There has been an exponential jump in the number of Russians and Ukrainians apprehended at the Mexico border by United States Customs and Border Protection since last winter when tensions between Russia and Ukraine started growing, according to recent reports.
CBP numbers show that just in the last six months, 1,300 Ukrainians met immigration officials at the U.S.-Mexico border, up from less than 700 for all of 2021. Over 7,000 Russians also have arrived, approximately doubling last year’s figure.
They make up a small proportion of the total migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico, however, the difference is unlike most Central and South American migrants, as most are being allowed to stay in the U.S., and in many cases, arranging to meet relatives already here.
The Department of Homeland Security has been enforcing a public health-related restriction on asylum seekers called Title 42, which it has been using since 2020 to immediately expel 1.7 million would-be immigrants without considering their asylum claims. This use of the Title 42 restriction was implemented during the Covid pandemic by the Trump administration, and the Biden administration has continued its use.
A DHS memo released March 11 authorized CBP agents to consider exempting from expulsion asylum-seekers with Ukrainian passports. Exemptions are to be made on a case-by-case basis.
Russians who have fled Russia are not addressed in the memo.
Many Russians have left Russia as the invasion of Ukraine ramped up, fearing political persecution or conscription to go fight in Ukraine.
A common strategy for both Russians and Ukrainians is to enter Mexico as a tourist, without paperwork in order and then apply for asylum status upon entering the U.S. It is easier to get a tourist visa for Mexico than for the U.S.
From Mexico, breaking into the U.S. allows Russians and Ukrainians to seek asylum once they are on U.S. soil. But now there are reports of Ukrainians approaching border crossings and being escorted into the U.S. by CBP after showing their passports.
According to reporting by Fox News, there were Russian asylum-seekers that were being turned away under Title 42 rules while Ukrainians were ushered into the U.S.
The Biden administration announced this week that the U.S. would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees “through the full range of legal pathways,” but it’s unclear if this includes the Ukrainians who chose to attempt entry through the Mexico border.