Ukrainians are heading for the southern border
Ukrainians queue in front of a reception center for refugees in Paris on March 17, 2022. (Photo by Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images)
Hundreds of Ukrainians have been making their way to the US-Mexico border since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and the Biden administration’s response has been to pour gasoline on a powder keg.
Jesús Alejandro Ruiz Uribe, a federal delegate for the Mexican state of Baja California, allegedly claimed that nearly 500 Ukrainians had arrived in Tijuana and the surrounding area since the Russian invasion began on February 24. Ruiz Uribe added that most Ukrainian migrants have not asked to stay in public or private accommodation and are wealthy enough to pay for their own housing, transport and other expenses incurred in the course of trying to to enter the United States.
Before heading north to the San Ysidro port of entry on the US border, these Ukrainians reportedly arrive in Mexico via Cancun or Mexico City airports, where the Mexican government will issue them six-month tourist visas.
The Biden administration is reportedly trying to devise a strategy to quickly reach Ukrainian asylum seekers on the southern border, as well as some of the 3 million refugees who have fled to other European countries and have family members in the United States. 2019 census estimates show nearly 1 million people of Ukrainian descent in the United States
“If there are Ukrainians who cannot stay safe and for whom relocation to the United States is a better option, we will work with them [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and the EU to take them into account. It’s not a quick process, so we’re going to look at other options and what else we can do,” a State Department spokesman said Thursday, adding that the US understands most of those displaced by the war want it will stay in Europe.
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said The American Conservative that there is “no excuse” for Ukrainians showing up on the southern border. “They came through European countries where they could stay free and decided to try to get here instead.”
Krikorian said US policy should have a clearly stated goal before accepting large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. “When it comes to protecting people until the war is over, bringing them here with their relatives is counterproductive – none of them will ever return. And with the prospect of an agreement, let’s stop permanent resettlement and instead help Poland and the other frontline states to take care of the people who have crossed over from next door.” Krikorian added that when “it becomes clear that Afghanistan-style war will drag on for years, it would be time to discuss permanent resettlement for some of them, although even then the vast majority will remain in Europe”.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians already in the United States. TPS will granted for 18 months to every Ukrainian in the US since March 1, which will cover more than 75,000 people, according to the Department of Homeland Security – more than double previous estimates.
Also, just last week, the Biden administration reversed a decision to bar a Ukrainian woman and her three children from entering the United States on the basis of Title 42. The Ukrainian woman, in her 30s, and her children – aged 14, 12 and 6 – were allowed to enter the US in San Diego after processing, setting a worrying precedent.
Section 265 of US Code Title 42 permitted the executive branch to “prohibit” migrants from entering the United States if “there is a serious threat of entry.” [a communicable] disease to the United States.” Under President Donald Trump, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) used this legislation to issue an emergency regulation on March 20, 2020 to turn away migrants attempting to cross the border. Since the regulation was introduced, more than 1.2 million migrants have been blocked from entering the United States under Title 42.
Biden’s pro-migrant messages during the campaign and the policies enacted early in his tenure have thrown America’s southern border into chaos. The unprecedented surge in migrants has continued since January 2021, despite Biden maintaining Title 42 provisions. Now, pressure from congressional Democrats and immigrant activist groups is leading the Biden administration to consider lifting the emergency provisions of Title 42. The Biden administration has already lifted Title 42 restrictions on unaccompanied minors wishing to enter the United States.
Given these developments, it is not difficult to imagine that the Ukrainian refugee situation could quickly spiral out of control.
So far in fiscal year 2022, which began October 1, 2021, data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). show that more than 5,500 Ukrainians have already tried to enter the United States illegally. The CBP data also says that 85 percent (4,807) of these Ukrainian migrants were single adults — which often means single adult males — and only 15 percent (723) were members of proclaimed family groups traveling together.
But not only an influx of Ukrainians could exacerbate the ongoing crisis on the southern border. Migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle nations still arrive at the US-Mexico border with their own aspirations to get to the United States. The Biden administration’s willingness to be flexible with Ukrainian migrants has reportedly fueled tensions among migrants awaiting their chance to enter the country.
“There has been a lot of confusion since President Biden declared that all Ukrainians are welcome in the US, but there is no system in place to accommodate them,” said Patrick Murphy, the director of the Tijuana migrant home border report. “But it will be easier for them, and I’m sorry to say that, but being fair-skinned, they get preferential treatment.”
A male migrant named Ricardo, awaiting entry into the United States via San Ysidro, recounted border report that he “sees how Ukrainian families with children are admitted”.
“But when we go to the officers, it’s ‘No, no, no,'” Ricardo added. “In Mexico there is also a war started by cartels against Mexican residents.”
It is not very difficult to imagine these migrants from south of the border organizing – or being organized – into numbers and attempting to cross the border overwhelming border agents, as they have done on several occasions over the course of the current migrant crisis to have. If they do so, or attempt to enter the US in blatant disregard for what remains of Title 42 and other migrant mitigation policies, then the already record-high border crossings of about 150,000 per month could pale in comparison to the numbers we might see in a few months.