U.S. authorities have processed 9,926 undocumented Ukrainians in the past 2 months, data shows

Nearly 10,000 undocumented Ukrainians have been processed by US border officials in the past two months, as thousands of refugees have been displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Have traveled According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data obtained by CBS News, it is hoped that Mexico will seek asylum in the United States.

Between February 1 and April 6, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that 9,926 Ukrainians were confronted, with no legal documents required to enter the country, according to unpublished agency figures. On April 6 alone, 767 Ukrainian immigrants were processed by the CBP.

One person who knew the data directly told CBS News that most of the Ukrainians processed by US officials were trying to enter the official entry ports instead of crossing the border illegally.

Numbers show that the number of Ukrainians entering US border guards has increased dramatically over the past few weeks. In February, CBP officials announced that they had met 1,147 undocumented Ukrainians, including 272 immigrants on the Mexican border, according to public agency data. Invasion of Russia Started February 24th.

Between February 1 and April 6, the CBP authorized the entry into the United States of 41,074 “legal entities” of 41,074 Ukrainians, including US awards for short-term travelers, including tourists or immigrants permitted to stay permanently in the United States. , Shows internal agency data.

Russia’s invasion triggered the largest displacement crisis since World War II, forcing 4.4 million refugees to flee to other European countries in two months. Although most of the displaced Ukrainians are in Europe, a growing number are seeking to reach the United States.

Refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine on the U.S. border on April 9, 2022 in Tijuana, Mexico are waiting to process their applications.

PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

On March 24, President Biden promised to receive 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by the war indefinitely. But the administration has not yet announced any concrete steps to achieve the ambitious plan and expedite the visa and refugee process, which usually takes months and years.

Faced with limited direct routes to reach the United States, thousands of Ukrainians have embarked on a day-long trek to Mexico, which typically includes several flights to reach the U.S. southern border, where authorities have been ordered to consider allowing Ukrainians to enter, despite the epidemic periodic entry. Restrictions For other immigrants.

It is unclear how many of the 9,926 Ukrainians processed by U.S. border officials were allowed into the country. CBP did not respond to requests for data and additional figures.

The unprecedented wave of Ukrainians in Mexico hoping to enter the United States is a sign of a dysfunctional and backward immigration system that was not designed to respond to the emerging refugee crisis, especially the many restrictions of the Trump era and the COVID-19 epidemic, experts say. Said.

“The fact that Ukrainians travel to Mexico and try their luck at the US-Mexico border shows how slow and stagnant our immigration system is,” said Julia Kelad, analyst at the Nonprofit Immigration Policy Institute. . “We do not have a quick response area for our immigration system, which can create paths for those in an emergency.”

That broken immigration system is on full display in Tijuana, Mexico, where a group of volunteers from Slavic churches in the United States have created a temporary process to add Ukrainians to a list so they can wait their turn to present themselves to US officials. Crossing the San Jacitro border into Southern California.

Once their numbers arrive, families and adults from Ukraine are generally allowed to enter the United States after certain processes and are granted one year of humanitarian parole, which allows them to work and live legally in the United States. On March 11, U.S. border officials Directed To consider granting exemptions to Ukrainians from Chapter 42, the Epidemiological Rule that barred many Latin American immigrants from seeking asylum.

A small number of unsupported Ukrainian children According to a U.S. official and lawyer in Tijuana, they are trying to enter the San Jacitro Crossing, but are being relocated to government shelters where Central American immigrant children are generally housed under the 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act.

Olya Krasnykh, one of the US volunteers helping the Ukrainians coming to Tijuana, said the waiting list was designed to ensure that the Ukrainians’ operation was relatively orderly, as US border officials could only allow a few hundred people a day.

But much of this work should be done by governments – not a loose group of volunteers, Krosnik said. Krosnik said Mexican authorities in Tijuana had agreed to provide temporary housing for Ukrainians, but temporary shelters, including a recreational gymnasium, quickly ran out of space.

“The situation really needs to change because the numbers are dazzling and we are capable,” Krasnik, who lives in California, told CBS News. “Many of us never sleep. It’s not standard.”

CBP figures show an increase in the number of Russians entering U.S. border guards, with the agency reporting that it has processed 5,207 immigrants from Russia since February 1. Agency figures show that in February, 2,000 Russians entered CBP custody, including 769 who immigrated to the Mexican border. .

Unlike the United States, Mexico does not require visa requirements for Ukrainian travelers. According to Ukrainian families and volunteers, most Ukrainians fly from Europe to Cancun or Mexico City and then board a second flight to Tijuana.

Natalia Kozlov, 24, said she arrived in Tijuana on the night of April 6 with her husband Mikhail, 23, and their 7-month-old baby after a two-day trip from Warsaw to the Paris and Cancun stops.

The young couple said they had been living in Poland since last autumn, when they fled the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government in the eastern part of Donetsk. But the couple said they had no family members in Poland and did not want to return to Ukraine after the war broke out.

Natalia Kozlov, Mikhail Kozlov and their 7-month-old baby are waiting to be processed on the US-Mexico border.

Courtesy of Olya Krasnykh

Natalia and Mikhail said they arranged the trip to Mexico with the help of Natalia’s family members living in Colorado after learning that U.S. border officials were allowing displaced Ukrainians to enter the country. They said they could not come directly to the United States because they did not have a visa.

Natalia said the United States should make the process of immigration easier for Ukrainians with family members in the United States so that pessimistic families do not have to travel to Mexico, which was difficult for her child.

“It will be a great relief, especially for families with children,” Natalia said through a translator on Friday. “If there was a more direct way to get to the United States, it would reduce a lot of stress.”

But legal immigration routes for Ukrainians seeking to enter the United States are rare.

Visa seekers, for example, may have to wait a long time at US embassies due to limited processing capacity and stagnant applications exacerbated by the epidemic. Applicants may not be able to prove eligibility for temporary visas because they need proof that they want to return to their home country.

The refugee process, which allows survivors of persecution to travel to the United States, currently takes 18 to 24 months due to interviews, security checks and medical tests. The United States has said Ukrainians must be in “unsafe” third countries to be eligible for resettlement.

In March, the United States resettled only 12 Ukrainian refugees in a resettlement pipeline prior to the Russian invasion, according to foreign ministry figures.

In an interview with CBS Evening News editor and executive editor Nora O’Donoghue last week, Secretary of Defense Alejandro Myorgas said the United States was “exploring other avenues”. [Ukrainians] There is no need to fly to another country and seek relief, “he said.

“We see the Ukrainians in despair. We have seen horrific images from Ukraine,” Mayerkas said, adding that Russia’s invasion was “inhumane.”

Meanwhile, in Tijuana, Natalia and her family had to cut short Friday interviews. Their number – 2,227 – has arrived on the waiting list to show up at the U.S. port of entry.

When asked what it would be like to be allowed to enter the United States, Natalia replied in English, “Very happy.”

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