New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Surge In Russia-Ukraine Refugees At The U.S. Border And Title 42

Author: Alena Shautsova

With the war brewing between Russia and Ukraine, it is expected that citizens of both nations would seek refuge in other countries. That is exactly what is happening, especially amongst those close to the most attacked areas. But Ukrainians and Russians did not just start seeking refuge in other countries today. A large number of people from Ukraine and Russia started moving out as far back as 2014. A lot of them sought refuge in the United States.

Why did they choose the United States? The United States proved to be one of the safest countries for refugees or asylum seekers from Ukraine and Russia. Moving to other European countries makes them reachable from their countries, especially for those who are seeking to hide from the government. It has been reported that asylees from these countries can be harmed if need be in other European countries where they seek refuge. Hence, the need to flee to the U.S.

Title 42

Title 42 is a law passed in 1944 to safeguard U.S citizens from diseases considered contagious and could endanger the lives of U.S. citizens.

It states that:

Whenever the Surgeon General determines that by reason of the existence of any communicable disease in a foreign country there is serious danger of the introduction of such disease into the United States, and that this danger is so increased by the introduction of persons or property from such country that a suspension of the right to introduce such persons and property is required in the interest of the public health, the Surgeon General, in accordance with regulations approved by the President, shall have the power to prohibit, in whole or in part, the introduction of persons and property from such countries or places as he shall designate in order to avert such danger, and for such period of time as he may deem necessary for such purpose.

The law initially gave the Surgeon General the right to ascertain if a disease is contagious and can be transferred by individuals or properties passing into the United States. In this case, with the approval of the President, individuals or properties entering the country can be deterred or ousted from the country. This right was later assigned to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

With growing threats of the Covid-19 virus, then President Donald Trump reinstated the age-long law in the first quarter of 2020. This time giving room for the United States Customs and Border Protection agents to turn back immigrants at the border without authorization. Thereby closing the border to immigrants in the supposed interest of public health. The law prevented migrants from seeking any form of humanitarian protection in the U.S. whether as refugees or asylees. It also prevented unaccompanied children.

Despite advice from the USCDC quoting the irrelevance of the law, the Trump-led administration upheld it.

Amidst thoughts that the Biden administration will discard the law, President Biden has continued in the path of his predecessor by favoring the law. Under the Biden administration, the law has reportedly prevented more persons from coming into the U.S than Trump who reintroduced it. But the Biden administration has exempted unaccompanied children from the law, while children traveling with extended relatives are separated at the border. The children gain entrance while the relatives are prevented since they are not considered as a family unit.

Title 42 has led to an increased amount of immigrants being detained at the U.S. borders. The law prevents them from coming into the U.S. and those who cannot be deported immediately are temporarily held at the border. Hence, giving rise to crowded encampments.

In more recent times, there has been a teeming pool of Russians and Ukrainians among the refugees.

Title 42 And Russia-Ukraine Refugees

Between the fiscal year 2020 and 2021, the U.S witnessed 753% of Russians and Ukrainians at the border. Data for the fiscal year 2022 exceeds that of the last two years with possibilities of continued increase. The larger part of this mass migration was within the last six months following the threats of Russia against Ukraine. Subsequently, the war which followed increased the number.

Bearers of Ukrainian passports are allowed entrance into Mexico without a visa, hence the choice for many to go through this route. From Mexico, they would seek to come into the U.S. to seek asylum or refuge.

This was the case of Sofia and her children who left Ukraine for the U.S. at the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war. After two attempts, they were eventually permitted into the U.S. to seek refuge and be with relatives in California. They were initially barred based on the provisions of Title 42.

Although, it has been ascertained Russians and Ukrainians are exempted from Title 42. An expert explained that this could be because the U.S. does not possess the resources to deport them to their countries. Russians, Ukrainians, Indians, Chinese, and citizens of a few other countries are usually exempted from Title 42.

17 March 2022
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