More than 30 would-be Russian asylum seekers were stopped from entering the United States while a group of Ukrainians showed their passports before being escorted across the border.
Around three dozen would-be asylum seekers coming from Russia were blocked from entering the U.S. on Friday while a group of Ukrainians flashed passports and were escorted across the border.
The scene reflected a quiet but unmistakable shift in the differing treatment of Russians and Ukrainians who enter Mexico as tourists and fly to Tijuana, hoping to enter the United States for a chance at asylum.
As of Friday, 34 Russians had been camped for several days at the busiest U.S border crossing with Mexico, two days after officials from the city of Tijuana urged them to leave.
Several days earlier, some Russians were being allowed into the United States at the San Ysidro crossing, while some Ukrainians were being stopped. However, by Friday, Russians were being denied while Ukrainians were admitted across after some short waits.
Irina Zolinka, a 40-year-old Russian woman who camped overnight with her family of seven after arriving in Tijuana said, "It's very hard to understand how they make decisions."
Erika Pinheiro, litigation and police director for advocacy group Al Otro Lado, said the United States began admitting all Ukrainians on humanitarian parole for one year around Tuesday, while at the same time blocking all Russians. No official announcement was made.
A Homeland Security Department memo dated March 11 but not publicly released until Thursday told border officials that Ukrainians may be exempt from sweeping asylum limits designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It stated that decisions are to be made on a case-by-case basis for Ukrainians, however, it made no mention of Russians.
The memo states, "The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that the unjustified Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis."
Homeland Security indicated in a statement on Friday that anyone deemed "particularly vulnerable" may be admitted for humanitarian reasons on a case-by-case review, regardless of nationality.
Russian migrants in Tijuana sat off to the side of a line of hundreds of border residents waiting to walk across the border to San Diego on Friday.
A 32-year-old Russian migrant who had arrived with his wife in Tijuana about five days earlier said that he had no plans to leave, worried that they may miss any sudden opportunity to cross.
After arriving, the Russian migrant, who would only identify himself as Mark over fears for reprisals against his family in Russia, saw three Russian migrants admitted to the United States within a few hours of arriving. Six hours later, US authorities returned his passport and told him that only Ukrainians were being admitted.
Mark said to reporters, "Ukrainians and Russians are suffering because of one man", referring to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mark explained how him and his wife had fled Russia shortly after the invasion of Ukraine.
For migrants to claim asylum in the US, they must be on US soil, it is being reported that officials are blocking passage except for those it wants to admit.
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