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Advocates say Ukrainian Title 42 exemption should be expanded to others

The Department of Homeland Security says it will allow some Ukrainians to be exempt from a pandemic-era policy that allows border officers to turn migrants and asylum seekers away on public health grounds.

Title 42 was enacted two years ago this week by the Trump administration and has been used to turn away Haitians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and other nationalities at the border.

Hear Alisa Reznick with host Lauren Gilger on The Show

border-debrief-lg-ar-20220324.mp3

A DHS memo  released earlier this month instructs border officers to exempt Ukrainians from the protocol on a case-by-case-basis, citing the ongoing humanitarian crisis triggered by Russia's war in Ukraine. The memo said Customs and Border Protection has the discretion to exempt migrants from the policy in certain circumstances, including "considerations of humanitarian interests." 

Chelsea Sachau with the advocacy group Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project says that’s good news, but the guidance should be expanded.

"A refugee is a refugee, and there are plenty of other people and nationalities who are fleeing harm and persecution who deserve the same chance to have access to a process," she said. 

Sachau says one way migrants can get an exemption to Title 42 at a port of entry is by filing a humanitarian parole request, which allows for temporary entry to the U.S. on an emergency basis. She's has filed requests for some of her clients in Nogales, often unsuccessfully. 

The U.S. has carried out more than 1.7 million so-called Title 42 expulsions since 2020. Sachau and other advocates joined asylum seekers in Nogales on Monday to  protest the protocol.

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.