U.S. officials at the border are turning away Ukrainians fleeing from the Russian invasion.
On Wednesday, the 34-year-old mother, who asked to be identified as Sofia, and her 14, 12, and 6-year-old children was one of more than a dozen war refugees who was denied access.
The San Diego Union-Tribune first reported late on Wednesday that the 34-year-old woman and her children were turned away at the US southern border under Title 42, a contentious policy first invoked by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 due to the coronavirus.
Their sudden departure took them to Moldova, Romania, Germany, and Mexico City, and ultimately the border city of Tijuana.
On Monday, they found themselves stranded at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
They tried to cross the border twice — once on foot and once by car. Both times, though, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers turned them away.
“I’m not asking for anything from the United States, just to be let in,” the Ukrainian woman, told the Union-Tribune after being turned away. “All we need is to be safe. All we want is to keep our lives safe.”
The case comes as Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities intensifies and Russian troops advance towards the capital, Kyiv. The conflict has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee the country, according to the United Nations, with most refugees heading to neighboring nations in Europe.
A CBP spokesperson told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Title 42 remains in effect and that the Department of Homeland Security can exempt “particularly vulnerable individuals” from expulsion on a case-by-case basis.
While many refugee activists and US legislators applauded the move, others urged Biden to act quickly to safeguard residents.
Similarly, calls for Biden to discontinue the use of Title 42 for all asylum seekers arriving at the US border are increasing stronger, particularly as coronavirus limitations are being eased across the US due to declining infection rates.
The administration has justified its continued use of the policy by saying Title 42 is a public health order – not an immigration directive – meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in late January, as reported by local media, “It’s a public health imperative for the benefit of migrants, the communities they enter and our workforce to continue to apply Title 42 and that is the decision of the [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” “It’s not our decision.”
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