TIJUANA (Border Report) — An estimated two million Ukrainians have reportedly fled their country in recent weeks to get away from Russian forces who invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Many have gone to neighboring countries such as Moldova and Poland, but some are ending up in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
“When the bombs started, we just get information that the United States was going to help refugees, so my friend in Los Angeles buy ticket to get me here,” said Artum, a recent arrival in Tijuana from Ukraine.
Border Report met Artum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry as he waited with other Ukrainians.
“No way back home, no more back home, you know,” Artum said.
He said he arrived in Tijuana over the weekend and immediately went to the border where recently, it’s been easy to spot Ukrainians waiting for permission to cross.
They sit for long hours, leaning on a fence as small children run around on a wide concrete sidewalk on the Mexican side of the crossing.
Most have been surviving on burritos and sandwiches handed out by the city of Tijuana.
According to Artum, he’s heard some fellow Ukrainians are staying up to a week for a chance to cross the border.
“We don’t sleep day or night, don’t have enough money for housing. I have only one change of clothing. Want to get across the border and get help from my friend,” Artum said.
The State Department is advising migrants to seek temporary visas to enter the U.S. and is making them available at U.S. consulates around the world, including the one in Tijuana.
No official numbers for February or March have been released by Customs and Border Protection so it’s hard to track how many Ukrainians have crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico since the war began.
“Please, let us have a chance,” Artum said.
While the U.S. is welcoming Ukrainians, they still have to establish that they have a concrete fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political affiliations and other factors.
Those who cross the border without visas must face deportation proceedings and make a case for asylum during court hearings.