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More than 14,000 Children in Federal Custody; CDC Updates School Guidance for Distancing; Judge Denies Chauvin Defense Motions. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired March 19, 2021 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New video comes a day after Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned that domestic violent extremism in this country is the greatest threat to the U.S. It goes beyond that.

I spoke earlier with U.S. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He warns that extremism, including white supremacy, neo-Nazism and anti-Asian violence is growing across the globe. And he says it's a challenge that the world must confront together today.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: I think we have seen it in relation to Asians because of the COVID. We have seen it in relation to Muslims in relation to some terrorist attacks that -- which, of course, overwhelming majority of the Muslim population is totally innocent.

We have seen it in relation to different other minorities in some that are scapegoated, that are, in fact, considered to be responsible for whatever happens of negative. We see it in anti-Semitism that is being again gaining ground in an absolutely unacceptable way after what happened with the Holocaust. I always thought with the Holocaust people would say, well, anti-Semitism, nevermore.

We see anti-Semitism moving on and gaining ground and violence against the Jewish communities and, I mean, synagogues being attacked here in the EU. I mean this is something that really must mobilize us all. It is -- it is a cause for us all that believe in universal values, that believe in human fraternity and human dignity.

SCIUTTO: Secretary General, you've talked about how white supremacy, neo-Nazism, this kind of extremism has become the number one internal security threat. And there is evidence that these groups operate almost similarly to international terror networks, sharing knowledge, resources, sentiment, et cetera.

How extensive is that cooperation internationally between these kinds of groups? GUTERRES: I think it's becoming very extensive. I think there is

permanent intercommunication. There are even mechanisms of mutual recruitment and mutual influence. And, at the same time, we see some of these groups recruiting war veterans, recruiting former members of security forces and trying -- having weapons and becoming a threat to our societies. And, indeed, an international threat because they are interlinked more and more. As the extreme right is becoming more and more interlinked at political level.

SCIUTTO: We saw those kinds of folks taking part, for instance, in the assault on the Capitol January 6th.

I want to ask you what you think needs to be done, right, to address this internationally. Partly it's in language, but what kind of action?

GUTERRES: Well, this is a battle of ideas. First of all, we need to fight ideas. We need to promote our values. I mean democratic societies must prevail in all circumstances. And mutual respect must be always in the top of our concerns.

But I think there are some actors that can have a particularly important role. For instance, religious leaders can be very, very important, leading their communities to the advocacy of the right causes against this kind of manifestations, meaning with white supremacy, being anti-Muslimism, bigotry or anti-Semitism.

On the other hand, we need to sense (ph) the social cohesion of societies. We need to invest. I mean many of those circumstances reflect problems of discrimination that exist, reflect frustrations that exist in relation to unfair policies that undermine the situation of different groups in society. To invest economically, socially, culturally in social cohesion. To -- I mean it must be everywhere.

And also to have police forces that are police forces trained to address these issues, to have the judiciary trained to address these issues in an effectively, to make sure that those that misbehave are held accountable and being held accountable and according to the rule of law and to due process are punished when they deserve to be punished.

SCIUTTO: Finally if this requires an international effort, is the U.S., in your view, more a leader in fighting this or, today, part of the problem?

GUTERRES: I've seen, in the U.S., fantastic demonstrations of anti- racism. I've seen the youths (ph) in the leadership of those demonstrations. And to a certain extent, this movement then spread all over the world.

The U.S. is an enormous influence. The soft power of the U.S. is something that it is clear in culture, in art, in many other aspects.


And so what happens -- what happens in the U.S. inevitably has a strong influence in other parts of the world. And so this kind of natural leadership creates a particular responsibility for United States leaders and for the American communities because indeed what happens here is known everywhere and, inevitably, reflects in other parts of the world.


SCIUTTO: Including, sadly, the challenge from extremism, white supremacy.

Thanks very much to the U.N. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres. We appreciate you taking the time.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that was really significant to hear from him, Jim. Thank you for that.

On next, after this, schools. The CDC is just about to release new guidelines that will cut the distance that kids have to be apart in schools in half. The superintendent for Boston's public school system will join us next.



SCIUTTO: Well, today, the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is heading to El Paso, Texas, to tour border facilities there. This as new data is shedding light on the challenges facing U.S. border patrol amid this migrant surge. According to the agency, it has now encountered 32 large groups of at least 100 migrants each along the southern border just since October.

HARLOW: And that number is up from 10 groups in the previous year when border crossings dropped sharply at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

Priscilla Alvarez, our colleague, joins us again in Dallas this morning.

Good morning to you, Priscilla.

I mean you have more than 14,000 migrant children in U.S. custody. What is happening to them?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: These numbers tell us a lot, Poppy, and especially the number of children in Border Patrol custody. We now know that that is now more than 4,500 children.

Poppy and Jim, these are facilities that look like jails. They have concrete benches, concrete walls. This is not a place where the administration wants children to stay for a prolonged period of time, but that is what's happening because of the sheer number of children crossing the U.S./Mexico border alone. And the administration having a hard time keeping up.

In fact, we are here in Dallas, in front of a convention center where the administration is trying to transfer these kids to try to get the process started outside of those Border Patrol facilities. So, again, the administration sharing big numbers yesterday that just illustrate that the challenge is still facing them.

HARLOW: A big one.

Priscilla, thank you for being there, for your reporting.

Today, the CDC will update its guidance for physical distance in schools. An administration official tells CNN the CDC will actually cut in half, so it will no longer be six feet between kids, it's going to need to be three feet. This after a new study showed no significant difference in COVID rates between those distances in schools with universal masking.

The study drives this change -- the study driving this change was done in Massachusetts Public Schools, analyzing data from more than 500,000 students in 251 school districts.

I'm pleased now to be joined by Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.

Superintendent, it's great to have you and I wonder what your reaction is to this news? I mean you were planning to fully open your schools five days a week by mid-April. Does this accelerate that?


And this is part of that plan is to be able to have the three feet of distance in order to have the capacity within our schools to meet all of the students that want to come to in-person learning.

HARLOW: That's good news, right? If this is safe, it's going to be a lot easier for kids to be back in school.

What's interesting to me about Boston Public Schools is that you had this huge win a year ago. You had the highest graduation rate ever in 2020 for Boston Public Schools. And then the pandemic hits and now what you're facing is a serious problem of chronic absenteeism. I mean your numbers say two out of five high school juniors and seniors in the fall were not showing up, especially in the most disadvantaged communities.

Is this your greatest challenge is bringing these kids back to the level that they were at?

CASSELLIUS: This is -- this is -- this is a huge challenge for us, Poppy. We know that our children have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic this past year. And as it continues to weigh on their mental health, their social isolation has been extremely challenging for them to just get up out of bed and attend class.

We've done a lot to try to engage them, given them flexibility in their grading and following up on their grading. We've also been able to work with our social workers and our counselors to encourage students. We've been calling families and working with families as well. So we are concerned about their attendance.

This is also true at the other end of the spectrum with our youngest learners as well where parents have just decided to keep their kids out of school this year. And so we know that there's a lot that we have to do when we return. But we're pretty proud of those high graduation rates for our 2020 class. When the pandemic hit and they could have been really negatively impacted, our staff really stepped up.

HARLOW: How do you deal with the mental and emotional toll long after, you know, most people are vaccinated? I know you've brought on dozens of more social workers, but, you know, I mean this, as a parent, I think about it. I have little kids, so I don't think the emotional impact on them will be so much. But if I had teenagers, I'd be really scared right now.

CASSELLIUS: They are scared. I was just talking to some of our student members of our advisory council just the other night and the impacts for them are just really sad.


And they're carrying this unfair burden on them with our schools being closed. So we need to open our schools for our high schoolers as well. Boston Public Schools will have our schools open by the end of this month for our high school students in hybrid. That means two days a week, with plans to expand to five days a week by the end of April.

HARLOW: For people who don't know your background, you were raised by a single mother in public housing in Minneapolis on food stamps. So you know what disparity is like. And every indication is that this pandemic has just increased disparity for black and brown students, on every level.

Your critics, as you know, have said your plans are too bold, they're too ambitious, they're not practical enough. What do you say to those folks as you take on this challenge that I bet you never expected when you became superintendent?

CASSELLIUS: Well, I would say that our children deserve big, bold plans. And what we were doing wasn't working. And so it is absolutely critical that our children are able to have well-rounded education. They should have the arts. They should have PE, music. They should have advanced classes. That should be available to our children, even our poorest children. And to say that we can't do it is just not OK to me.

I had those kinds of things for me when I was a kid. And I think it's important that we build those similar kind of supports for our children and really rally for our kids. And if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that resources are not a barrier. Unions are not a barrier. It is just the political will to get it done for our children.

HARLOW: Let's end on this. You, sadly, have had your own experience being the victim of racism, racist statements being made about you. As we see the hate against Asian-Americans in this country and the violence perpetrated, does it change your plans for what you will do for the Asian-American community in your schools and how you will work to educate your students and faculty on this front?

CASSELLIUS: Yes, it's really sad that the way that adults speak now in our community toward any group, Asian groups, black children, and we do not tolerate that in the Boston Public Schools, and we should not tolerate that at all in our country. It is deplorable, and we should all make huge statements to say that this is just unacceptable.

Children today are so hopeful, so joyful and resilient. And they know their place in the world. And we adults need to step it up a bit and conduct ourselves because they watch everything that we do, and they soak it up. And they learn from us. And so we need to make sure that our behavior is in order and something to be worthy of our children.

HARLOW: Maybe a lesson for all of us grown-ups from our children in their kindness.

CASSELLIUS: I always say that it's the adults who make the conditions in which children succeed.


CASSELLIUS: So maybe they'll take our cues and together we can be better for them.

HARLOW: Superintendent of the Boston Public School System, Brenda Cassellius, thank you, and good luck.

CASSELLIUS: Thank you, Poppy.


SCIUTTO: This breaking news just in to CNN. The judge in the Derek Chauvin trial just made a big decision about that case. In fact, multiple decisions with significant impact. We're going to have a live update right after this break.



SCIUTTO: The breaking news just into CNN.

The judge in the Derek Chauvin trial has just denied defense motions to delay and move the trial from Minneapolis. This, of course, the officer charged in the death of George Floyd.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Omar Jimenez. He joins us in Minneapolis. Also our legal analyst, Elie Honig.

Omar, explain what just happened.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We knew this was going to be a big morning because the judge was going to be making a series of rulings, most notably the decision not to delay this trial and not to change the venue in this.

Of course the defense was arguing that that was necessary because of the intense amounts of pre-trial publicity that was exacerbated by the news of that record civil settlement last week. But the judge said, no matter when we do this case, there's going to be pre-trial publicity and it's going to be an issue. And no matter where we do it, there's no place in the state of Minnesota that has not been influenced or seen this story. So we go on as planned.

He did say, though, he was shocked to find that when they re- questioned the seven jurors that were selected around the time of that civil settlement, he was shocked that two of them were no longer able to be fair and impartial because, as he said in this hearing, he thought the defense was overblowing it in the beginning portions of this.

And then another critical decision he made was allowing limited evidence from a previous George Floyd arrest in 2019, specifically in regards to his medical condition that day, blood pressure, things like that, where the defense says that it was an ingestion of drugs that caused him to behave in a similar way to a May -- to the May 2020 incident.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Elie Honig also with us.

So, Elie, tell us the significance of omitting evidence from that 2019 arrest of Floyd in which Chauvin was involved.


The defense sees this as advantageous. Why? And how advantageous do you believe it to be or not?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim, so it's unusual to see a judge allow in evidence of a prior arrest in an unrelated case, and even more so here because we're not even talking about the defendant. We're talking about the victim, George Floyd.

Now, the defense here, the defense of Derek Chauvin is going to argue that one of the reasons he died, George Floyd died, was because he ingested drugs on the day of the arrest. They want to introduce evidence of George Floyd's prior arrest, which, by the way, will be quite prejudicial against George Floyd. But to argue that a similar thing happened that prior arrest, that during that prior arrest he also was showing signs that were consistent with ingesting a large amount of drugs. This all goes to the question of what charged George Floyd's death.

Here's why I don't think it's ultimately a successful defense. As long as the prosecution can show that Derek Chauvin's knee to George Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds was a contributing factor to his death, it was one of the causes of his death, then they will get what they need, then they have enough to prove the charged murder/manslaughter offenses. HARLOW: OK. Thank you for explaining all of that to us.

Ellie, Omar, thank you for being there on the breaking news.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.