Tijuana, Mexico – As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, hundreds of Ukrainian refugees continue to pour into the US-Mexico border in hopes of gaining protection in the United States.
The United States exempted Ukrainians from A politic which effectively prevents most asylum seekers from being heard at the border. On March 24, President Joe Biden also announced that his administration would take over up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing from war.
Days later, an influx of Ukrainians arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
For just over a week, an open-air camp across from Tijuana’s “Garita” bus terminal had provided temporary assistance to Ukrainian refugees arriving daily. California volunteers kept the site running, providing people with essentials: food, water, tents, blankets and portable toilets; a doctor was also on site.
They also set up a makeshift registration system, in an effort to make the process as easy as possible: They first wrote down names on a yellow legal pad and assigned each person a number in the order they arrived, before passing the list to an online platform. .
“We have volunteers at the airport who give people a barcode so they can get on the list the moment they get off the plane,” said Inna Levine, one of the lead volunteers.
Numbers were called from the camp in groups of 15 to 20 people. A volunteer then guided the group to Tijuana’s San Ysidro port of entry with the U.S. The volunteers say that, on average, the refugees waited between 45 minutes and two hours at the port of entry until Customs agents and US Border Protection (CBP) allowed them to pass through the gates and enter the country.
With the number of arrivals rising and fears the border crossing could be closed amid the influx, Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero opened the Benito Juárez sports complex on April 2 to house people. “This action is a preventive measure to prevent people from congregating near the San Ysidro Port of Entry,” said Caballero, while reported by the local media.
Local media Uniradio Informs reported Wednesday that the refugees had left the camp from the bus terminal, and many of the 2,300 Ukrainians remaining in Tijuana moved into the sports complex.