(CNN) — A Ukrainian woman and her three children entered the United States on Thursday after being turned away at the US-Mexico border a day earlier, according to the family’s attorney.
On Thursday, the vice president kamala harris vowed to take in more Ukrainian refugees on a trip abroad, but just hours before, the Ukrainian family had been barred from seeking asylum in the US, their lawyer and activists on the ground said.
For nearly two years, the US southern border has been largely closed to asylum seekers due to a public health order invoked by the Donald Trump administration at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since its implementation in March 2020, the use of the public health authority, Title 42, has drawn harsh criticism from allies of President Joe Biden and this week stood in stark contrast to the position European countries have taken on refugees. Ukrainians.
More than 2 million people have fled war-torn Ukraine in recent weeks, with most going to Poland. During a visit to Warsaw on Thursday, Harris pledged support in addressing the massive influx of immigrants from Ukraine and said the United States was willing to welcome more immigrants.
“The United States is absolutely prepared to do what we can and what we must,” Harris said.
But at home, strict border policies that have left thousands of migrants in limbo also barred a Ukrainian family fleeing war.
The Ukrainian woman and her children, ages six, 12 and 14, attempted to apply for asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry in Southern California, but US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials They were denied entry, citing the Trump-era border policy that is still in place, according to Blaine Bookey, who spoke with the officials and represents the family.
The family arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, which is across the street from San Diego, on Monday after fleeing Ukraine in late February, Bookey said.
The family had approached CBP officers on Wednesday, but they did not allow the mother and children to cross into the United States, preventing them from applying for asylum in the United States. “They had to leave because they are fleeing war,” said Bookey, legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “She doesn’t know what’s going on,” Bookey added, referring to her mother.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, cited the situation during a call with reporters as part of his call for the administration to end Title 42.
“This is not, this is not who we are as a country,” Schumer said.
Why have migrants gone to the US through Mexico?
Ukrainians have been trying to cross the US-Mexico border since before the war this year and make up only a small portion of the nationalities arriving at the border. From October 2021 through January, CBP encountered just over 1,000 Ukrainians along the southern US border, according to agency data. Once detained, Ukrainians have been largely processed and allowed to remain in the US while their asylum claims are processed.
“Since at least 2015, we have seen several hundred Ukrainians arrive at the US-Mexico border. That number began to increase in 2021 and has increased even more rapidly in fiscal 2022,” said Jessica Bolter, an analyst policy associate of the Migration Policy Institute.
Ukrainians have generally flown into Mexico, where it is easy to obtain a visa to travel, and then gone to ports of entry along the southern US border rather than attempt to cross illegally, Bolter added.
The San Ysidro port of entry has seen a steady increase in Ukrainian and Russian immigrants for several months, with some choosing to drive to the port to apply for asylum to avoid being turned away before reaching US soil, according to a CBP official.
The United States is providing millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to help people fleeing Ukraine. Harris also announced Thursday nearly $53 million in new humanitarian assistance through the US Agency for International Development.
Most Ukrainian refugees head to other parts of Europe, but refugee advocates have also urged the administration to speed up the refugee resettlement process, which can be long and cumbersome for Ukrainians. The United States previously resettled thousands of Ukrainian refugees, but it is unclear how many will ultimately arrive in the United States as refugees as a result of the current conflict.
The Department of Homeland Security recently extended a form of humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in the US that allows them to stay in the country and provides protection from deportation when their visas expire. The relief, known as Temporary Protected Status, only applies to people already in the United States.