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Russian refugees secretly allowed into the US

Russian refugees secretly allowed into the US


A group of 35 Russians was secretly ushered into the US last week after waiting for days to cross the southwestern border while Ukrainian citizens were welcomed in, according to a new report. 

The asylum-seekers had been camped out near the border crossing between Tijuana and San Ysidro, Calif., with Mexican officials growing impatient for them to move, VICE World News reported Monday.

According to the outlet, Thomas E. Reott – the US consul in Tijuana – met with members of the Russian encampment earlier this month with Mexican officials present and relayed that the asylum-seekers could cross the border within three to four days if they vacated the camp.

The Russian refugees — many of them active opponents of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — reportedly refused to leave, saying three to four days was too long to wait. Eventually, on March 19, officials from the Mexican state of Baja California informed the group they would be allowed to cross at 5 a.m. the next morning.

According to Vice, the Russians were taken by Mexican immigration officials to a checkpoint in the US that is closed to the general public and mostly used to process deportees returning to Mexico.

After crossing the border, the group was processed by Customs and Border Protection officials and were held in custody for two days. By March 22, families in the Russian group were released into the San Diego region and were given notices to appear before immigration judges within the coming months. Single adults were transferred to immigration detention centers. 

Russian citizens seeking for asylum in the US sleep at an improvised camp on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port on March 17, 2022.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images
The Russian refugees -- many of them active opponents of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine -- reportedly refused to leave, saying three to four days was too long to wait.
The Russian refugees — many of them active opponents of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — reportedly refused to leave, saying three to four days was too long to wait.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images
the Department of Homeland Security moved to make it easier for Ukrainians to enter America from Mexico, allowing officials to bypass the Title 42 health protocol when processing them at the border.
The Department of Homeland Security moved to make it easier for Ukrainians to enter America from Mexico, allowing officials to bypass the Title 42 health protocol when processing them at the border.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have traveled to Mexico since the beginning of this year with the ultimate goal of reaching the US.

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security moved to make it easier for Ukrainians to enter America from Mexico, allowing officials to bypass the Title 42 health protocol when processing them at the border. 

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued guidance reminding authorities that Ukrainian nationals “and everyone else” making so-called “credible fear” claims at the US-Mexico frontier are exempt from Title 42, which allows officials to expedite migrant expulsions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Customs and Border Protection agent asks for documents to a Ukrainian family seeking for asylum before letting them in at the San Ysidro Crossing.
A Customs and Border Protection agent asks for documents to a Ukrainian family seeking for asylum before letting them in at the San Ysidro Crossing.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images
 Anastasiia Apenkina (left) an asylum seeker from Ukraine waits with other asylum seeker from her country for US border authorities to allow them in on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana.
Anastasiia Apenkina (left) an asylum seeker from Ukraine waits with other asylum seeker from her country for US border authorities to allow them in on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

“We address an individual’s claim for humanitarian relief as they are presented to us,” Mayorkas said at the time. “We have a number of efforts already underway … to provide humanitarian relief for individuals fleeing a war-torn Ukraine. We are looking at other programs that we can implement to expand the avenues of humanitarian relief.”

Before DHS issued the guidance for Ukrainian refugees, reports had emerged that border officials were denying entry to both Ukrainians and Russians through Title 42. 

“It’s like Russian roulette. It’s completely unpredictable,” Irina, a math teacher from Moscow, told VICE. “You don’t know the steps along the way. You approach the border without knowing what is going to happen. You reach the border, but you don’t know if the immigration officer will let you through. Then, when you cross, you are detained, but you don’t know for how long or why.” 

The State Department did not address last week’s agreement when pressed by the outlet, but said the US and Mexico “cooperate closely on a wide range of issues, including migration.”
The State Department did not address last week’s agreement when pressed by the outlet, but said the US and Mexico “cooperate closely on a wide range of issues, including migration.”
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images
A group of people from Ukraine walks into the US at the San Ysidro Crossing port on March 12, 2022.
A group of people from Ukraine walks into the US at the San Ysidro Crossing port on March 12, 2022.
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Image

A DHS spokesperson told VICE that while the department continues to use Title 42 across the border, there are “exceptions to particularly vulnerable individuals of all nationalities for humanitarian reasons on a case-by-case basis.” While the Department has indicated Ukrainians are among those, it is not clear if the guidance extends to Russians as well. 

The State Department did not address last week’s agreement when pressed by the outlet, but said the US and Mexico “cooperate closely on a wide range of issues, including migration.”



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