April 5 (UPI) — Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees have made their way into Mexico and are lining up at U.S. border stations waiting, and hoping, to be among the 100,000 President Joe Biden has promised to let in due to the Russian war in Ukraine.
Many of the refugees have gotten tourist visas to enter Mexico and, once there, are making their way north to the U.S. border. Many have been waiting in Tijuana, which is a short distance away from the San Ysidro port of entry.
Earlier this week, volunteers said they saw more than 1,000 refugees waiting at the border. They also said that the United States is allowing about 150 refugees into the country each day on a case-by-case, humanitarian basis.
The humanitarian exception stems from Biden’s pledge last month to take in Ukrainians fleeing violence in their home country. Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February and for weeks have been fighting to secure key strategic locations around the Eastern European nation.
Disturbing images coming out of Ukraine last weekend — showing civilians killed by Russian troops and evidence of other atrocities — have outraged the international community and strengthened the resolve for some to allow traumatized Ukrainians into the United States. They fueled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s appearance before the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Some refugees are waiting for possible U.S. entry at hotels in Tijuana, and some are living at encampments around the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We had to come up with some very immediate decisions about how we were going to house, how we were going to protect our people from weather, how we can assist them with their journey to America, and how we can make them comfortable,” volunteer Inna Levien told KNSD-TV.
One Ukrainian-American met her 17-year-old grandson at the San Ysidro port of entry. He’d traveled for more than a month to get there.
As some Ukrainians cross the border, federal immigration agents continue to turn away Latin American and Caribbean refugees at the same location. Volunteers say that some fleeing Russians have also showed up hoping to enter the United States, but they don’t have the same guarantees as Ukrainians.
“We had a surprising influx in the past four days, mainly because after the conflict we started seeing arrivals as of March 11,” Tijuana immigration official Enrique Lucero said according to CNN.
“They’re processing like 100, 150 a day or even 200 a day and it takes nearly three hours to process them,” he added. “That’s the reason why we have seen this minicamp at the border.”