suffering that followed. But for all of the condemnations and promises from help from around the world, Syria remains devastated and many there have lost hope.

Here is CNN's Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "El Assad or we burn the country," regime loyalists like to chant.

And over the last 10 years, as Syria has plummeted deeper into the abyss, the country, has burned and president Bashar al-Assad has clung to power.

An uprising that started peacefully has left as many as a half million dead by some estimates. The United Nations gave up counting five years ago.


More than half the population has been driven from their homes or has fled the country. Unwilling to concede that his dynastic regime and decades of oppression were to blame, Assad called it a foreign conspiracy.

And indeed, indeed, the uprising has become a multinational bloodbath. The U.S. and its Gulf allies initially provided the divided opposition with just enough money and weapons to keep fighting, but never enough to win.

And the failure of that opposition opened the door to ISIS and its brutal brand of madness, which brought American and European boots to Syrian soil.

Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah came to Assad's aid, followed by the full might of Russia. Turkey also joined the fray, along with Israel.

Syria today is a kaleidoscope of conflicts, pitting superpowers, regional powers, local powers against one another, now in a stalemate. A quagmire where it has become costly to stay, perhaps even more costly to leave.

Dreams of freedom faded long ago.

Syrian-American author and journalist, Alia Malek, witnessed the early years of the conflict.

ALIA MALEK, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Order and stability, I think, have emerged as things that are more important to the international community then the messiness of the true, sort of open, Democratic society. The fear of, like, ISIS-type Islamists, militants, psychologically terrorizes more than the idea of, like, a butcher in an Armani suit.

WEDEMAN: The official Syrian media portrays Assad's survival as a victory. It has left him ruling over just part of this devastated country, a traumatized population, and an economy in free fall, due to corruption and sanctions. If this is victory, what is defeat?

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.


VAUSE: Well, the Vatican, the orthodoxy office, the congregation for the doctrine of faith has issued a formal response to a question about gay marriage, saying the church cannot bless same-sex marriages.

The strong-worded statement approved by Pope Francis, described same- sex unions as sinful, adding that God does not, and cannot, bless sin.

Pope Francis has long supported civil legal protections for gay couples, but has always opposed gay marriage.

He met with gay couples in 2013, at the time saying, Who am I to judge the gays living by the church's rules.

Well, they're fleeing violence, and poverty, and disaster. But once they've reached the U.S. border, migrants are finding even more problems. Next, the tough conditions they face and what the White House is doing, and maybe not doing, about it.


VAUSE: The White House describes the recent surge in the number of migrants arriving on the southern border as a big problem, a significant challenge, but it seems more a crisis. The border facilities are overcrowded, with thousands of children now detained and authorities struggling to find shelters for them.


CNN's Rosa Flores has our report.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As tens of thousands of migrants make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southern border --


FLORES (on camera): Someone stole all her money along the way.

(voice-over): -- many discover that getting here is just the beginning. Some migrants describe --


FLORES: -- crowded immigration processing centers.

(on camera): She says it was packed with people.

(voice-over): Without showering facilities.

(on camera): Did they let you shower? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

FLORES (voice-over): And some say they slept under a bridge overnight --


FLORES: -- on pebbles and sand while waiting to get transported to immigration processing facilities.

Once there, migrants say that they get three meals per day.

This as CNN learns about 4,200 unaccompanied migrant children are in Border Patrol custody. Attorneys blowing the whistle this weekend about children in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at this massive temporary immigration processing center in Texas, where unaccompanied children, including many under 10 years old, are being held, some for 5 to 7 days, which is against U.S. law.

Peter Schey is a lawyer representing thousands of unaccompanied minors in federal custody and says capacity at the Donna facility is 1,000 detainees, and right now, it's holding about 2,000.

PETER SCHEY, LAWYER FOR UNACCOMPANIED MINORS: It is an untenable situation that the administration needs to address immediately.

FLORES: The head of homeland security directed FEMA to help create more shelters for unaccompanied children and move them out of Border Patrol custody quickly.

DHA says, "Border Patrol officials do everything they can to take care of unaccompanied children in their care."

As for mothers entering with children, many are released by Border Patrol at this bus station in Brownsville.

(on camera): Why did you come here?


FLORES: She says the economic crisis in her country is very severe.

(voice-over): The reasons migrants say they're trekking to the United States varies. Some, like Segua Meldar (ph) --


FLORES: -- says he lost everything during a recent hurricane in Honduras.

And Marison Ramirez (ph), who says the toughest part of her journey was when her daughter was hungry, and she had no food, says she's here because of the lack of jobs and the abundance of violence in her home country.

(on camera): CNN has made repeated requests to Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection to get access to the Donna facility that you see behind me and other processing centers like it, and that access has been denied.

Today, we also asked about those migrants who say that they slept under a bridge, on the dirt overnight, and we have not heard back.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Donna, Texas.


VAUSE: To Oakland, California, now and Alida Garcia, the vice president of advocacy at Forward.US.

Alida, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: There is a lot of politics around this right now. We'll touch on that in a moment. But the reality is there are ore unaccompanied children being held on the southern border right now than at the peak a couple of years ago, with reporting many are forced to sleep on gym mats with foil sheets and go for days without showering. Many children said they had not been allowed outdoors for days, days on end, confined to overcrowded tents.

Others told lawyers that there was not enough mats available for sleeping, forcing some of them to sleep directly on the ground or on a metal bench.

Right now, what more do you know about these conditions? How bad is it? And how much worse is it expected to get, considering there are more kids on their way, at least expected on their way?

GARCIA: Well, I think the good news is what we've really seen over the last couple of weeks and definitely over the last few days is the Biden administration really rising to the call of action to ensure that these children have new facilities that are humane.

They're acknowledging that a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child, and so they're working quite quickly today. A facility was announced in Dallas that will be able to house 3,000 unaccompanied children, for example.

And these facilities are going to be more humane, where children can have the services they need while the administration is working quite quickly to find the family members of these children and, hopefully, get them reunited as quickly as possible.

And so I'm rooting for them. These are children. We need to treat this crisis as children, and sort of pull out the politics of the whole situation, and just make sure that we get the kids out of these facilities into a place more humane and quickly reunited with their parents.

VAUSE: One option, which is not on the table, at least for the time being, is reopening a private shelter called Homestead. It had been at the center of multiple allegations of abuse. Axios reports "President Biden opposes reopening a controversial child migrant shelter in Florida that's been run by a for-profit company, telling the federal agency overwhelmed with caring for migrant minors to find other options."


You mentioned a couple of those other options, but is there anything which this administration is not doing that could be implemented within a matter of days which would ease this crisis?

GARCIA: I'm not sure that there's anything that they're not doing. I think that there's just a lot to do after four years of Donald Trump devastating the asylum system in the United States.

Donald Trump was not admitting any asylum seekers. And so what we currently have is a backlog of people who fled for their lives, arrived at our border, and stayed in Mexico.

And now, there is some processing of children and some families in the NPP program, but there is a lot of rebuilding for this nation to do after the devastation of family separation and the remain-in-Mexico program.

VAUSE: Do you have a timeline on when you think -- I get from you that you believe the worst has past and that we're on the other side of this. Have you got a time frame in your mind of when this should actually get down to a manageable problem?

GARCIA: I don't think the worst is behind us. I just think that this is a long-term problem that's going to require a long-term vision and a multi-pronged approach that includes investing in Central America and helping these countries that are driving people to make the life- changing decision of survival around their children, and putting their children's on their backs, and walking thousands of miles with hope that America is going to provide them an opportunity and safety.

We need to help those countries rebuild, and we need to rebuild our asylum processing system at our southern border. That is going to take time, and migration numbers will continue to increase. But we can do both of these things, at the same time. We are a capable country. It's just going to take time to build these systems, to be a little bit more humane than we had over the last four years. And -- and I'm rooting for the Biden administration, for them to be able to do this.

VAUSE: Yes. As far as the reasons why this is happening now, the White House blames the previous administration. Here's Jen Psaki.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a big problem. The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Republicans blame President Biden for reversing Trump-era policies, which saw children in cages, while others were just sent back across the border. Listen to this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's more than a crisis. This is a human heartbreak. The sad part about all of this, it didn't have to happen. All because the policies of our president has changed and told them something different. Told them to risk their lives and broke families apart.


VAUSE: Putting Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican minority leader, his hypocrisy to one side, is it possible they can both be right? Is it possible that Joe Biden, by ending those Trump policies, encouraged the arrival of these children to the border?

GARCIA: Well, what I would offer is that, in the height of the family separation crisis in 2018, when me and my team actually helped build a number of reunification centers for those families, that I did not see Kevin McCarthy there with my team, helping to rebuild those families after the devastation that they had.

And so I think it's very clear what is happening here. Children are being weaponized to project a narrative to distract from the president's recent legislative accomplishments. And it is both true that this is an important issue that requires the sincerity and focus that the Biden administration is providing, to build these new facilities so that these children can be safe and be reunited with their families.

This is an urgent matter. It's a serious matter. And I would hope that members of Congress do everything that they can do to fund the systems that are going to be necessary to rebuild the asylum system in America.

VAUSE: Alida, thank you so much. We are out of time, but great to have you with us. We really appreciate your insights. Thank you.

GARCIA: Thank you.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is next after a break.