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Biden Vows to go to Border; Atlanta Shooting Victim's Family Call for Justice; Tensions Between the U.S. and China Grow; Supreme Court to Review Boston Marathon Bomber's Case. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired March 22, 2021 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You've got DHS Secretary Mayorkas who told my colleague, Dana Bash, yesterday when she pressed him for a timeline on, when are you going to get these kids out of CBP custody, where you say they shouldn't be anyways, he couldn't provide a timeline, he just said as soon as possible.

And you've got double the number in terms of this spike that you had the same time a year ago. So I guess my question to you is, was the administration caught flat footed even with the warnings they were given during the transition?

JIM MESSINA, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No. Look, this didn't happen on January 20th, Poppy, as you well know. Under President Trump's administration, illegal -- or, sorry, children coming to the border increased by 690 percent. This has been happening for over a year. The problem is President Trump ended the program where these kids could stay in their home country and apply for asylum there. And so these kids are doing what generations of people have done, which is walk to the border and ask for help.

Second, there's no facilities at the border to process these children in a way that -- that protects DHS officials from COVID. There's no screening programs. There's no way to kind of take these things. So the administration, who's only been here eight weeks, by the way, we're on our 57th day, is having to deal with a system that is broken. And so it is going to talk some time and we're just going to have to deal with that.

HARLOW: CNN has reporting from multiple sources within the administration that they were warned well in advance during the transition that this was coming and that they knew that reversing Title 42, that law that then says you cannot turn away unaccompanied children, would lead to this. I mean Susan Rice, Biden's domestic policy advisor, is even saying, look, we're basically building this plane as we're flying it.

And the numbers are double, Jim. I mean the number, yes, it started to increase last April under Trump, but they're double where they were. So how can you say this is all the Trump administration's fault? MESSINA Poppy, these -- this Biden administration has been there for

56 days. They need some time to figure out how to move forward here and to deal with some of these programs. You know, when I was in the White House as deputy chief of staff, I dealt with these things every day and it takes a while to get these programs into place, figuring out how to deal with these children isn't a thing you're going to be able to do in eight weeks. This is going to take a little time and they're dealing with it quickly.

HARLOW: So I hear --

MESSINA And actually putting into place the programs that are going to work here.

You know, we're talking about a political challenge right now, Poppy, and what this really is, is an organizational challenge in government.

HARLOW: OK. But when you reverse a policy, like Title 42, and you know that there is going to be an influx, is it not on you to be prepared for it? I wonder if you think, for example, you know, you were in the Obama administration, how much criticism President Obama got from fellow Democrats, from immigrant advocacy groups calling him deporter- in-chief. Is there a concern in the Biden administration, do you believe, that he does not want to be titled that and that it is over- correcting and this is a part of the result?

MESSINA: No, I don't think so. Here's the very simple choice that the Biden administration had and they made their right decision, which is, as you said, these children were coming during President Trump as well. What are you going to do when they get there? And sending them back into the desert to go into the hands of smugglers is just unconscionable. And so they made the right decision and now they've got to put a program together to deal with it.

HARLOW: Can I ask you what you would be advising them to do and what you believe America needs to hear from the president in this first press conference that he's going to have this week, finally? He's going to take questions. A lot of them, I think, will be about this issue. Does he need to go to the border, for example, before, to see it firsthand before that?

MESSINA: Well, look, this is an administration who prides itself on just quietly getting things done and trying to take the politics out of it a little bit. So as you know, the House of Representative, last week, passed two bills to begin to deal with this with bipartisan support. Republicans -- some Republicans were brave and supported this as well.

And they just need to get on with the business of governing and deal with this and not worry so much about the politics, which everyone wants to talk about. We're a long ways away from the next election and we've just got to deal with the boring day-to-day government of putting together programs to deal with a crisis that has been brewing for a very long time.

HARLOW: Does he need to go to the border, President Biden, to see it, do you think?

MESSINA: Well, look, I think that's his call and, you know, he will make that decision.

What is true is you have a DHS secretary who is there on the border dealing with this every day, and that is his job.


And when the president wants to go, he'll go. But the very first thing we ought to do is not send the president to the border. We ought to build some of these programs, which Mayorkas is doing, and kind of get some of the politics out of it.

HARLOW: Jim Messina, thank you for being here.

MESSINA: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Still to come, you will hear from family members of one of the victims in the Atlanta area shootings. How they remember their mother who had dreams of early retirement, but instead was killed just two days before her 50th birthday.



JAMI WEBB, MOTHER KILLED IN SPA SHOOTINGS: I was just planning to get a cake and have a big dinner after work.




HARLOW: There are protests across the entire country right now calling for an end to anti-Asian violence. This follows last week's deadly rampage across Atlanta. Eight people killed, six of them Asian women. Families of the victims are now speaking with CNN. They are demanding justice.

Here's our Natasha Chen.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Xiaojie Tan's family says she was living the American dream. After moving to the U.S., Xiaojie, who friends and clients called "Emily," started as a nail technician before working her way up to buy two spas outside of Atlanta. Beloved by her family, customers and neighboring business owners, Tan was killed just two days before her 50th birthday.

JAMI WEBB, MOTHER KILLED IN SPA SHOOTING: I was just planning to get a cake and have a big dinner after work. CHEN: Her only child, Jami Webb, had plans to meet up with her mom last Sunday, but she overslept. She would never have the opportunity to see her mother again.

J. WEBB: When I thought that I had all this time with her, I mean, just because I missed that Sunday meeting with my mom, I thought we could always meet like any Sunday, any other day, just like before.

CHEN: Instead, two days later, Webb spent six hours in a hospital waiting room as news of a shooting at Youngs Asian Massage, her mother's business, dominated the headlines.

J. WEBB: I was just hoping that it was not my mom, it was not my mom.

CHEN: Webb says the extended family is still in China and no one has had the heart to tell Webb's grandmother.

J. WEBB: They were celebrating the birthday and my grandmother was the only one who doesn't know my mom, that she passed away.

CHEN: Tan's ex-husband, Michael Webb, said Tan often worked seven days a week and talked about retiring and traveling the world.

MICHAEL WEBB, EX-HUSBAND OF SHOOTING VICTIM XIAOJIE TAN: And she'll never get to enjoy that. She just worked to die.

CHEN: The fact that six of the eight victims were Asian women, the fact that these businesses were owned by Asian people, is hard to ignore.

Jami Webb says she understands the Asian-American community's overall anxiety over the rise of anti-Asian assaults, but this family is not ready to connect that with Tuesday's killings right now.

M. WEBB: I don't think we're trying to say that -- that there's not racial bias in this country. There certainly is. We don't know what motivated this at this point. We just know how we feel, and we know what we lost.

CROWD: Stop Asian hate.

CHEN: And in the wake of the tragedy, demonstrators from coast to coast --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Asian and I'm a woman and if I don't stand up for myself then no one else will.

CHEN: Thousands of people gathering in solidarity with Asian- Americans.

And in Atlanta, a church service outside those businesses with a community hoping for change.


HARLOW: Our Natasha Chen joins us now. Natasha, thank you, thank you so much for this reporting. And I just

have to ask, it -- it clearly is so hard for her daughter to feel like she missed that last opportunity to see her mother.

CHEN: Yes.

HARLOW: But it goes beyond that. Can you explain?

CHEN: Yes, Poppy, you know, Jami told me she thought she would be able to celebrate her mom's 50th with her. And I asked her what she would say to her mother right now if she could. And she told me, I would give her a big hug and say, I love you.

And that's something we often hear from people who are grieving a loved one. But I sense something else, too. I suspected maybe she and her mom didn't do that much to begin with. And I asked her about that.

Jami confirmed that with me, saying that her mother -- she and her mother were too shy to use those words or to physically hug. And that hit me so personally because it's not uncommon for some traditional Asian families to express their love through extraordinary acts of service more so than verbalizing that emotion. So I feel that pain that she shared with me of perhaps missing that opportunity to say, I love you.

HARLOW: Natasha, it's such an important point. Our hearts are broken for her, for all of the families. Thank you for reporting this reporting and staying on this story.

You can join Anderson Cooper, our Amara Walker, our Victor Blackwell and our Ana Cabrera for a look at all of this, these violent acts against people of color, particularly Asian-Americans right now, what are the solutions? "Afraid: Fear in America's Communities of Color" begins tonight.

Also this morning, growing tension between the United States and China. Right now, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is traveling to Brussels for NATO meetings where the tensions are, of course, expected to be addressed.


Let me bring in Chris Lu, former deputy secretary of labor under President Obama. He was only the second Asian-American in history to become deputy secretary of a cabinet position.

Thank you very much, Chris, for coming in. We appreciate it.


HARLOW: Can you explain the connection between the public tension that we saw play out in Alaska between Tony Blinken and his Chinese counterparts last week, and the clear tension between the administration and China right now, and your fear for what may be to come in terms of vitriol and hatred against Asian-Americans in this country?

LU: For as long as Asian-Americans have been in this country, we've been treated as outsiders, as people who can't be trusted. And you can go all the way back to the 1800s with Chinese railroad workers, to Japanese-American interment during World War II, to the Korean and Vietnam War and then to rising trade tensions with Japan in the 1980s. And so there's this consist theme that when there are tensions with an Asian country, people who are Asian-American or look Asian-American are awfully -- are often scapegoated.

And to be clear, look, the U.S. has significant challenges with China right now, both economic and militarily. And China needs to be confronted aggressively as the Biden administration is doing. But it's important to do that in a way that doesn't scapegoat law-abiding Chinese-Americans or, more broadly, Asian-Americans. And you've seen this play out over the past year with the rising harassment and violence against Asian-Americans because of this desire by the Trump administration to try to pin the coronavirus on China.


LU: And we have seen what the dangerous impacts of that are for people in this country.

HARLOW: You serve on the board of AAPI Progressive Action, and they put out a statement that struck me because they say, we need more than words to heal and to keep us safe.

But President Biden, on his first day in office, one of his first executive orders, was condemning anti-Asian hate. That's an executive order. Those are words. I wonder what you think, having worked in an administration before, this administration can actually do about it right now that would actually help people?

LU: First of all, let's not minimize the words. Words matter and they especially matter when they come from the president of the United States.


LU: And the healing words we saw from both the president and the vice president last week stand in stark contrast to what we saw from the previous administration. But we need legislation. And President Biden has endorsed a bill that would help facilitate the reporting of hate crimes in this country.

Right now we don't even know what the problem is because we have thousands of local jurisdictions that aren't reporting their hate crimes. And about 86 percent of those that are reporting say they found no hate crimes in the past year.

But this isn't something that can simply be solved with words or government action. It's really require all of us to take action.

I always go back to the, if you see something, say something. If you see somebody in need, somebody whose being attacked, don't sit there silently, speak up.

HARLOW: Christopher Lu, thank you very much. I'm sorry we -- we have to jump more quickly than I thought. But we're glad you're here and we'll have you back.

LU: Thank you.

HARLOW: We do have breaking news out of the Supreme Court. We'll have that right after this.



HARLOW: This just in to CNN.

The Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court opinion that vacated the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He is one of the brothers who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people, injured hundreds, including 17 people who lost limbs in the attack.

Let's go to our colleague Jessica Schneider. She joins us now.

So, Jess, this is basically the lower court did away with -- wiped away the death sentence as a possibility here for him. What does it mean that the Supreme Court will take it up? Does it mean they could reinstate it?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the lower court wanted to do here, Poppy, was really set up a new penalty phase for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, so they said that the way that the penalty phase was done previously maybe had some issues with jury selection, so they want this to be redone, which essentially wipes away the death penalty that was already instated. It remains to be seen what he could face. But the Supreme Court will now decide whether or not he should redo that penalty phase of the trial, whether he can get another turn at sentencing here.

What's interesting though is that the Trump administration was the one who was really pushing this decision, pushing for the Supreme Court to take up this case. And it will be interesting to see how the Biden administration actually frames their arguments given that the Trump administration was pushing hard here for the death penalty.

Of course, as we saw at the end of the Trump administration, there were a flurry of executions. There were about, let's see, it resumed following a 17-year hiatus. There were 13 federal executions between July 2020 and when President Trump left office on January 20th.

So the whole death penalty issue plays big here. But, of course, you know, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two brothers who placed the bomb at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, it killed three people, it injured more than 200. So now the court will decide whether this will go back to the penalty phase when the penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be ultimately determined. [09:55:06]

We'll see what happens as this plays out in court. The arguments, though, Poppy, won't be heard until later this year.


HARLOW: Right.

OK, Jessica, thank you very much for that reporting.

Still to come, some encouraging internal results on AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine. What it means. Could it lead to a fourth green lit vaccine in the U.S.? Next.


HARLOW: Good Monday morning, everyone. So glad you're with me. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Major news in the race to vaccinate the nation. AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine is 79 percent effective against symptomatic disease and 100 percent effective, they say, against severe disease.


An independent committee finds their vaccine does not cause any side effects that are serious.