SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — When Russia invaded Ukraine 13 months ago, refugees started streaming out of the country to neighboring nations and as far as the United States.
In the weeks following the invasion, hundreds of Ukrainians were being allowed to enter the U.S. through PedWest, one of two pedestrian crossings between San Diego and Tijuana as the U.S. handed out Humanitarian Parole visas to the refugees.
By April 25, close to 18,000 Ukrainian migrants had taken this route. In all, about 25,000 Ukrainians made their way into the U.S. last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Their visas were set to expire in the coming weeks, but the U.S. federal government decided to extend them for another 12 months.
“A lot of people were thinking they’re not going to get this extension,” said Vlad Fedoryshyn, a volunteer who has helped many migrants make their way from Tijuana into San Diego. “People are now happy, but people were thinking maybe the U.S. was going to issue them green cards.”
While most have not gotten green cards, or permanent residency, many have begun settling in and starting their new lives throughout the U.S.
“I know some of them, they have bought a house, there’s people who started their lives, already know a couple of people who set up a business in the United States so I would say their lives are settled here in America.”
According to Fedoryshyn, about 20% of the Ukrainian migrants have returned home or have expressed a desire to do so even though the war continues.
“Russia, they won’t stop, I believe Ukraine will win this war, but Russia won’t stop, they will still bomb our cities,” said Fedoryshyn.
And as the war wears on, Fedoryshyn predicts more Ukrainians will come to the U.S. seeking refuge.
Unlike last year, migrants from Ukraine must enroll in the Uniting for Ukraine program in Europe or Mexico City.