TIJUANA (Border Report) — While the expected wave of Venezuelan migrants in Tijuana has not materialized, an unexpected group from another part of the world is back in the fold in this city just south of San Diego: Ukrainians.
Back in April, thousands of Ukrainian migrants arrived in Tijuana and crossed the border into the U.S. after being granted humanitarian parole.
But as more and more kept coming, the White House announced a plan forcing them to seek asylum back in Europe or Mexico City.
Eventually, Ukrainians stopped coming, but as of last week, they began congregating in this border city once again.
They have been gathering at the Benito Juárez Sports Complex where volunteers are setting up bus transportation to the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Dozens have been successful in getting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers to let them into the U.S.
“I had to get my family out of Ukraine, it was getting way too dangerous,” said Alina, a U.S. citizen who came to Tijuana to help her sister, nieces and nephews get across the border.
Alina stated her sister tried the government-sponsored program for Ukrainians but it didn’t work.
“My sister got approved, but her kids didn’t, it didn’t make any sense and they tried it three times and kids were denied every time,” she said.
Alina said an immigration attorney suggested they go to Tijuana and try their luck at the border crossing.
“He said, ‘talk to the guys there.’ We actually found the chief of CBP and he took care of our case,” she said.
CBP would not say how many Ukrainian nationals have been allowed into the U.S. in recent weeks through the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
But a spokesperson said officers, at their discretion, can allow certain people to cross the border into the United States and that Title 42 is not being applied to Ukrainians.
Title 42 is an order that mandates migrants be expelled almost immediately after entering the country as a way to protect U.S. residents from COVID-19.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may, on a case-by-case basis, provide exceptions to Title 42 for particularly vulnerable individuals regardless of national origin,” said CBP Public Affairs Specialist Gerrelaine Alcordo.
A source who works with migrants in Tijuana told Border Report the policy of allowing Ukrainians to cross the border through the San Ysidro Port of Entry is likely to create another “flood of Ukrainian migrants in Tijuana.”
We were also told a church group from California, which worked with Ukrainian migrants in the past, has asked to use the Benito Juárez Sports Complex as a way to “process more Ukrainians and possibly Russians.”
This request has yet to be granted as Tijuana officials contemplate the possible ramifications.
Alina, whose sister and relatives were able to cross the border, said Tijuana had been great to her and her family.
“We are thankful to Tijuana and Mexico for allowing us to come through.”