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Monday, December 05, 2022

US blocks Russians at border, accepts Ukrainians

TIJUANA, Mexico ( Associated Press) — About three dozen Russian asylum seekers were blocked from entering the United States from Mexico on Friday, while a group of Ukrainians crossed the border after showing their passports.

The scene reflects a quiet but unmistakable change in the differential treatment given to Russians and Ukrainians who enter Mexico as tourists and fly to Tijuana, hoping to enter the United States for asylum. Huh.

The Russians – 34 as of Friday – had been camping in front of the busiest border crossing between the United States and Mexico for several days, two days after Tijuana municipal officials politely asked them to withdraw.

The Russians sat on mats and blankets, looked at their phones, talked and ate snacks, with sleeping bags and baby carriages. A constant stream of people passed through to cross the border. Five girls sat in a group talking, some holding stuffed animals.

A few days earlier, some Russians were allowed to cross into the United States through the San Ysidro border crossing, while some Ukrainians were stopped. But as of Friday, the Russians were the ones who couldn’t get through and the Ukrainians were admitted after a short wait.

“It’s very difficult to understand how they decide,” said Russian Irina Zolinka, 40, who camped overnight with her family of seven after arriving in Tijuana on Thursday.

Erica Pinheiro, director of litigation and policy for the activist group El Otro Lado, said the United States on Tuesday began accepting all Ukrainians on humanitarian parole for one year, while at the same time excluding all Russians. There was no official announcement.

In a memo dated March 11 but released Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security told border officials that Ukrainians could be exempt from asylum limits designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said decisions about the Ukrainians would be made on a case-by-case basis, but did not mention the Russians.

“The Department of Homeland Security believes that Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis,” the memo said.

The department said in a statement on Friday that anyone deemed “particularly vulnerable” could be admitted on humanitarian grounds based on a case-by-case review, regardless of their nationality.

Russian migrants in Tijuana sat next to a line of hundreds of border residents waiting to walk across the border to San Diego. The line went smoothly.

A 32-year-old Russian migrant, who has been crossing the border since arriving in Tijuana five days ago with his wife, suddenly did not want to go for fear of missing some opportunity.

Hours after his arrival, the migrant, who gave his name only as Mark for fear of retribution from his family in Russia, saw three Russians being allowed to cross into the United States. After six hours, American officials returned her passport, saying they were only accepting Ukrainians.

“Ukrainians and Russians are suffering because of one man,” Mark said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mark fled shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.

US authorities have expelled migrants more than 1.7 million times since March 2020, without giving them an opportunity to claim asylum under a fictitious power to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that public health provision, known as Title 42, rarely applies to immigrants of certain nationalities, who are difficult to remove for financial or diplomatic reasons.

However, in order to apply for asylum, migrants must be on US soil, and officials are barring those they want to accept.

Even before the Russian invasion, the United States had seen an increase in the number of Russians and Ukrainians seeking asylum, most of them entering the official border crossing in San Diego rather than trying to cross illegally through the desert and mountains. were trying to do.

According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 1,500 Ukrainians entered the United States through the border with Mexico from September to February, up from about 45 Ukrainians who crossed during the same period a year earlier. 35 times more.

Ukrainians who manage to reach US territory have a chance to apply for asylum virtually. Only four of the 1,553 who entered in the September to February period were excluded based on the public health order, which allows the United States to expel migrants without giving them an opportunity to use humanitarian protection.

The number of Russian asylum seekers entering the United States by land from Mexico topped 8,600 from September to February, nearly 30 times more than the 288 a year earlier. All but 23 were processed under laws that allow them to claim asylum.

Mexican officials have been wary of migrants sleeping at the border. Last month they destroyed a massive encampment in Tijuana filled with tents and tarpaulins that blocked a corridor to enter San Diego.

To prevent the formation of another camp, municipal officials distributed a letter on Wednesday, asking migrants to leave the places where they had set up camp for health and safety reasons, and to pay if they have If there was no money, they were offered free shelter.

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