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Santa Cruz County sheriff says Title 42 is fueling border chaos and should end

Title 42, the pandemic protocol that allows border officers to turn away migrants and asylum seekers, continues to divide lawmakers and local leaders in Arizona. It's a public health statute regulated by the CDC, which says it’s no longer necessary and will end May 23. 

But some lawmakers have increasingly talked about it as a tool to control immigration. They argue removing it will result in chaos at the border. 

In an op-ed in the Arizona Republic this week, Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway says that Title 42 is actually fueling chaos within the U.S. immigration system. He points out the protocol has undermined due process for migrants and inflated apprehension data, as the number of people trying to cross multiple times has skyrocketed.

Hathaway says Title 42 should end, and lawmakers should focus on reforming the immigration system instead, both in Washington D.C., and at the border.

"My colleagues at the border need bolstered procedures and infrastructure to properly and humanely process all types of entry claims at the border," he wrote. "Most importantly, politicians out of Washington, D.C., should stop coming to the border just for photo ops. As a sheriff on the border, I’m among those who are desperately looking for bold leaders who are ready to understand and seek solutions that improve our border infrastructure and policies this year."

Border officers have used Title 42 more than 1.7 million times to send migrants back to Mexico or their home countries over the last two years. 

Hathaway is the latest on a growing list of local leaders and lawmakers weighing in on the statute. Arizona Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema argue the Biden administration doesn't have an adequate plan in place to handle an expected increase in migration after Title 42. Both are signed onto a bill that looks to tie the protocol to the public health emergency issued because of COVID, a move analysts argue could keep it in place for years.  

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and a number of other Republican attorneys general are also part of a part of a suit that seeks to block the May 23 termination. They head to court this Friday. 

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