The count — up from less than 1,150 the month before — marks the first official records of Ukrainians seeking refuge in ports and borders since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. They are part of a larger group of more than 220,000 detentions on the southwestern border in March, the highest monthly total since 2000.
Many, if not most, Ukrainians have been released into the United States on humanitarian parole, which allows people to stay on temporary leave, and they continued to arrive this month, although updated numbers were not available. The Biden administration responded to the influx on Monday by announcing it would extend Ukrainians’ eligibility for “temporary protected status”, allowing them to stay here for 18 months and apply for work permits, if they arrive before April 11.
There are new migrants at the US-Mexico border: Ukrainian refugees
Previously, Ukrainians could apply for protection if they were here before March 1, but that would have left out thousands of people who have crossed over in recent weeks. Federal officials estimate that 59,600 Ukrainians could apply, lower than earlier forecasts.
“This ongoing armed conflict poses a serious threat to the security of nationals returning to Ukraine,” officials said in a statement to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday. “Extraordinary and temporary circumstances, including destroyed infrastructure, scarce resources and lack of access to health care, prevent Ukrainian nationals from returning safely to their home countries.”
The United Nations says 4.9 million people have fled Ukraine, most of them to neighboring countries, marking the “fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II”.
President Biden — who has labeled the Russian atrocities in Ukraine a “genocide” — has promised to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, but the White House has not yet offered them a direct path to the country. So thousands are finding out for themselves after questioning friends and relatives and watching videos of lawyers offering advice on social media. Some come with tourist visas; others catch flights to Mexico, wave their passports at border controls and beg to be let in.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this month the administration is on an “accelerated process” to admit war refugees and expects to reveal details soon. US officials have said refugees fleeing the war are likely to arrive by various means, including through the US’s conventional refugee program, which offers permanent residence, but can take months or years to arrive. complete, and the faster route of humanitarian parole.
Michael Levitis, 45, a Moscow-born radio host in New York whose father is from Ukraine, said people are rushing to the border because the Biden administration has not specified how to enter the United States and it is one of the faster ways become boarding.
“The biggest reason is just confusion,” Levitis said in an interview. “There are no clear instructions for displaced Ukrainian people on how to arrive in the US. So out of desperation they go to Mexico because Mexico allows people with Ukrainian passports to get there.”
The number of Ukrainians admitted through the conventional refugee program has fallen from 427 in February to 12 in March.
In February, only 272 Ukrainians came to the southwestern border seeking entry, but last month that number peaked to more than 3,200, the majority of Ukrainians admitted last month.
In the first six months of this fiscal year, which began in October, the CBP met more than 10,600 Ukrainians at the country’s air, land and sea ports, compared to more than 9,300 in the entire fiscal year 2021.
The CBP’s monthly report includes statistics on migrants attempting to cross between legal entry gates, and migrants who show up at legal entry gates and request permission to enter the country.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups have urged the Biden administration to speed up admission of Ukrainians and give them clearer direction. Levitis said his family arrived in 1988 under a special program for Soviet Jews, and he wrote to Biden in March urging him to draw up similar guidelines for war refugees.
The White House had no updates on its plan to host refugees on Friday, but Biden recalled Ukraine in his Passover message, saying: “We hold in our hearts the people of Ukraine and those around the world whose heroic stance against tyranny inspires us all. †
The Ukrainians are part of a much wider influx of migrants arriving at the southwestern border: CBP detained 221,303 people at the southwestern border last month, far more than once, up 33 percent from more than 165,894 in February. , the agency said. More migrants are expected after May 23, when US officials will end a pandemic health measure known as Title 42 that has led to the mass expulsion of most migrants over the past two years.
Now officials say they are preparing to process asylum applications and deport those who have no legal basis to stay, but they are bracing for a “historic frontier wave,” an immigration official told a federal judge in a court hearing this week. month submitted.
The number of arrests along the southern border exceeded 1.73 million in fiscal 2021, a record expected to be surpassed this year.
Among the groups that drove the higher numbers in March were people from Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua and Colombia. In general, singles remained the largest group stopped at the border, but the number of families and unaccompanied minors also increased.
About half of all migrants taken into custody last month were deported under the Title 42 warrant, although that varied by citizenship, with the majority of Ukrainians entering the United States and the majority of Mexicans being expelled, data from the Dutch DPA.
Republicans and some Democrats are urging Biden to uphold the eviction policy, with Congressional midterm elections threatening to disrupt Democrats’ hold on the House and Senate.
Attorneys general from 21 states have filed a federal lawsuit in Louisiana to prevent the government from terminating Title 42, calling the dissolution “an impending man-made, self-inflicted disaster” that would “eliminate the only safety valve that could prevent the disastrous disaster of this government.” border policy turns into outright chaos and catastrophe.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken were set to travel this week to Panama, a country that is increasingly serving as a bridge for migrants heading from South America to Mexico and the United States, to talk about the managing migration and addressing the “root causes” of hunger, poverty and social instability that drive people north.
Proponents have put pressure on government officials to help immigrants, both the newcomers and the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years.
Mayorkas responded Friday to those demands by granting an estimated 11,700 immigrants from Cameroon temporary protection from deportation for 18 months over ongoing armed conflict between the government and separatist groups, as well as a “significant increase” in violent attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram. To be eligible, immigrants must have already lived in the United States on April 14, pay an application fee, and pass background checks.
The designation adds Cameroon for the first time to a growing list of countries — including Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine — that the Department of Homeland Security has considered for temporary protected status.
Nick Miroff contributed to this report.