Number of Ukrainians at US-Mexico border seeking US asylum grows

Ukrainians seeking for asylum in the United States camp inside a bus station on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on April 2, 2022. - Hundreds of asylum seekers from Ukraine fleeing the Russian invasion are camping near the pedestrian border crossing as they wait to be allowed into US to start their refugee process. (Photo by Guillermo ARIAS / AFP) (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Hundreds of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country have arrived at the Mexican border city of Tijuana to seek US asylum and more are expected, a Tijuana city official and a volunteer told CNN on Saturday.

Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs for the city of Tijuana, said there were around 1,500 Ukrainians in the city currently and he expected the number to increase to 2,000 by the day’s end.

“We had a surprising influx in the past four days, mainly because after the conflict we started seeing arrivals as of March 11, and those were arrivals of 30 people, not the large amounts we are seeing today.”

Lucero said he expects all the migrants to enter the United States, but said American authorities have been slow to process them. The city was working to convert a sports facility into a temporary shelter to house all the incoming arrivals, Lucero told CNN.

Inna Levien, an Orange County, California resident who belongs to a group that is spearheading a volunteer effort to assist Ukrainians gathered near the border, told CNN that the number of Ukrainians has quadrupled in the past three days.

Once the migrants arrive at the border, Levien’s group puts them on a list and assigns them a number, that way they don’t have to wait in line the entire time for entry. She said the wait to get across can take more than 24 hours.

The city of Tijuana has been instrumental in providing relief, Levien said. A bus stop was recently converted by the city into a temporary shelter while a network of churches has sprung to help house families as they wait for their turn to be processed, Levien added.

CNN has reached out to the State Department and US Customs and Border Protection but did not receive a response Saturday.

The Department of Homeland Security is allowing Ukrainians, on a case-by-case basis, to be exempted from Trump-era pandemic restrictions on the US-Mexico border.

Those restrictions will end on May 23, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. The US will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others fleeing Russia’s aggression, the Biden administration announced last month.

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