The San Diego area sees an increase in the number of Ukrainian refugees crossing the US-Mexico border

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Thousands of Ukrainians fly to Mexico and then cross into the United States near San Diego.

For about a month now, volunteers have been running a temporary camp to greet the refugees as they pass through the San Ysidro Port of Entry from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States.

Volunteers greet them with applause and cheers and come in one after the other, each with a similar story: several days of travel, an exhausting journey and worry about the future.

Alona Bastys welcomed her sister Iryna this week.

Iryna spent several days on a plane and in a processing center in Mexico.

“There are no words to describe how we feel,” Bastys said.

Elena Fetisova greeted her teenage sister in Tijuana on day five of the trip from Ukraine.

“My sister is 15 and she comes directly from Ukraine,” Fetisova said.

Elena Fetisova, 34, greeted her sister, 15, in Tijuana, Mexico, after her sister fled Ukraine and flew west to reach the United States. (Elena Fetisova)
(Fox News)

And 22-year-old Nataliya Povod was on a study trip abroad in the Czech Republic when the war started. Her program ended this month.

“In April, I had to go home. But I understood that there is no way home,” Povod said.

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Since the war began, 4.6 million people have fled Ukrainemany to neighboring European countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR).

“I talked to this lady. She’s 62 years old. She had her own hair salon and she just did not want to leave. She’s like, this is my home,” said Alina Gordon, founder of the Church of Music San Diego and volunteer at the border. “The night before she decided to leave, they threw a phosphorus bomb outside her apartment.”

Churches, nonprofits and other organizations help people on both sides of the border, providing food, water, hot drinks, blankets and even books and toys to children.

They also offer transportation, temporary housing and free legal services.

Alina Gordon says she immigrated to the United States from Ukraine with her parents in 1994.

“They left everything behind. But the difference back then compared to what’s happening now is that we had a year to prepare for immigration,” Gordon said. “Most of the families I meet right now traveled 99.9% overnight. And they have a backpack with them. And most of their belongings are still back in Ukraine.”

Volunteers set up a temporary camp along the southwestern border in Tijuana, Mexico, for Ukrainian refugees trying to cross into the United States (Alona Bastys)

Volunteers set up a temporary camp along the southwestern border in Tijuana, Mexico, for Ukrainian refugees trying to cross into the United States (Alona Bastys)
(Fox News)

Immigration lawyers say strict visa requirements, missing documents and pandemic restrictions have made it difficult for Ukrainians to legally enter the United States

Crossing through Mexico and then applying for asylum at the border is faster.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you want to enter the United States, you have to have some kind of documentation to get in. We usually have that in our passports,” said Alejandro San Miguel, an immigration lawyer in McAllen, Texas. , located on the southwestern border. “People who do not have it can always present themselves at a port of entry … and they can apply for asylum.”

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Asylum applications in the United States can take years to be resolved, but for many, just getting to American soil is a victory.

“I feel like I’m in the right place right now,” Povod said. “And I felt that when you just cross the border and go out, a lot of people just help … So it feels like you came home.”

For Elena Fetisova, she tries daily to keep in touch with her family in Ukraine.

“Every day I call them (and say) ‘Hey, are you alive there?’

Fetisova, 34, moved to the United States when she was 19 years old. Her sister, who arrived on Monday, is only 15 years old.

“It was very difficult for her at all to fly here through Mexico City. They just put her in the room. They did not tell her anything until her passport and her phone from her and that poor kid sit there for such an hour and she knows not what she should do. So it was very scary, “Fetisova said.

Volunteers say they have seen the number of Ukrainians crossing go from a few dozen in mid-March to thousands, many of them women and children.

“We went from treating about 100 to 150 refugees a day to now treating about 50 in two hours,” Gordon said.

Customs and Border Protection updates its website each month with the previous month’s data on illegal crossings and shocks.

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March figures have not been released on April 13, and a CBP spokesman declined to give them directly to Fox News before going online.

CBS News reports that nearly 10,000 Ukrainians without proper documentation have crossed between February 1 and April 6, but CBP would not confirm these figures to Fox News. They also report 41,000 “legal entries” of Ukrainians entering the United States with proper documents such as visas and passports.

President Biden has said the United States will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country, but the administration has not given further details.

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