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Obama Pitches Immigration Reform; Opposing the Path to Citizenship; Dangerous Weather in the South; Australian Mystery Solved; Syria's First Family is Expecting

Aired January 29, 2013 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

They found this guy covered in leeches with gangrene in both legs, but they found him, after a teenager spends two months lost in the Australian outback. An amazing story of survival.

Well, they flirt with death on a daily basis. Now an injured athlete is fighting for his life after this hard fall at the X Games.

And, funerals, tears in Brazil, where victims of a deadly nightclub fire are already being buried. Four people have been arrested, including the leader of the band that was playing the night of the fire.

President Obama heading to Vegas. He is betting on immigration reform. The president's going to highlight his proposals for overhauling immigration in a speech about three hours from now. It comes a day after the so-called gang of eight, Republican and Democratic senators, outlined their plan. Brianna Keilar, she's got a preview of what we expect to hear from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2011, President Obama went to the border town of El Paso to press for comprehensive immigration reform.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants.

KEILAR: That went nowhere. Now, in a second term, the president is trying it again, heading to Las Vegas today to push for border security, a verification system for employers to ensure they hire documented workers with punishment if they don't, and the most significant and controversial part of the president's plan, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It includes registering with the government, undergoing background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English. A solution has eluded past presidents, including George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people and Congress' failure to act on it is a disappointment.

KEILAR: President Obama did announce during his first term that his administration would stop deporting some young undocumented immigrant, but he was taken to task at a Univision town hall for not doing something bigger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You promised that. A promise is a promise. And with all due respect, well, you didn't keep that promise.

OBAMA: What I promised was that I would work every single day as hard as I can to make sure that everybody in this country, regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they come from, that they would have a fair shot at the American dream.

KEILAR: Still, Hispanic-Americans, the country's fastest growing voter bloc, helped propel Obama to a second term. It was a wake-up call for Republicans.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I do know that there are a lot of Democrats in Congress who, once and for all, want to solve this problem, fix this mess, a broken immigration system, and many of us agree with that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Want to bring in Brianna Keilar from the White House.

And, Brianna, first of all, President Bush, he was very frustrated, as you know in covering the president. He tried so hard within his own party and it was rejected for pushing for an immigration reform, particularly trying to gain citizenship for those who are illegal in this country. President Obama made that promise. He was held accountable for the promise. Is this something that he is going to be able to deliver second term?

KEILAR: It's hard to tell, Suzanne, but I think, obviously, there appears to be, at least initially, this sense from Democrats and Republicans that something needs to be done. So that is the positive and that's obviously very broad, as you know. And we always say the devil is in the details. And when you talk about President Bush -- and you know this having covered it -- that went down because of conservatives in his party who said that his plan was tantamount to amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

It's the hottest button issue in this whole debate, what do you do for or with the undocumented immigrants, millions of them who are currently in the country? And it's fair to say that when you're looking at what the president is proposing, that may be to the left of what Republicans want. So it's trying to figure out what the sweet spot is. And even if there is one. And that's still to be determined.

MALVEAUX: And also, Brianna, let's talk a little bit about the strategy here, because on the one hand you have the senators. They're trying to push forward through legislation. And you've got the president who can do things through executive order. Which one is more likely, do you think, to succeed? KEILAR: I think the expectation is to do something comprehensive here. It's going to take legislation. That is the expectation. The president has used his executive power to do some things, for instance, when he said that his administration temporarily -- this was a recent decision in -- several months ago, that they would stop concentrating on deporting young Americans who are here illegally, but really don't have any other home other than the U.S. They were brought here illegally by their parents. That was something -- sort of a small chunk that his administration could do.

But in terms of 2011, when he was saying, this is what I want for my big comprehensive immigration plan, it was seen, Suzanne, as really more of a political statement ahead of the election, not even really a genuine push, because the fact was in order to do that, it really does take the cooperation of Congress. And in this case, as you see, Democrats and Republicans banding together. They really want to have some ownership of this.

MALVEAUX: Right.

KEILAR: And he they don't -- Republicans particularly don't want to be told by the White House what they should do.

MALVEAUX: All right, I want to bring in Elizabeth Espinosa from our new sister network CNN Latino out of Los Angeles to weigh in on this.

And, Elizabeth, good to see you again here.

First of all, you've got more Republicans --

ELIZABETH ESPINOSA, CNN LATINO: Hi. Good to see you again, too.

MALVEAUX: Sure. Who are actually supporting immigration reform, clearly after their defeat in the presidential race, and this effort, if you will, to recruit Latino voters. Do you think that there will be more Latinos who will give the Republican Party a second look if they help pass immigration reform?

ESPINOSA: Absolutely. And again, I think that's a really important point because Latinos come in so many different sizes, colors, also generations. And what I mean by that is that, you know, there are those of us who are born here and immigration, it's a -- we have a different take on it. And so, either way, the Republican Party, obviously, saw what happened with the election last year. And it is certainly the American dream.

And also important to raise that everybody comes here for a better life, correct? And so the reason -- I think it's just for the Republican Party, anyway, it's certainly something that they are paying attention to and they have, of course, in Marco Rubio, a congressman who understands the Cuban-American, the need to appeal to that group of voters that is growing is very important.

And again, we talk about national security. We're talking about more than 11 million undocumented people. So if we really want public safety, then we also need to know where these people are working, where they live, and we also have to incorporate them into a legal society because they're taxpayers also. I mean they're buying products. They're going to the grocery store.

MALVEAUX: And let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, Elizabeth.

ESPINOSA: Yes.

MALVEAUX: There are some requirements, obviously, for those who are illegal in the country to gain citizenship, and, quite frankly, it's for criteria -- a background check, registering, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English.

ESPINOSA: Right.

MALVEAUX: Do you think this is punitive or do you think it's fair?

ESPINOSA: It is very extensive. I -- you know, I will say this. I think that a lot of people say that -- and you're going to have a lot of different takes just from the little that we know so far. As you know, President Obama's going to give more details about the plan and we're going to hear more from senators.

But I think that what folks, at least here in Los Angeles, will say to you is that generally there is this cautious optimism, and they hope that the plan is as all encompassing as possible. I mean that's the hope. But we certainly know that the criteria's quite strict and there are going to be different speeds, if you will, for who will qualify. Somebody who comes here who was a doctor back home, as opposed to someone who works in field here. So it will be very, very interesting to see, you know, how quickly we truly could legalize the more than 11 million people, because not everybody has a college degree, right?

MALVEAUX: Right. OK. Elizabeth, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Brianna, as well.

The new push for immigration reform, of course, welcome news to the millions of folks who are living in the shadows. By most accounts, there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States. But some supporters of immigration reform say that giving them a path to citizenship is not necessarily the right answer. Jack Martin, he is a special projects director for FAIR, and that is Federation for American Immigration Reform.

And thanks for joining us, first of all.

It's a very controversial issue. It's very passionate. I mean we heard Elizabeth talk about, you know, even within the Latino community, there are some folks who think this does not go far enough. Do you think there are enough guidelines in place, requirements in place, that make this fair for those who are illegal but who want to work in this country and essentially have families here?

JACK MARTIN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: Well I have friends in the Latino community that think that it goes much too far, what's being proposed, because of the fact that they came into the country legally, they think that the respect for American law is important and that people coming into the country illegally compete against their kids and their relatives for jobs. And now that we have, you know, 7 million, 8 million unemployed in the United States, it's important for them to see efforts to try to put a stop to illegal immigration and, if possible, to reverse it.

MALVEAUX: Why do you personally care?

MARTIN: So that's the background in which we have to really consider this overall debate.

MALVEAUX: Why do you personally care? What does this impact you?

MARTIN: You know, we look at this whole issue very long range in terms of future generations and what the great growing income and equality in the United States is, what the demands of our population on scarce resources are. We're looking at several generations rather than just today's moment.

MALVEAUX: Clearly there are millions of folks who are undocumented who are in this country. They're already living here. They're already working here. They have families here. Do you have an alternative to allowing them to be productive citizens? Would you be one of those people who would say they should go back?

MARTIN: Well, basically, people come here illegally looking for jobs. And we have to do a much better job, not just controlling the border, but controlling the jobs so that there's no incentive to come to the United States illegally if you know that you can get a job once you're here. For those that are already here, a process of making sure that employers are only hiring legal workers are going to create a situation in which it's going to be very difficult for people who are already here illegally to find a job when their employer goes out of business or they get laid off. At that point, I think that they are going to be considering the opportunity of returning to their own country and looking for jobs there.

MALVEAUX: All right.

MARTIN: Not all people who come into the country illegally came here because they didn't have jobs. They simply were looking for better jobs.

MALVEAUX: Jack Martin, thank you. We appreciate your time and your perspective as well.

Want to move on. Senator John Kerry, one step closer to becoming secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted just a couple of hours ago in favor of his nomination. Now the process moves to the full Senate. Senators are expected to move quickly to confirm him. We're looking for the vote. That is going to happen this afternoon. When confirmed, Senator Kerry will replace Hillary Clinton, who is tipping down after serving throughout President Obama's first administration.

This afternoon, during the 5:00 Eastern Hour of "The Situation Room," before Hillary Clinton is stepping down as secretary of state, her exit interview takes place here on CNN. See it first today at 5:00 Eastern.

On the Mississippi River, they are still trying to clean up that oil spill. Two barges filled with oil struck a bridge -- this is near Vicksburg -- early Sunday morning. A tank holding 80,000 gallons of oil in one of the barges started leaking after that collision. The Coast Guard's Gulf strike team, it is helping out with the cleanup, but their job could get a lot harder because of some of the dangerous weather leaded through the Mississippi Valley.

Want to bring in our Chad Myers, who literally is looking at this line of thunderstorms that is moving into the deep south. That's going to happen, what, this afternoon, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it is. And right now, these storms are moving at 75 miles per hour. So the significance here is, you may not have time to get out of the way unless you already have a plan. And tornado watch means you should have a plan going on right now.

There's very cold air to the west. There's very warm air. This is a summer or spring-like storm because the air around it is spring-like. Lots of lightning with it. These red boxes here all the way from Missouri back down even into Dallas, Texas, with tornado watches. That doesn't mean anything's on the ground right now, but conditions are right that something could come down off the sky -- out of the sky later on today.

And let me show you what's already going on here. We have one tornado warning and this is Missouri. And these storms are just traveling so very quickly that, as it comes out of maybe even Arkansas into Missouri, and the like up there across those borders, these things are -- the warnings are going to be quick. The warnings may only be 15 or 20 minutes today. And we have the kind of rotation that we have right now across here, Osceola, and just to the south of there, Collins, you need to be out of the way of these things quickly.

Now, there are many, many apps that you can get now. The technology has changed so amazingly over the past couple of years. You can get iPad apps. You can get apps for almost every smartphone. It knows where you are. It puts warnings where you are and will warn you as you're looking for -- looking right at it. You can see where that tornado is right on your iPhone. Or, the old -- the old standby's always here, the NOAA weather radio. If you don't have one, go buy one today because this is going to be a night to remember, too. And the one -- dangerous thing we have to worry about is some of these tornadoes when they happen at night, you don't get a lot of warning. You might be asleep. But those NOAA weather radios will wake you up.

MALVEAUX: All right, got my radio, got my app here. Thank you, Chad. Appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Here's more of what we're working on for this hour of NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

Flooding down under has created a weird by-product. Check that out. This is an ocean of foam. We're going to take you for a swim in this stuff.

And, how much would you pay to eat dirt? That is right. The Japanese are shelling out the cash for a hip, new delicacy.

And later, hope you're not afraid of heights, because we are about to take in the view from the tallest building in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: This is amazing story. A mystery in Australia has been solved. Imagine a loved one goes missing and all the signs point to the very worst. There's no bank card activity, no cell phone usage. There is nothing. Well, that's what one family near Sydney had been dealing with since November, but 18-year-old Matthew Allen who was feared dead turned up in the wild not far from his home.

Michael Holmes is joining us to talk about this story. It's kind of incredible, I mean, actually. How long was he missing, first of all?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nine weeks. It was nine weeks out in the bush.

MALVEAUX: He was close to his house, is that right?

HOLMES: Yeah. He was about 400 yards from his house. He was about 200 yards from the closest house, but in an area of dense bush land in Australia, the woods, as you'd say here in the U.S. And it sounds like what's happened is he's gone off. He had a little bit of camping equipment with him, but not much. And he, according to friends and family, he was running away from life.

He did this deliberately. He didn't go get lost. He might have gotten lost once he was out there, but he went out there deliberately. Nine weeks. There was some creek water that he was drinking and that was about it. Had a little bit of food, apparently, when he went out there.

MALVEAUX: So, what happened to him? I mean, he was what, dealing with 113-degree weather?

HOLMES: Yeah.

MALVEAUX: People thought this guy had died a long time ago.

HOLMES: Yeah, the cops went out, did a big search, but as I said, it's very thick bush land. They did a big search around the area, couldn't find anything. They had to call off the search eventually.

The family, you know, people thought he was dead and then some bush walkers were out there the other day and they came across this disorientated young man, called in the authorities and they went in and got him.

He was in bad shape, though, lost half of his body weight.

MALVEAUX: Lost half of his body weight? HOLMES: Yeah, 80 pounds, he lost.

MALVEAUX: And he was out there because he was simply lost, he was dehydrated, he didn't know how to get back home eventually or he just didn't know to -- how to get out of the bush?

HOLMES: Exactly. They have yet to actually sit down and get the full story from him. From the little that they've found out, he did go out there deliberately, could not get back.

Nine weeks out there. That's extraordinary. You can go like three weeks without food, but he was out there for nine weeks.

He took some food with him. He was covered in leeches and bites. And, as I say, he lost half of his body weight. Eighty-five pounds or something he lost while he was out there. And he's in hospital now. He had a leg injury which had gone gangrenous and a whole bunch of things, but he's in hospital now. being evaluated.

MALVEAUX: And he's going to make it.

HOLMES: He's going to make it.

MALVEAUX: Thank God.

HOLMES: What a story.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, it's just really a hot mess out there.

You've got other stories as well coming out of Aussie -- Australia. Another dramatic rescue because we're talking about all of this water again, right? We were talking about this yesterday. I mean, there's just massive flooding going on.

HOLMES: This is Grafton in New South Wales and that guy got caught out there on that jetty. He couldn't get back so they had to throw the line out to him and actually physically pull him back. There's been all sorts of rescues going on at the moment, as this bad weather, this flooding continues.

MALVEAUX: And I see there's another rescue. We've also got some other video. This is really extraordinary video here. This is -- it looks kind of amazing. Look at this.

HOLMES: Sea foam.

MALVEAUX: Sea foam. How does that happen?

HOLMES: It's the churning up of the waters, and, of course, this is all related to the storm that caused the flood and everything else.

The churning up of the waters and it mixes in with some nutrients in the ocean and basically becomes like a washing machine and churns in on itself. And the nutrients become -- it's not nice.

Don't swim in it, kids. It really isn't very nice. And it smells, too. I've seen this stuff before.

MALVEAUX: It look like so much fun. You know, so much fun.

Seven News has a big story. We're going to just roll the story, see what they've got to say about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGH WHITFIELD, REPORTER, SEVEN NEWS: It looks like they're playing in giant bubble bath, but this is sea foam, (INAUDIBLE) full of air and whipping its way onto Port Macquarie's Oxley Beach.

For those who took the plunge, not necessarily pleasant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely disgusting, putrid stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really weird. It's like you (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: The phenomenon is a repeat on the bizarre scenes on the Sunshine Coast yesterday where a car emerged from nowhere.

Here, the dirty water from the swollen Hastings River turned today's wild ocean a filthy shade of brown. It's churned up into foam and washed ashore.

But not everybody's happy about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our beaches are ruined.

WHITFIELD: Do you want your beach back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, I do.

WHITFIELD: The churning ocean looks like a washing machine, and this the soap.

But further out, the strong winds are causing rough seas, making for dangerous conditions.

Beaches right along the state's coast today were closed. The conditions were way too dangerous.

Newcastle caught the rough conditions, too, this morning as waves swept across the Merewether barbs.

The hunter was hit by driving rain and strong winds last night, but not as bad as those forecast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely. (INAUDIBLE) some of those weather bureau a bit scary sometimes.

WHITFIELD: The winds felled trees on some suburban homes, but most of the region escaped major damage.

On the central coast, huge waves pounded a (INAUDIBLE), creating a family spectacle of a different kind, but none quite as much fun as further north.

In Port Macquarie, Hugh Whitfield, Seven News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The rumor is, she's expecting. What pregnancy could mean for the wife of one of the most hated men in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Not the kind of news you expect from a president who is accused of killing his own people by the tens of thousand over the past two years, but with the civil war raging in Syria, the first family there might be expecting a baby. At least that's the rumor.

President Bashar al-Assad reportedly told a newspaper that his 37- year-old wife, Asma, is pregnant and this comes a day when we are learning yet about another tragedy.

Want to bring in Hala Gorani. So, Hala, it's all the buzz in Syria. First of all, where is it coming from?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you mentioned that -- the one thing I want to get in before we talk about this pregnancy rumor is this massacre of 65, apparently, people in Aleppo.

Why do I want to bring it up? Because even by the standards of the Syrian civil war this is not something I've seen a lot of.

The video shows young men, 20s, 30s, some of them look like teenagers, all shot in the head, execution-style, lined up, 65 of them, 65 to 69, based on the count of the individual shooting that amateur video, along the banks of a river in Aleppo.

MALVEAUX: Do we know who these people are? Is this the rebels, opposition? Families?

GORANI: We don't know. It seems as though these are anti-government individuals. Whether they're fighters or not is another question.

But this, as I said, is shocking because we haven't seen anything like this, just execution-style, hands bound, We've blurred it, obviously, because it's very troubling and disturbing. But as you mentioned, this is coming sort of in the same period as we're hearing rumors.

MALVEAUX: So, that's kind of weird, right? Because, on the one hand, you have this awful -- these atrocities that are happening and, on the other hand, it's like life is normal, just going about their own business, having another child.

GORANI: Well, it is one of those "are-you-serious" reactions when you read the reports that possibly Asma al-Assad is expecting her fourth child.

Let me tell you where this came from. Now, "Al Akbar" is a Middle Eastern newspaper in Lebanon that is said to be close to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. They carried an interview with the vice president, for instance.

So, they are quoting Arab visitors to the presidential palace as having said that she's pregnant. She's 37. The rumor that's been circulating, because a lot of this is about rumors, is that she's been pregnant since June which means she's due next month.

MALVEAUX: So, tell us about her because not a lot of people know. She's been in the media for quite some time and she's been missing since June, right? There was some controversy.

GORANI: Since January ...

MALVEAUX: Since January?

GORANI: ... of 2012, we haven't seen her in public.

MALVEAUX: OK, and there was controversy over the fact that she went on a big shopping spree during the middle of a lot of these mass killings that occurred.

Do people care what she's doing and the fact that they're having a family in the midst of all of this madness?

GORANI: Yeah, I think people who live in Syria on a day-to-day basis are just at this point concerned with survival, with trying to get through this awful time.

Asma is 37-years-old. You might remember that she married Bashar al- Assad in 2000 or 2001. This couple was seen not just by Syrians, but by Westerners as kind of the new Syria, the Western-educated sort of young couple in their 30s.

Well, when the crackdown began, of course, that all changed.

So, we'll see. We'll know perhaps in the next few months if she is indeed pregnant and if she does indeed give birth.

MALVEAUX: All right. Hala, thank you. Appreciate it.

GORANI: Sure.

Well, if you ask the country's defense minister, we could be about to witness the collapse of democracy in Egypt. Protests continue to rock the streets of Cairo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)