The Mexico Diary | Mexico News | Migration

Miriam Jordan, Mark Abramson, The New York Times

More than 2,000 people from Ukraine have arrived at the border of Mexico and the United States, where an increase in the migration flow from other countries is also expected.

Over the past ten days, more than 2,000 Ukrainians have arrived at the US border from Mexico, joining desperate migrants from around the world. Officials suspect that as pandemic restrictions are lifted and the relentless fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hits US borders, it will eventually turn into a major wave of migration.

The sudden arrivals in Tijuana present an immediate challenge to U.S. border officials, who are already bracing for a wave of unauthorized migration from countries like Honduras and Haiti when the U.S. relaxes border rules next month due to the coronavirus emergency. 19. Now the United States must also find a way to accommodate thousands of people fleeing Russia’s deadly invasion on the other side of the world.

“I’m worried. I’m tired. We’ve been here for more than two days,” said Nataly Yankova, 48, who fled Ukraine with her two teenage daughters, one in a wheelchair, and two nephews to join her brother, who lives in Chicago.

They were among 15 Ukrainian families sitting on folding chairs on a cold spring night this week, next to the coiled wire fence that separates Mexico from the United States. Most of them had taken three days to get to the front of the line from where US officials called the Ukrainians for entrance interviews.

The wave of Ukrainian refugees in Mexico has grown as US embassies and consulates in Europe struggle to process a barrage of visa and refugee applications.

Just a week ago, just 50 Ukrainian refugees who had flown to Mexico found themselves in the bustling border town of Tijuana, crammed into a small tunnel-shaped bus stop until they can enter the United States. Within four days the line had grown to 500 and a makeshift camp had sprung up on a vacant lot. Already by Sunday, after several planes dropped off war refugees in Tijuana, the number had soared to nearly 1,200, of whom about 400 were sleeping in a gym.

After the harrowing flight from their homeland and the long plane journeys to reach Mexico, they quickly understood that the transition to the United States was not automatic. A crowd began to form and confusion reigned.

To avert a humanitarian crisis, dozens of Russian-speaking volunteers, religious organizations and private groups rushed to organize food, shelter, medical and logistical support on both sides of the border.

“There’s a limit to what we can do, and we’ve done a lot working all day,” said Olya Krasnykh, who sought permission from his job as a real estate developer in San Mateo, Calif., to organize an integrated project. intervention team for about 30 people.

“The system at the border is incredibly inefficient,” he said, radio in hand. “I don’t know how long we can continue the volunteer work.”

The Joe Biden administration announced last month that the United States would accept 100,000 Ukrainians. But no details were announced, prompting those with family and friends in the United States to pay thousands of dollars to travel to Mexico, a country they can enter without a visa, unlike the United States. .

“They made an announcement without having a program to execute it,” Krasnykh said.

And there are several days in which US border officials are only processing the entry of about 200 refugees, half of those arriving on the flights.

According to government calculations, after the lifting of the public health order linked to the coronavirus, known as Title 42, some 18,000 immigrants from various countries could arrive every day, triple the current volume. Economic hardship has already pushed Cubans to arrive in the United States in numbers not seen in nearly three decades. Border agents encountered more than 50,000 Nicaraguans in 2021, up from 2,291 in 2020, due to President Daniel Ortega’s persecution of dissent.

Earlier this week, Chris Magnus, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement that the agency was increasing resources and personnel at the border.

“President Biden’s decision to welcome Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in the United States is the right thing to do,” said Blaine Bookey, legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings. . But he added that there were questions about whether Ukrainian migrants were given priority over those from Central America and elsewhere.

“There’s no other way to look at what’s happening on the southern border than by racial criteria,” he said.

Five Central American migrants, including a young Guatemalan couple with a 3-year-old child, showed up this week at the perimeter of the camp where the Ukrainians were waiting.

They had just arrived in Tijuana hanging from the Beast, the reputedly dangerous train that crosses Mexico, and they hoped to rest in a patch of grass near a tent. One of them asked if he could do it. His goal was to cross the border.

“It was on the news that the United States was offering asylum,” said Marvin Francisco, a 29-year-old Honduran who learned of the impending expiration of Title 42. “My country is infested with gangsters.”

Hondurans were allowed to sit on the grass, but received none of the cakes, juices and coffee that are distributed to Ukrainians.

Recently, Tijuana opened a sports complex, the Benito Juárez, to Ukrainian refugees, which had been used in 2018 to house thousands of Central American migrants who arrived in caravans hoping to enter the United States.

Krasnykh and his team negotiated shelter at the facility with Baja California state officials, who within hours provided them with mats, Wi-Fi and security. Volunteers outside prepared hot meals, such as beetroot soup, and distributed donated clothing and toys.

Volunteers started a numbered list, first on a yellow notepad and then translated into an online version with the help of software engineers, to organize applicants to enter the United States.

“We started to see chaos. People were getting mad at each other,” said Roman Dubchak, a volunteer from Westfield, Massachusetts, who handles the registration process. “It soon became clear that we had to create some sort of order,” said Dubchak, who like other volunteers wore a reflective vest and a blue and yellow badge, the colors of Ukraine.

By Tuesday afternoon, the number of families on the list had passed 2,000. Refugees were instructed to keep an eye on a messaging group, in which they would be notified when it was time to collect their belongings and report to one of three nearby tents. the port of entry.

Anastasiia and Sergii Derezenko’s family was number 1767. They had traveled with their two children, Denys, 10, and Yeva, 8, and their furry Maltese mini, Luka. They had abandoned their apartment in the suburbs of kyiv under Russian bombardment and eventually crossed Europe by train to catch a flight from Madrid to Mexico City, where they reached Tijuana. Their friends are waiting for them in Portland, Oregon.

Denys, a 33-year-old cryptocurrency investor who bore the number 1170, said he paid a smuggler €5,500 to guide him through mountains and forests to cross into Romania. “I didn’t want to fight. I don’t know how to fight,” said Denys, who declined to give his last name because he had fled in violation of Ukraine’s order banning men of military age from leaving the country.

He said a friend of his who was in Poland was planning to take his beloved American Staffordshire Terrier on a flight to Chicago when he and his girlfriend arrived there.

Like many of those waiting at the border, he said he never thought of emigrating to the United States before the war. “I had an apartment, a car, a dog. I was happy,” he said, standing outside the tent he shared with his girlfriend, Rina, and two others. A Cyrillic sign posted on the side read: “Don’t leave food on the floor. Keep the rats away.”

The family of Daria and Sonia Speranska, two sisters, were cut off from the world when rocket fire hit a village outside kyiv where they had taken refuge. Without electricity, the sisters said, they boiled water in the fireplace and rationed food. On the tenth day they managed to escape in a convoy, and eventually their parents convinced them that they should leave for the United States, where they had friends.

“We didn’t want to go to another country. We had a good life, we travelled,” says Daria, 24, who works in information technology.

Sonia, 16, said she agreed to come “only because I knew my sister couldn’t leave without me. I am the strongest “.

Several people said they originally planned to enter the United States through official channels, following President Joe Biden’s offer to take in Ukrainians fleeing the war. However, since there was no concrete plan, they applied for tourist visas, but they were refused.

Lena Dorosh, 24, a psychologist who fled Chernivtsi with her 3-year-old son Danyil, said her family in Oregon helped her organize a 40-hour trip from Bucharest to Tijuana after seeing each other refuse visas. On his flights, he met families who had also been deprived of it.

Mother and son spent three nights in a tent in Tijuana until it was time for their number, 920, to head to the marquee next to the US checkpoint. Volunteers handed out sandwiches and cookies to the refugees, who seemed resigned to waiting.

It was nearly 11 p.m. when the group of 15 were escorted through the fence to the US processing center, where officers collected their passports, then fingerprinted and photographed them. Their passports were returned to them stamped “release on parole”, with the handwritten expiration date of April 3, 2023.

As they left around midnight, the refugees were met by vans from Calvary of San Diego, a church in Chula Vista, California, which has stepped up to help Ukrainians.

The men lay down to sleep on the temple benches, while most of the women and children rested on inflatable mattresses on the floor. In the morning, the volunteers helped the families organize the trip to their final destinations.

By early afternoon, some of them were already on their way, including Nataly Yankova’s family, who got into a van bound for Chicago, smiling and waving.

Leaving the parking lot, other vans approached with people who had recently arrived from the border.


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