Monday, September 26, 2022

US speeds up entry for Ukrainians as they approach Mexico border

TIJUANA, Mexico – The United States has sharply increased the number of Ukrainians admitted to the country on the Mexican border as more refugees fleeing the Russian invasion follow the same winding path.

A government entertainment center in the Mexican border city of Tijuana reached nearly 1,000 refugees on Thursday, according to city officials. A canopy under which the children had played football only two days earlier was packed with people in rows of chairs and lined with cots.

Enrique Lucero, Tijuana’s director of expatriate affairs, said Wednesday that US officials began funneling Ukrainians to a pedestrian crossing in San Diego that is temporarily closed to the public, with 24 officers in one day. It is expected to process 578 people.

Tijuana has suddenly become a final stop for Ukrainians seeking asylum in the United States, where they are prepared to be hosted by friends and families and convinced that America will be a more suitable haven than Europe.

It has quickly spread on social media that a loose volunteer coalition consisting largely of Slavic churches in the western United States is guiding hundreds of refugees daily from Tijuana airport to temporary shelters, where they are allowed to accept US officials. Wait for two to four days. on humanitarian parole. In less than two weeks, volunteers worked with US and Mexican officials to build a remarkably efficient and expanded network providing food, security, transportation, and shelter.

Vlad Fedorishin, a volunteer with access to the waiting list, said on Thursday that the US processed 620 Ukrainians in 24 hours, while about 800 others are arriving in Tijuana daily. Volunteers say the US was previously recruiting a few hundred Ukrainians daily.

CBP did not provide numbers in response to questions about operations and plans over the past two days, saying only that it has expanded facilities in San Diego to deal with humanitarian cases.

On Thursday, Ukrainians arrived swiftly and wheeled large suitcases out of the bustling entertainment center. Some wore winter coats in unseasonably hot weather.

A Tijuana camp that held hundreds of Ukrainians near the busiest border crossing with the US was demolished. Refugees dispersed to entertainment centres, churches and hotels to wait.

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Volunteers, who wear blue and yellow badges to represent the Ukrainian flag but have no group name or leader, began waiting lists on notepads and later to track church attendance as usual. Switched to the mobile app used. Ukrainians are told to report to US border crossings as their numbers draw near, a system organizers prefer to wait for a restaurant table.

“We feel very lucky, very blessed,” said Tatiana Bondarenko, who traveled through Moldova, Romania, Austria and Mexico before arriving in San Diego with her husband and children aged 8, 12 and 15. His final destination was Sacramento, Calif. , to live with his mother, whom he had not seen for 15 years.

Another Ukrainian family posed for photographs under a US Customs and Border Protection sign at San Diego’s San Ysidro port, the busiest crossing between the US and Mexico. Volunteers under blue umbrellas offered snacks while refugees waited for families to pick them up or for buses to take them to a nearby church.

At Tijuana Airport, exhausted travelers entering Mexico as tourists in Mexico City or Cancun are directed to a temporary lounge in the terminal with a black sign that reads, “Only for Ukrainian refugees.” This is the only place to register to enter the US

There was a waiting list for 973 families or single adults on Tuesday.

“We realized we had a problem that the government was not going to solve, so we solved it,” said Phil Metzger, pastor of Calvary Church in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, where about 75 members host Ukrainian families. and another 100 refugees sleep on air mattresses and platforms.

Metzger, whose pastoral work has taken him to Ukraine and Hungary, calls the operation “duct tape and glue,” but refugees prefer to overwhelm it from European countries, where millions of Ukrainians have settled.

The Biden administration has said it will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians, but Mexico is the only route to produce large numbers. Appointments at US consulates in Europe are rare, and refugee resettlement takes time.

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The administration set a refugee resettlement limit of 125,000 over a 12-month period ending 30 September, but accepted only 8,758 as of 31 March, including 704 Ukrainians. In the previous year, it capped refugee resettlement at 62,500 but took only 11,411, including 803 Ukrainians.

The administration paroled more than 76,000 Afghans through US air bases in response to the departure of US troops last year, but nothing like it for Ukrainians. Parole, which provides temporary protection from deportation, is typically granted for two years for Afghans and one year for Ukrainians.

Oksana Dugnyak, 36, was hesitant to leave her home in Buka, but acceded to her husband’s wishes before Russian troops invaded the city and left behind streets laden with corpses. The couple were concerned about violence with three young children in Mexico, but the strong volunteer presence in Tijuana reassured them, and a friend in Ohio agreed to host them.

A day after arriving at the Tijuana Recreation Center, Dugnik said, “We have food. We have a place to stay.” “We hope everything will be fine.”

Alerted by text message or social media, Ukrainians are called to cross the border as their numbers near.

The arrival of Ukrainians comes as the Biden administration prepares in large numbers when the pandemic-related asylum limit for all nationalities expires on May 23. Since March 2020, the US has used the Title 42 Authorization for Public Health Act of 1944 to suspend rights. To seek asylum under US law and international treaty.

Chula Vista pastor Metzger said his church could not continue its 24-hour movement to help refugees for long, and suspected US officials would not adopt what the volunteers did.

“If you make something easy, everybody’s going to come,” he said. “We’re taking it that easy. Eventually I’m sure they’ll say, ‘No, we’re done.'”

Nation World News Desk
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