TIJUANA (Border Report) — According to Tijuana officials, the migration of Ukrainian and Russian nationals into this border city has intensified since last week.
Officials said many are going to shelters, but only to seek information about crossing into the U.S. to ask for asylum.
“There’s a lot of confusion since President Biden declared all Ukrainians are welcome in the U.S. but there’s no system in place to receive them,” said Patrick Murphy, director of the migrant house in Tijuana. “But it’s going to be easier for them, and I’m sorry to say this, but since they are fair-skinned, they are going to get preferential treatment.”
Murphy’s sentiments were echoed by Ricardo, a migrant from Mexico who has been waiting for days at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to cross the border.
“I’m seeing Ukrainian families with children being allowed in, but if we go up to officers it’s ‘No, no, no,'” he said. “In Mexico, there’s also a war going on started by cartels on Mexican residents.”
Meanwhile, the city of Tijuana is doing all it can to help newly-arrived migrants, especially those from Ukraine.
“We are offering them shelters and other services, but they don’t seem interested and most have declined,” said Enrique Lucero, head of Tijuana’s Migrant Affairs office. “It all depends on the United States to see how it proceeds with Ukrainian immigrants.”
Tijuana city officials have said they are worried that if Ukrainians get fast-tracked into the U.S., it’s going to create another wave of migrants arriving in their city.
For now, as they arrive in town, Ukrainian migrants are ending up at the pedestrian crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry where more and more Ukrainians are camping out, waiting to cross the border.
If you stand there long enough, you will see CBP officers allowing Ukrainian families into the inspection on the U.S. side of the crossing.
The State Department has said consulates in cities like Tijuana can offer temporary humanitarian visas to Ukrainian refugees, something that is not being done for migrants from Latin America.
“They say it’s because of COVID that we can’t cross, but they’re letting them in,” Ricardo said.
Border Report contacted the Department of Homeland Security for information on the perceived difference in how Ukrainian migrants are being treated. A spokesperson sent the following statement:
“The CDC’s Title 42 public health order remains in place with respect to single adults and family units, and the Department of Homeland Security continues to operate in accordance with that Order. Consistent with the CDC Order, DHS is continuing to accept particularly vulnerable individuals from Title 42 on a case by case basis,” it said.
Earlier this week, immigration advocates brought up the discrepancies in the ability of Ukrainians to cross the border into the U.S. when compared to migrants from other parts of the world.
“The news cycle is dominated by news coming out of Europe, and specifically Ukraine, and we all know what is going on there and have seen the images of children, men and women being forcefully displaced and seeking protection in neighboring countries,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. “However, as much as we support every action taken to protect the people of Ukraine, we cannot help but see a contrast between the way we are treating war-displaced people in Europe to the way we are treating those who are fleeing to our southern border.”
Chacón heads a Chicago-based nonprofit that represents migrants who come to the United States.
“It is more important than ever to have policies that welcome and protect asylum seekers and migrants, and a key part of that is ending immigration detention,” he said.