US Backtracks and Allows Ukrainian Family to Seek Asylum | Politics

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — U.S. authorities cleared a Ukrainian woman and her three children to seek asylum on Thursday, a reversal from the day before when she was denied entry under sweeping restrictions in the Biden administration to seek humanitarian protection.

The 34-year-old woman and her children – ages 14, 12 and 6 – entered San Diego for treatment after authorities blocked her path hours earlier, sparking heavy criticism from the majority leader in Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, and other Democrats.

Blaine Bookey, legal director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, was returning from Tijuana to San Diego when she saw the Ukrainian woman crying with her children and looking “very uncomfortable”.

The family had been denied the chance to seek asylum after being turned away due to a Trump-era order, known as Title 42, which was put in place to prevent the spread of COVID. -19.

Schumer mentioned the Ukrainian family when he called for an end to the use of the authority of Title 42, which is named after a 1944 public health law.

“They sought refuge at one of our southern border ports of entry, but were turned away because of Title 42,” Schumer said in a conference call with reporters. “That’s not who we are as a country. Continuing this Trump-era policy defied common sense and common decency.”

The Department of Homeland Security said it admitted the Ukrainian family “after reviewing the facts of their case” and continues to exempt “particularly vulnerable” individuals on a case-by-case basis.

Migrants have been deported more than 1.6 million times since Title 42 was introduced in March 2020. The Biden administration has defended the order even as coronavirus cases have declined.

The Ukrainian woman, who identified to reporters only as Sofia, first attempted to enter the United States in a car with a relative earlier this week but was turned away, Bookey said. On Wednesday, she made her way to the port of entry and was arrested again before Bookey spotted her and tweeted what happened.

The next morning, Erika Pinheiro, director of litigation and policy for Al Otro Lado, an advocacy group helping the family, said she received a call from Customs and Border Protection asking her to do her suitcases and to be ready to leave on short notice. . A few hours later, he was told to return to the port of entry.

“She was just very stoic for her kids and I think she got carried away with emotion,” Bookey said.

The woman left Ukraine with her children on February 27, days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. She traveled to Moldova, Romania and Mexico, arriving in Tijuana on Monday.

The woman said her family in the San Francisco area urged her to come, saying they feared for her life.

“In any other case, I wouldn’t leave, I’m sure, because I have more family and friends there (in Ukraine),” she said.

She pulled a small red suitcase and carried a pink backpack patterned with small dogs as she entered the United States with her 6-year-old daughter beside her and her older children behind.

Another Ukrainian, a 27-year-old woman, who asked to be identified only as Kristina, watched them enter the United States. She was still stuck on the Mexican side with her fiancé, an American citizen.

Kristina fled to Poland but the hotels and apartments were full. So she flew to Mexico where her fiancé met her to help her get into the United States.

Mexico accepts citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador who are deported under Title 42. People of other nationalities are subject to deportation, but many are released in the United States to apply asylum due to difficulties in bringing them home. However, they must be on US soil to claim protection, and authorities often block their way.

Kristina said she, too, went to the border on Wednesday and asked to be allowed to apply for asylum, but like the family, she was turned away because of Title 42. The couple returned Thursday and had hope when the family was let in, but they were again blocked without any explanation.

“They don’t listen to us,” Kristina said.

After spending five hours waiting on Thursday, Kristina passed out and was carried away by her fiancé, who said they were stressed and exhausted and headed to a hotel in Tijuana.

“Why can’t they just talk to us too?” Her fiancé said. “We don’t know what to do.”

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Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed.

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