Hurricane Laura made landfall about an hour ago near Cameron, Louisiana.
The town is relatively low-lying, with only about 5 or 10 feet of elevation — meaning “It’s mostly completely underwater,” said CNN meteorologist Tom Sater.
“There will not be a chance to get to that area until late in the morning,” he added.
The eye of the storm is now moving over Lake Charles, lying further north. Already, the conditions have deteriorated severely; winds are howling, and storm chasers have reported glass being blown everywhere, and ears hurting from the low air pressure.
“Right now you can still hear the wind. It’s screaming through the cracks and crevasses of the building,” said CNN correspondent Martin Savidge from Lake Charles, where the CNN crew is taking refuge indoors.
“When you were outside, you literally felt the entire building as it was shuddering under the wind blow. So it’s taking a beating. And this is one of the strongest buildings in the area., it’s why we chose it.”
“All you hear is the roaring sound of a jet engine, and literally a world that is coming apart outside your windows,” he added.
The storm surge, heavy rainfall and powerful winds mean it’ll be near impossible to assess the damage until the morning — first responders won’t be able to travel in those conditions, and drones or aircraft won’t be able to get any aerial pictures. Roads will be submerged and power lines will have fallen, making transport or rescue efforts even harder.
“The presence of American troops in Poland enhances our deterrence potential because we are closer to the potential source of conflict,” Czaputowicz said in a joint appearance Saturday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“It is important that they should be deployed in Poland, and not in Germany,” Poland’s top diplomat said. “The art of war assures us that the capability of deterrence is higher if the army is deployed in the right place.”
The boost for Poland is part of a Trump administration plan to pull some 12,000 US troops from Germany announced last month. While 1,000 of those will join 4,500 US troops already in Poland, others will move to Belgium or Italy or back to the US, available to be sent back to Europe or other world hotspots should the need arise.
As was the case in decades past, the potential source of conflict remains Russia — and the threat of possible incursion, as alluded to by Czaputowicz.
The head of the German Parliament’s foreign relations committee, Norbert Roettgen, tweeted: “Instead of strengthening #NATO it is going to weaken the alliance. The US’s military clout will not increase, but decrease in relation to Russia and the Near & Middle East.”
How could that “military clout” decrease? Deterrence is one example.
The last large US reduction of its troop presence in Germany occurred in 2012. Two years later, Russian troops moved into the Crimea and Moscow annexed the Ukrainian territory, spiking tensions with NATO.
US and European military experts tell CNN the new troop reduction plan would provide few benefits on any potential future battlefield, and certainly not enough to justify its enormous cost, estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Specifically, the Trump administration plan pulls 11,900 troops from Germany, redeploying 5,400 of those elsewhere in Europe and sending the remaining ones back to the US with some of them rotating back to Europe at some point.
Key movements include command and control centers going from Germany to Belgium as well as Army airborne troops and Air Force F-16 fighters moving from Germany to Italy.
Where is the right place for US troops?
Nick Reynolds, a land warfare research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, doesn’t see much benefit from the US plans.
“Moving ground troops to Belgium and Italy puts them farther away from areas in which they are likely to be needed,” Reynolds said. “Even if they went to northern Italy, and a crisis happened to occur in southeastern Europe, transport links would make moving them slightly more time consuming.”
Consider where the possible flashpoints are.
Getting ground forces in numbers to those spots from Italy means getting them through the mountains of the Alps, which would not be in the way of a move from Germany.
Even though Poland is closer to Russia, the potential Black Sea hotspots and another possible flashpoint along the border with the NATO allies in the Baltics, boosting troops in that country isn’t necessarily the answer, Reynolds said.
“If ground troops were moved to Poland then they would potentially be able to get to where they were needed faster, though they also start (depending where they are in Poland) to become vulnerable in the (unlikely) event of a Russian offensive that achieves operational surprise,” Reynolds said.
Bastian Giegerich, director of defense and military analysis at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, questioned the effectiveness of rotating troops back into Europe from the United States.
“Aside from being expensive, troops on rotational deployment will struggle to develop a similar degree of local knowledge and links to host nation armed forces,” Giegerich said.
And while rotational deployments would give the Pentagon some flexibility to respond to hotspots worldwide, there is a price to be paid in the European theater: Fewer boots on the ground mean less deterrence than if they were there, Giegerich said.
“It is a fine balance to strike — the ability to respond to contingencies around the globe with a bigger strategic reserve pool in the US might make it somewhat more likely that those contingencies arise in the first place,” he said.
Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, now a CNN military analyst, has years of military experience in Europe, beginning in 1975 and continuing intermittently until 2011.
“Germany is key, because it is central to both the ‘old Europe’ to the west and the newer states to the east,” Hertling said.
“The rail and airports are terrific in Germany, and given its centralized position and ease in dealing with the government of Germany, we could fly anywhere, as well as bring allies into the training center at Grafenwoehr,” he said. The Trump administration’s German pullout sacrifices those efficiencies, Hertling said.
“The POTUS saying he’s going to put forces into Italy and Belgium makes no sense. Italy is south of the Alps, with challenges in the government, and Belgium is west — farther away from the eastern block of nations.”
And then there’s the cost. Hertling points out the US military has spent billions over the years to make Germany its central location in Europe. Pulling out of those bases means spending money on new infrastructure that’s already been paid for in Germany.
Numbers vs. location
But where US troops are in Europe may be missing a bigger point, said Reynolds, the RUSI analyst. “What is a more important issue is that the US does not keep adequate forces in Europe if the intention is to be able to quickly respond to a contingency involving Russian aggression,” he said.
And the NATO allies can’t do the job alone. “NATO forces are also working with too few units compared to the size of Russian forces that they would potentially face, at least until larger and heavier US forces could arrive from the continental US,” Reynolds said.
The Trump administration’s pullout from Germany doesn’t address another US/NATO deficiency in Europe — it doesn’t have enough runways that can handle alliance fighter aircraft.
“This is absolutely the issue that NATO faces in the air domain with being unable to adequately disperse its aircraft — particularly fighter and strike aircraft, which need longer and better-reinforced runways — to avoid having them concentrated on a few airfields that are therefore easier to target with long-range precision fires, either destroying the aircraft on the ground or negating their ability to use airfields by rendering the runway unserviceable,” Reynolds said.
In any event, the plan would take years execute and Congress would have to find the billions of dollars needed to make it happen. And with a US election less than three months away, new thinking could emerge with a possible new occupant of the White House.
The Germany pullout is far from a done deal.
CNN’s Ryan Browne, Zachary Cohen and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.
Overall, 50% of registered voters back the Biden-Harris ticket, while 46% say they support Trump and Pence, right at the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%. It is narrower, however, among those voters who live in the states that will have the most impact on the electoral college this fall.
Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%.
The pool of battleground states in this poll includes more that Trump carried in 2016 (10) than were won by Hillary Clinton (5), reflecting the reality that the President’s campaign is more on defense than offense across the states. Taken together, though, they represent a more Republican-leaning playing field than the nation as a whole.
The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide).
Trump has also solidified his partisans since June. While 8% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents in June said they would back Biden, that figure now stands at just 4%. And the President has boosted his backing among conservatives from 76% to 85%.
But the survey suggests that Trump’s voters are a bit more likely to say that they could change their minds by November (12% say so) than are Biden’s backers (7%).
More voters say their choice of candidate is about Trump than say it is about Biden. Nearly 6 in 10 say they support the candidate they do because of their view of Trump (29% say their Biden vote is more to oppose Trump, 30% say they are casting a Trump vote in support of him), while only 32% say Biden is the deciding factor (19% are voting in favor of Biden, 13% casting a ballot to oppose him).
Overall, 54% disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as president and 42% approve. That’s an uptick since June, and about on par with Trump’s ratings from earlier this year. It still lands the President near the bottom of a list of historical approval ratings for presidents seeking reelection just ahead of their nominating conventions. Trump lands ahead of Jimmy Carter (33% approval) and George H.W. Bush (35%), but below Barack Obama (48%), George W. Bush (49%), Bill Clinton (53%) and Ronald Reagan (54%).
Trump’s favorability rating remains underwater nationally (43% see him favorably, 55% unfavorably), a bit worse than Biden’s 46% favorable to 47% unfavorable even split. In the battleground states, though, voters’ views on the two candidates are almost even: 52% have an unfavorable opinion of Biden, 54% of Trump. Both candidates are viewed favorably by 45% in those states.
Kamala Harris seen as a good pick
Harris joins the ticket with a narrowly positive favorability rating (41% have a favorable view, 38% unfavorable), which is an improvement since May when 32% of Americans said they had a positive view of her and 33% a negative one.
Biden’s selection of Harris is rated as excellent or pretty good by most (52%), and 57% say it reflects favorably on Biden’s ability to make important presidential decisions. Most say she is qualified to be president should that be necessary (57%). And a majority, 62%, say her selection does not have much effect on their vote. People of color, though, are more likely than White people to say her selection makes them more likely to back Biden (28% among people of color, 18% among whites).
Compared with other recent Democratic running mates, Harris fares well. The 30% who call her selection excellent outpaces the share who said so in CNN polling on John Edwards in 2004, Biden in 2008, Joe Lieberman in 2000 or Tim Kaine in 2016. And the 57% who say she is qualified to serve as president if that becomes necessary is only topped by Biden (63%) and Al Gore in 1992 (64%).
On the issues
The poll suggests that supporters of the two candidates are living in alternate universes when it comes to the issues that matter to their vote. Overall, the economy, coronavirus, health care, gun policy and race relations are rated as extremely important by at least 40% of voters. But there are large gaps between Biden and Trump voters on the importance of these issues. Seventy percent of Biden voters say the coronavirus is critically important vs. 24% of Trump voters. Among Trump backers, 57% rate the economy as extremely important, while 37% of Biden voters agree. Majorities of Biden supporters (57% in each case) call health care and race relations extremely important, while only about 1 in 5 Trump backers agree (20% on health care, 22% on race relations).
Biden tops Trump as better able to handle most of the issues tested in the poll: Racial inequality in the US, the coronavirus outbreak, health care and foreign policy. Trump wins out on handling the economy. Voters are closely divided over which candidate would keep Americans safe from harm (50% say Biden would, 47% Trump). And more generally, Biden is more often seen as having “a clear plan for solving the country’s problems” (49% choose Biden to 43% Trump) and as better able to “manage the government effectively” (52% Biden to 44% Trump).
And when it comes to these top issues, nearly all Trump and Biden supporters think their man is the right one for the job. Just 1% of Biden backers say they would trust Trump over Biden to handle racial inequality in the US, and only 2% would trust Trump to handle the coronavirus outbreak. On the flip side, 2% of Trump voters say they would prefer Biden on the economy, and only 4% choose him on the coronavirus outbreak.
Overall, Biden holds the edge on a range of positive traits often seen as valuable in a run for the White House. Most say he cares about people like them (53% Biden, 42% Trump), shares their values (52% Biden to 43% Trump), and is honest and trustworthy (51% Biden to 40% Trump). More also say Biden will unite the country and not divide it (55% Biden to 35% Trump). But in this matchup between two septuagenarians, voters are split over which one has the stamina and sharpness to be president (48% say Trump, 46% Biden).
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS August 12 through 15 among a random national sample of 1,108 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer, including 987 registered voters. The survey also includes an oversample of residents of 15 battleground states for a total subsample of 636 adults and 569 registered voters from those states. That subset was weighted to its proper share of the overall adult population of the United States. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. It is 4.0 points among registered voters and 5.4 points for results for registered voters in the battleground states.
But for Biden, who played a central role in Barack Obama’s history-making journey to the presidency in 2008 and now presents himself to voters as a transitional figure, choosing Harris was also a way to shape the future of the Democratic Party.
By selecting a Black woman — whose background as the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants embodies the new American story — he recast the Democratic power structure for years to come.
With the pick, Biden acknowledged the disappointment that some Democratic women still feel nearly four years after Hillary Clinton lost her bid to be the first female president. That sting had persisted in a historic year when a record number of women ran for president as major contenders yet did not advance into the final round, despite all the energy of the women’s marches and the resurgence of feminism in reaction to Trump.
Now Democratic women and women of color, who are the driving force of the party, will see themselves represented on the national stage.
Though vice presidential picks historically have not made a major impact on the outcome of presidential elections, the Biden campaign hopes that Harris will help shore up his support among suburban women who were drawn to her White House bid, older African American women who are the core of the Democratic Party, as well as younger Black voters, many of whom did not show up at the polls in 2016 for Clinton.
More than 20 years Biden’s junior, Harris is also a vibrant and energetic pick who may help Biden address the concern among some voters about his age. By picking a former rival — who punched him hard as she tried to carve her own path to the White House — Biden drew a direct contrast with Trump, who has shown little capacity for forgiveness and has sought to punish anyone he believes has crossed him.
Biden and Harris will appear together as running mates for the first time on Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware, to deliver remarks on their vision for restoring “the soul of the nation” and helping working families. They plan to hold a virtual grassroots fundraiser Wednesday evening.
A VP pick who defies easy definition
The varied attacks unleashed on Harris from Trump and his allies Tuesday showed the difficulty of defining the former prosecutor, who was raised in Oakland and Berkeley, California, and went on to serve as district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California.
Trump rolled out a scattered, kitchen-sink-style list of criticisms of the senator from California during his news conference, attempting to brand Harris as a “big tax raiser,” a “slasher of funds to the military,” an advocate for “socialized medicine” and one of “the most liberal” members of the US Senate.
But the President seemed most fixated on drawing attention to Harris’ past attacks on both Biden and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The President repeatedly called her “nasty” in the sexist parlance that he so often uses to describe women he views as his opponents.
Playing into the hands of Biden’s advisers — who want to draw attention to the fact that Biden chose Harris despite her sharp critique, during a June 2019 debate in Miami, of his opposition to busing and his work with segregationist senators — Trump said he was surprised that Biden had chosen someone who had been “very, very, nasty” to the former vice president.
“One of the reasons that it surprised me is — she was probably nastier than even Pocahontas to Joe Biden,” Trump said at the White House on Tuesday, employing the racially offensive name that he uses to describe Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another former Biden rival.
“She said things during the debates, during the Democratic primary debates, that were horrible about sleepy Joe, and I wouldn’t think that he would have picked her.”
Trump also said he wouldn’t forget Harris’ interrogation of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault decades ago during the vetting process for his nomination (accusations Kavanaugh denied). From her perch on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris was one of his toughest interrogators, in video clips that went viral just like so many other sessions where she questioned Trump nominees in her courtroom style.
“That was a horrible event,” Trump said Tuesday of Harris’ intense questioning of Kavanaugh. “I thought it was terrible for her; I thought it was terrible for a nation. I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody at the US Senate.”
Though Trump initially said in 2019 that Harris looked like one of the strongest Democratic contenders when she announced her presidential run, he claimed Tuesday evening that she had been his “number one draft pick” during the veepstakes. He mocked her for doing “very poorly in the primaries,” adding — “and that’s like a poll.”
But the Trump campaign’s challenge in categorizing Harris, given her varied biography and career, was evident in the first statement released about the pick from Trump’s adviser Katrina Pierson.
In the contradictory statement, Pierson said Harris would try to “bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party,” but also said Harris had “embraced the left’s radical manifesto” and “is proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left.”
For Biden, a choice with a personal tie to his son
Biden had seriously vetted nearly a dozen contenders — all women — before making his selection, which unfolded with the utmost secrecy after a week in which he had spoken with the contenders either in person or in face-to-face meetings. A Biden official said the former vice president had called Harris 90 minutes before the announcement to offer her the job, according to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny.
Given the nation’s focus on race relations and the criminal justice issues that Harris has made the focus of her life’s work — from both inside and outside the system as prosecutor and lawmaker — she was a natural fit for this moment in the view of many Democrats.
She was one of the leading sponsors in the US Senate of the recent legislation to curb police misconduct, and an outspoken advocate for revisions that would provide greater accountability for police. In his tweet announcing his choice Tuesday afternoon, Biden argued that Harris has long been a “fearless fighter for the little guy.”
But in Harris, Biden also saw a kindred spirit of his son Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware who died in 2015 at the age of 46 after a battle with brain cancer. Beau Biden became friends with Harris when they were serving as attorneys general at the same time.
“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau,” Biden wrote in one of two tweets announcing the pick. “I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”
That personal connection clearly helped Biden work through any lingering hard feelings about Harris’ attempts to derail his candidacy during the 2019 Miami debate. On Tuesday, Harris once again vowed to be a loyal partner to Biden as the presidential race rolls into the crucial final months.
“@JoeBiden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals,” Harris tweeted. “I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”
He predicts a vaccine breakthrough multiple times a day, assures Americans he has the military on standby to rush it out and promises 100 million, 250 million, even 500 million individual doses will be very quickly available. He hails a “tremendous” vaccine that is “very close” and will be ready “very, very early, before the end of the year, far ahead of schedule.”
Experts are very hopeful about the potential for an effective vaccine, but by implying one is almost imminent and will quickly end the pandemic, Trump is raising expectations that are unlikely to be swiftly met and would come too late to save his presidential campaign in any case.
Indeed, asked on Thursday whether a vaccine — 29 prototypes of which are currently being developed and trialed by multiple countries including the United States — would arrive in time for Election Day on November 3, Trump bumped up his personal timetable, characteristically telling anyone listening exactly what they want to hear.
“I’m optimistic that it’ll be probably around that date. I believe we’ll have the vaccine before the end of the year certainly, but around that date, yes. I think so,” the President said, agreeing that an announcement could boost his reelection bid.
“It wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t hurt. But … I’m doing it, not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.”
His rhetoric about vaccines may also be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending the crisis. The President’s comments on Thursday drew a rebuke from former Surgeon Gen. Dr. Vivek Murthy, who said it was “very dangerous” to set artificial timelines and cautioned against a perception that the process was being rushed.
“We can’t sacrifice our standards because if we do, it not only hurts people, but it’s going to damage people’s faith in vaccine efforts,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” Thursday, at a time when polls show nearly half of Americans wouldn’t take the vaccine even if it was available.
Suspicions of political interference
Everyone would love to share Trump’s optimism. The prospect of many more months of stunted life, huge unemployment caused by the pandemic and another winter likely to bring more sickness and death is dismal.
But it’s hard to take Trump’s assessments seriously. Throughout America’s fight against the novel coronavirus, it has sometimes been difficult to tell whether the President is being deliberately deceptive or does not fully appreciate the details and the scale of the challenge ahead.
It’s the same with a vaccine. While many medical experts believe that a vaccine could be available by early next year for high-risk patients — it could be the middle of next year for it to become widely available. That might mean it could be fall 2021 before normal life really begins to return, long after Trump’s presidential destiny will be decided one way or the other.
Still, as a political device, talking about a Covid-19 vaccine may seem alluring for a President who has seen nearly 160,000 Americans die on his watch in a public health crisis he has denied, neglected and downplayed.
It allows him to play on offense, too. Any Democrat who points out the many complications of vaccine development and who doubts Trump’s optimism can quickly be accused of rooting against the very development that might end the crisis for political reasons.
And there is, it appears, a good story to tell.
By most accounts, Operation Warp Speed, the $10 billion government-funded race for a vaccine, is going well and could produce an effective, safe vaccine that could be mass produced at record speed. If that is the case, Trump will deserve his share of the credit for a multi-agency effort in partnership with the private sector. His cheerleading for a vaccine has contrasted with his suspicion of coronavirus testing — which is now going down in 29 states, even though experts say it needs to be expanded by many multiples to effectively fight the virus. In Washington, presidential enthusiasm and attention is vital to getting action, and the relative pace of sluggish testing and tracing efforts compared to the pace of vaccine development will reflect that.
The Trump’s administration’s record of bending rules for political gain and cutting legal corners and the way it cavalierly treated human life in the pandemic — demanding swift economic openings, for example — raise a flurry of ethical questions about its trustworthiness in handling the first successful vaccines.
The White House has consistently marginalized scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has tried to present a truthful narrative about the dire state of the pandemic that contradicts the consistently rosy and misleading spin preferred by the President and his aides.
On issues like Trump’s demand for all schools to open in the coming weeks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come under fierce pressure from the West Wing. With an election looming, regulatory agencies like the Food And Drug Administration could face similar pressure to bend to the President’s will.
Trump, meanwhile, has all but prescribed hydroxcholoroquine from his White House podium, trashing peer-reviewed studies that say it doesn’t work in favor of a disputed analysis and anecdotal soundbites on conservative media.
And given that the administration has politicized almost every aspect of the fight against the virus and has unloaded a daily torrent of lies and misinformation, it will get precious little benefit of the doubt on its handling of the vaccine.
There will also be highly sensitive and potentially life and death decisions subject to medical ethics and scientific fact that will sway which vulnerable populations and even ethnic groups receive the vaccine first.
Nothing about the President’s handling of the worst public health crisis in 100 years suggests he has so far considered those questions — or will want to be guided by moral considerations when it comes to a vaccine.
Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, shares Trump’s optimism about the possibility of a vaccine — but has also been tempered in his assessments about its immediate impacts.
“When the vaccine becomes available after a 30,000-person-or-more placebo-controlled randomized trial, and it’s shown to be safe and effective, I would get it any time within the timeframe of the people who prioritize it according to ethical principles,” Fauci said on a Politico Pulse Check podcast Thursday.
In an interview with Reuters Wednesday posted on YouTube, the Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, who is often rebuked by Trump, said that data not politics would dictate when a vaccine became available.
“I’m certain of what the White House would like to see, but I haven’t seen any indication of pressure at this point,” Fauci said.
“As you get into the fall, there — there’s going to be data accumulating, and people are going to be looking at the data … if the data is so bad that you should stop the trial, they say stop. If the data is … even dangerous, they say stop. If the data still needs to be accumulated, they’ll say keep the trial going. If the data looks so good, they may say timeout, approve it because it’s so good.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn has also said that no amount of political pressure will cause his agency to cut corners.
“I have repeatedly said that all FDA decisions have been, and will continue to be, based solely on good science and data. The public can count on that commitment,” Hahn wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
In an administration in which science has constantly been trumped by politics, those undertakings will be carefully watched in the weeks to come.
A SUV ran over the 14-year-old a few weeks before Christmas last year. She says she was walking the two blocks between her home in Clive, Iowa, and her junior high school to watch a basketball game.
“Her intention was clear … because she looks Mexican,” Natalia’s father, Cesar Miranda told CNN, referring to what the driver told police.
In the year following a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, multiple attacks targeting Latinos and immigrants have taken place across the United States.
The case remains pending in Polk County court. CNN has reached out to the public defender representing Poole Franklin but has not heard back.
Since the incident, Natalia and her family said they have constantly battled with anger, fear, and the teen’s mental and physical recovery.
Natalia has dreamed more than once that the same SUV returns and “runs over in her upper part of her body like it’s going to finish her up,” said Dalila Alonso Miranda, the teen’s mother.
While the state case remains pending, Natalia’s family is calling for federal hate crimes charges to be brought against Poole Franklin.
“If you don’t charge someone with a hate crime when they tell you that that’s why they did it, then when will you?” Alonso Miranda said.
More hate crimes reported, less federal prosecutions
Bias against Black or African American people overwhelmingly comprises the largest category of reported hate crime offenses pertaining to race, according to the FBI data.
In the past few months, more incidents involving Asians and Black people were reported than in the previous two years, Levin says, but it doesn’t mean the anti-Latino sentiment is gone.
“We have ticking time bombs across the country and we don’t know who they’re going to hit exactly but we know who they hate,” Levin said.
Gerstenfeld, whose primary field of study is hate crimes, said there could be more incidents that remain unknown to authorities because victims don’t feel comfortable reporting them.
“Hate crimes in general don’t get reported to the police very often, but particularly with some communities of victims. Latinos, especially if they’re undocumented or they have poor relationships with police, are not going to report them,” Gerstenfeld told CNN.
‘We are in America, we don’t speak Spanish here’
The mother, Vasquez, said that when one of the women approached her, she asked her daughter to translate and the woman began yelling at them and assaulted them. CNN is identifying the mother by her last name for privacy and security concerns.
“She yelled, ‘We are in America, we don’t speak Spanish here, speak English!,'” Vasquez, 46, told CNN. The mother did not identify which one of the two women yelled at her.
During the altercation, Vasquez said she was bitten on her right thumb and hit multiple times while her daughter was punched in the face multiple times and pulled by the hair.
Two women — Jenny Leigh Ennamorati, 25, and Stephanie Armstrong, 25 — were each charged with two counts of violating constitutional rights with bodily injury and two counts of assault and battery charges, the district attorney said. Both cases have probable cause hearings scheduled for September.
They told police they heard the Vasquezes laughing and speaking Spanish and believed they were making fun of them, according to a police report, which redacted the women’s names but they were later released by prosecutors.
CNN has reached out to an attorney representing Ennamorati but has not heard back. William J. Barabino, an attorney representing Armstrong, said video recorded by a bystander and the “accuser statement” shows that his client “never laid a hand on anyone.”
“Eventually, she went over to the physical dispute and can be seen extending both arms in an effort for all to calm down. That isn’t a crime and we expect that a judge or a jury will eventually reach that same conclusion,” Barabino said in a statement emailed to CNN.
The incident has haunted Vasquez since then. For weeks, she says her daughter would wake up scared and crying at night and constantly asked why anyone would treat them like that. They have been mostly at home since the incident because of the pandemic and her daughter has been talking with a counselor but Vasquez is concerned about how she would interacts with more people when classes resume.
Fear may have kept many other victims silent, Vasquez says, but she can’t let hatred and bigotry go unpunished. Even after the Vietnamese restaurant where she worked closed due to the pandemic and she struggled to find another job for nearly four months, she hasn’t stop talking with others about the incident and working with her attorneys.
“There’s Asians, Latinos, everything in this country and still others haven’t understood that we deserve the same respect than people who were born in America,” Vasquez said.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.