Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have sought asylum in the U.S. over the past year, buying up cheap throwaway cars in Mexico hoping to get asylum at the Southern border – and more are expected as Vladimir Putin’s forces advance in Ukraine.
About 6,400 Russians and 1,000 Ukrainians have been clocked at the southern border by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) between October 2021 and January. That’s a 64 percent jump for Russians and 68 percent increase for Ukrainians from the same period last year.
In fiscal year 2021, from October1, 2020, to September 30, 2021, there were about 4,100 Russians apprehended and 680 Ukrainians, according to CBP data.
Migrants who arrive on foot are often turned back, but those that can get a car are less likely to be caught. Armed with this knowledge, Ukrainians and Russians are snapping up used cars hoping to make it through the border crossing, what former U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott told Reuters was a way to ‘jump the line.’
Most of the migrants from the two countries have been allowed to remain in the U.S. while they pursue their claims.
All of the Russian migrants arrived in the U.S. before the February 24 invasion, but a current and a former border official who both spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity said there could be further increases as the fighting has intensified.
Most of the million-plus refugees have fled the Ukraine since Putin’s ‘special operation’ of tanks, troops and missiles entered the Ukraine. Most have been absorbed by Eastern European neighbors, but these countries will only be able to take so many refugees before they are forced to turn the rest away.
Dmitriy Zubarev, a civil rights lawyer and Russian dissident, described to Reuters how he made it into the US via the southern border with Mexico
The Biden Administration has offered an 18-month temporary deportation protection to the Ukrainian people who have been in the US since March 1
Migrants who arrive on foot are often turned back, but those that can get a car are less likely to be caught
Migrants from the Ukraine and Russia are sharing tips on social media on how to get into the U.S. through Mexico
The Biden administration has offered an 18-month temporary deportation protection to the Ukrainian people who have been in the U.S. since March 1.
Ahead of the invasion, Russians have been in the top three nationalities showing up at a San Diego shelter, according to San Diego Rapid Response Network. Ukrainians moved into the top three position last week, the organization said.
‘Repression is intensifying and the people coming out to protest the war are treated very harshly,’ Dmitriy Zubarev, a civil rights lawyer and Russian dissident, told Reuters.
Zubarev told Reuters he boarded a plane in June 2021 from Moscow to Cancun, Mexico, then flew to Tijuana at the U.S. border where he boarded a minivan with 11 other migrants.
As soon as he crossed over, he said he asked for asylum and was released to pursue his case. Zubarev currently resides in Connecticut.
‘There will be more people trying to use refugee routes to escape the bad situation in the country,’ he said.
A border agent at the San Ysidro border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana pulled over 20 cars last week that were full of Ukrainians and Russian, according to California Democratic Congressman Lou Correa.
‘This problem is not going away,’ Correa said.
In December, CBP said 18 Russian migrants sped toward the San Ysidro port of entry in two cars, according to Reuters.
A CBP officer shot at the vehicles, striking one which collided with the other, according to a December 14 CBP statement.
Two of the migrants suffered minor head injuries, the agency said. At the same time, a third car carrying eight Russian nationals made it into the United States, the statement said.
Russian forces are now attempting to encircle Kyiv and pressing forward in the northeast and southeast
Refugees, mostly women with children, arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on Sunday
Refugees at the border crossing in Poland wrapped in blankets try to keep warm as they try to escape the ongoing conflict in Ukraine
A young woman clutches a doll, after fleeing Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Saturday
Would-be migrants from Ukraine and Russia are swapping tips on social media on how to make the journey to the U.S. Southern border via Mexico to claim asylum.
They describe routes and share names and numbers of contacts who can help them procure cars.
In a recent exchange in one Russian-language Telegram group, viewed by Reuters, a chat member said ‘helpers’ charge at least $1,500 per person to provide a car. Another was trying to find a seat in a car for his Ukrainian mother.
Life inside both Russia and Ukraine have become more difficult since the war broke out.
Russian forces have intensified shelling in the port city of Mariupol, including with the use of airplanes, the mayor said on Saturday night.
‘The city is in a very, very difficult state of siege,’ Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian TV. ‘Relentless shelling of residential blocks is ongoing, airplanes have been dropping bombs on residential areas.’
Boychenko said that thousands of children, women and the elderly came under fire as they arrived in the morning for a possible evacuation through a safe passage corridor. Russia promised to stop the shelling of Mariupol, a port city of 430,000, and Volnovakha, a city in the east, but violated the cease-fire.
The two sides have been locked in a long-range shelling war along Kyiv’s outskirts that has put working class towns such as Bucha and Irpin in the line of fire.
But people fleeing the two towns said their resolve to stay broke down when Russian warplanes started circling overhead and dropping bombs on Friday.
‘Warplanes. They are bombing residential areas – schools, churches, big buildings, everything,’ accountant Natalia Dydenko said after a quick glance back at the destruction she left behind.
The 58-year-old was one of thousands of people walking with their children and whatever belongings they could carry down a road leading toward central Kyiv and away from the front.
Meanwhile, heavy sanctions have devastated Russia’s economy and President Vladimir Putin has arrested thousands of dissenters who have protested the war.
The Russian Embassy in an emailed statement said it was ‘very concerned’ about what it characterized as ‘detention’ of alleged Russian citizens at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, and that it had contacted the U.S. State Department to verify their identities.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.