Sofia, who was a Hebrew teacher in Ukraine, told The San Diego Union Tribune that she fled her home at the urging of family in the U.S., first driving to Moldova before leaving their car in Romania. They then flew through Germany to Mexico, landing in the nation’s capital. The family then traveled Tijuana on Monday, where a relative in California had hoped to drive them through. When that failed, they tried again on Wednesday, this time through the pedestrian lane. They were again blocked.
But this time, Blaine Bookey, legal director for the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings, miraculously happened to be there and attempted to intervene.
”After four or five hours of standing by the entrance to the United States, a small group of immigration attorneys and advocates had formed around her, messaging their contacts in CBP and posting Sofia’s story on Twitter,” the report said. “CBP still wouldn’t let her in. The Mexican police officer came back and asked the group to leave.”
Erika Pinheiro, policy and litigation director for Al Otro Lado, tweeted that at one point U.S. border officials tried telling Bookey that she didn’t “have the right to stand on the Mexican side of the Port of Entry to assist this family. Apparently CBP doesn’t want attorneys helping Ukrainian families reach safety.” She wrote that a supervisor was “refusing to exercise discretion to allow this Ukrainian woman and children to enter, saying that as long as Title 42 is in place, this family will not be admitted.
“CBP officer said we could ‘stay here all night’ and the family would not be admitted,” Pinheiro continued.
It is a disgrace that the Biden administration continues to enforce this Miller policy, and maintains the false stance that asylum-seeking families are a public health threat even as it eases restrictions for international shopping and tells U.S. workers that its time to get back to the office.
It also makes no sense for the U.S. to designate Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which acknowledges that dangerous conditions preclude its nationals from returning safely, but then turn away Ukrainian family that fled their home because of those very dangerous conditions. While designating Ukraine for TPS was absolutely the right move, it’s unavailable to Sofia and her family because it applies to people already here.
On the same day that Sofia and her children were turned away at the San Ysidro port of entry, Reuters also reported that the Biden administration was “leaning toward” ending the Title 42 policy. It’s long past time, Mr. President, particularly after the right-wing court order last week saying unaccompanied children shouldn’t be exempted from the policy anymore.
“We left our lives, our jobs, our families and houses in Ukraine just to escape from this horrible war,” Sofia continued to The San Diego Union Tribune. “All my friends and family are far, far away from me, and I don’t know if they will be alive tomorrow. I just want to keep my kids’ lives safe.”
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