SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — As of noon Monday, Ukrainian refugees are prohibited from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico at ports of entry, part of the United 4 Ukraine Program instituted by the White House.
The new policy is meant to cut down on the number of Ukrainian migrants seeking humanitarian visas along the border.
This new program, which took effect Monday, is supposed to streamline applications for Ukrainians coming to the United States offering them two-year humanitarian visas.
But it forces Ukrainian refugees to seek asylum in Mexico City or in Europe and not along the border at ports of entry like San Ysidro.
They must also have friends, family or a non-government agency willing to sponsor them in the U.S. for up to two years and they must be current on their vaccinations and pass background checks.
“We’re telling them they won’t be able to cross under existing rules,” said Olya Krasnykh, a volunteer greeting Ukrainians at the Tijuana airport.
Krasnykh stated they are telling migrants to go to Mexico City.
“It’s a very emotional time,” she said. “A lot of the families are hanging around trying to decide what they are going to do, some broke down and cried.”
Ukrainians are being given the option of staying temporarily in a Tijuana shelter that has housed thousands of migrants over the last three weeks, but now sits almost empty.
It will remain open until May 4 and those who stay there will receive help with transportation back to Mexico City, where another shelter awaits as they file asylum claims in that city.
“They are going to provide us with a hub with a kitchen, bathrooms and showers everything will be there, everything, so we’re really happy, thankful to the Mexican government,” said volunteer Vlad Fedoryshyn.
Last week, about 3,000 Ukrainians deemed by U.S. authorities to be particularly vulnerable were allowed to cross the border into the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
After flying in from Europe, Mexico would issue Ukrainian migrants tourist visas.
The migrants would then travel to border cities, primarily Tijuana, before crossing the border.
But with the new rules, this route will no longer be available to Ukrainians.
The city of Tijuana’s migrant affairs office estimates at least 12,000 Ukrainian migrants have passed through Tijuana on their way to the United States since the war started in Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said the United States is willing to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
“We are proud to deliver on President Biden’s commitment to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russian aggression to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement recently. “The Ukrainian people continue to suffer immense tragedy and loss as a result of Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on their country.”