- Nearly 20,000 Ukrainian and Russian adults arrived in the United States in 2021.
- Asylum seekers have increased due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Most asylum seekers on foot are turned back at the border, vehicles are stopped less frequently.
A growing number of Russians and Ukrainians fleeing political repression and war are traveling to Mexico, buying “disposable cars” and driving to the US border to seek asylum, Reuters reports.
Customs and Border Protection Data only show numbers up to January before Russia invaded Ukraine, but they were already growing rapidly. The war may well encourage more people to make the trip.
US border officials encountered about 6,400 Russians in the four months between October 2021 and January this year, according to CBP data, Reuters said. That compares to about 4,100 people apprehended in the whole of fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. There has also been a significant increase for Ukrainians, with just over 1,000 people apprehended between October 2021 and January, compared to around 680 last fiscal year.
But that has risen further since Russia invaded Ukraine, with Ukrainians the third most common nationality among arrivals over the past week, according to Reuters.
Russians are also fleeing in increasing numbers due to President Putin’s authoritarian crackdown on dissent, political protests and independent media.
“Repression is intensifying and people demonstrating against the war are being treated very harshly,” Dmitry Zubarev told Reuters. “There will be more people trying to use refugee routes to escape the bad situation in the country,” said Zubarev, a civil rights lawyer who left in June 2021.
Driving to the border improves chances of “skipping the line”
During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Lou Correa, a Democrat from California, said he was surprised by the number of Russian and Ukrainian migrants arriving by car during his visit to the San Ysidro port of entry. between San Diego and Tijuana about a month ago. .
He said a border agent showed him 20 cars that had been stopped, explaining that they were full of Ukrainian and Russian migrants.
“This problem is not going away,” Correa said.
Many migrants from Russia and Ukraine choose to go through Mexico because it is easier to obtain a visa for Mexico. They then apply for asylum in the United States rather than getting a tourist visa for the United States, Jessica Bolter, an immigration expert at the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, told Reuters.
Many at US borders arrive by car in an attempt to circumvent a pandemic-era policy known as Title 42.
Under this policy, most refugees on foot are turned back at the border. Vehicles are stopped less frequently.
Former U.S. Border Patrol chief Rodney Scott told Reuters this means some are buying cheap cars in Mexico to increase their chances of getting to the United States, describing it as a way to “jump the line.” line”.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said monday that his country would continue to accept Ukrainian refugees.
The Biden administration announced temporary protection against deportation of Ukrainians to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a press release on March 3 that he had created an 18-month Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for Ukrainians living in the United States since March 1.
Earlier this week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, announcement that more than a million people fled Ukraine last week to escape the all-out Russian invasion described by President Putin as a “special operation”. Most headed for neighboring European countries.