Ukrainian refugees find a path into the U.S. via the Mexican border

Russians fleeing sanctions and Putin's regime have also been flocking to the U.S. southern border.

Updated: March 25, 2022 - 12:28pm

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Thousands of Ukrainians and Russians who have fled the war and sanctions in their home countries are increasingly entering the United States via the southern border, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Many such migrants have chosen to use Mexico as a transit point because they do not need a visa to fly directly to Mexico, unlike the United States, and once they make it across the border onto U.S. soil, they can request asylum and begin the legal process. 

In January and February, about 30,000 Ukrainians and Russians arrived in Mexico, compared with an entire year average of about 12,400 over the last five years, according to Mexican immigration data. Thousands more migrants from both Ukraine and Russia are expected in the coming months.

The U.S.-Mexican border is technically closed to asylum seekers due to a public-health rule designed, in theory, to curb the spread of COVID-19, but immigration officers at the border have been told that because of the war, they may offer exemptions to refugees from Ukraine.

In a memo outlining the issue, the Department of Homeland Security wrote that it "recognizes that the unjustified Russian war of aggression has created a humanitarian crisis." For the majority of arriving Ukrainians, this means they will be allowed to stay in the country for at least one year under a measure called "humanitarian parole." During that time, they will not be required to apply for asylum.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. plans to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. It is unclear when individuals who fall into that official category will begin to arrive.