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Ukrainians, Russians seek asylum at US-Mexico border: report

As Russia prepared to invade Ukraine, thousands of citizens of both countries left Eastern Europe for Mexico with the ultimate goal of seeking asylum in the US, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing Mexican immigration officials, reported that more than 30,000 Russians entered the country in the first two months of this year – nearly 2.5 times the full-year average between 2017 and 2021.

During the same period, the outlet reports, more than 10,000 Ukrainians visited Mexico as tourists, compared to an annual average of just over 4,000.

While the newcomers say they are in Mexico for sightseeing, officials tell the Journal that the majority likely intend the US to be their final destination.

Ukrainians do not need a visa to fly direct to Mexico, making it a common stopover when traveling to the United States. Once at the southern border, refugees can then apply for asylum or be released on parole for humanitarian reasons.

Asylum seekers from Ukraine wait for US border officials to let them in at the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico.
Asylum seekers from Ukraine wait for US border officials to let them in at the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

More than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since the Russian invasion began on February 24, most of them heading west to neighboring Poland and Romania.

The US announced this week that it plans to take in up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, giving priority to resettlement for those who already have family in America.

Asylum seekers from Ukraine wait for US border officials to let them in at the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
Ukrainians do not need a visa to fly direct to Mexico, making it a common stopover when traveling to the United States.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security tried to make it easier for Ukrainians to enter the United States from Mexico after multiple reports surfaced that border officials were using Title 42 health protocols to turn away some asylum seekers.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued guidance reminding authorities that Ukrainian nationals “and anyone else” expressing so-called “credible fear” at the US-Mexico border are exempt from Title 42, which states it allowing officials to expedite deportations of migrants due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukraine refugees US-Mexico border
Once at the southern border, refugees can then apply for asylum or be released on parole for humanitarian reasons.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

“We process a person’s humanitarian aid application as soon as it is submitted to us,” Mayorkas said at the time. “We have already launched a number of efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to people fleeing war-torn Ukraine. We are exploring other programs that we can implement to expand humanitarian service opportunities.”

Mayorkas made the announcement after complaints that Ukrainian migrants were arbitrarily treated at the border, being turned away at one checkpoint before being admitted at another.

Anastasiia Apenkina, 21, an asylum seeker from Ukraine, waits with other asylum seekers from her country for US border officials to let them in at the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico
Anastasiia Apenkina, 21, an asylum seeker from Ukraine, waits with other Ukrainian asylum seekers from her country for US border officials to let them in at the Mexico side of the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

“It looks like there is no border policy because the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] Officials make their own rules,” San Diego-based immigration attorney Jacob Sapochnick told The Post last week. “They make decisions that determine who will or will not attend. And we have no idea how they determined that.”

Meanwhile, the Journal reported on Friday that in recent days, more Russian migrants have been turned back at the border and ordered to wait in Mexico while their asylum applications are processed.

Around 1,300 Ukrainians have been detained by immigration officers along the southern border along with 7,100 Russian migrants since October 1, according to the outlet. Both numbers are about twice as high as in the entire fiscal year 2021.

Most of the migrants in that total were released to the US and given a court date to appear and hear their asylum claims.

https://nypost.com/2022/03/25/ukrainians-russians-head-to-us-mexico-border-for-asylum-report/ Ukrainians, Russians seek asylum at US-Mexico border: report

JACLYN DIAZ

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