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Advocates say Title 42 end date should come sooner than May

The Biden administration is expected to end the pandemic-era protocol Title 42, which allows border officers to quickly turn migrants and asylum seekers back to Mexico on public health grounds, by late May.

On Wednesday morning, the  Associated Press and other outlets cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter and said the Biden administration was expected to end the protocol by May 23. 

The AP said some top Democrats thought that date should come sooner; they argue Title 42 is being used to deny people their legal right to seek asylum. Other lawmakers, including Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, have said the protocol should remain until a replacement plan is in place. On Wednesday morning, the Department of Homeland Security also released a  fact sheetabout steps it's taking to manage a possible increase in migration once the policy is lifted. The expected end date also roughly coincides with when the administration's  new asylum rule change is slated to take effect. 

Hear KJZZ's Alisa Reznick discuss Title 42 with host Lauren Gilger on The Show


A spokesperson with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reviews the use of Title 42 every two months, said the agency is still assessing the policy and will release more information in the coming days. 

Border officers have used Title 42 to send migrants and asylum seekers back to Mexico or their home countries more than 1.7 million times since the policy took hold just over two years ago. Advocacy organizations that work with asylum seekers say its end-date should come sooner.

Alex Miller with the International Rescue Committee in Arizona said her organization has been in contact with other groups working with asylum seekers at the border for months now about how the end of Title 42 would look. 

"At a fundamental level we understand how critical it is that access to asylum be restored and that vulnerable asylum seekers not bear the brunt of this policy any longer," she said. 

Earlier this month, the advocacy group Human Rights First  said it's documented more than 9,800 violent attacks on migrants who were stuck in Mexico or expelled there during President Joe Biden's tenure. Miller said more than communication with other aid groups, her group needs cooperation with the federal government.

"We can only do so much coordinating among NGOs, we don't have all the puzzle pieces ourselves," she said. "What we need is robust collaboration and coordination with out government counterparts to ensure that we're able to respond strategically. We work at nonprofits, we have limited resources."

Miller’s organization and others hoped this month would be the last for Title 42. The CDC began reviewing the use of the protocol this week, as it has done every 60 days since last fall. 

Miller said the IRC has not yet received official confirmation on the end date but seeing initial news of the May 23 extension is disappointing.  

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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.