SAN DIEGO — A 14-year-old Ukrainian refugee trying to cross into the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry was separated by his family at entry.
Ivan Yerashov was taken out of Ukraine by his aunt Iryna Merezhko after his parents decided to stay in Ukraine to fight in the war.
Iryna, who lives with her husband Vadym Merezhko in the Los Angeles area, says they haven’t spoken or seen Yerashov since Customs and Border Protection officials took him into custody on Saturday.
“Our nephew Ivan was taken to detention center because he arrived, not with parents, but with his aunt,” Vadym said.
Yerashov was taken into custody as an unaccompanied minor, which CBP says is “required by law.”
“CBP is required by law to transfer minors who are not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to HHS (Health and Human Services),” border officials stated.
According to Vadym, his aunt had notarized documents showing his relationship to her nephew but was still taken into custody.
“We were told it would take about two days and he finally was taken to the detention center to find out the average wait is now 36 days,” Vadym said.
FOX 5 reached out to CBP in regard to when Ivan would be reunited with his aunt and uncle — they responded in an email stating: “Due to privacy concerns, we are unable to comment on specific individual cases.”
Thousands of Ukrainian refugees have crossed into the U.S. through Tijuana. Mexican immigration officials estimate around 3,000 Ukrainian refugees are currently waiting in Tijuana to be processed under humanitarian status.
Vadym says he will be sending a petition letter to the White House, congress and local officials to help speed up the process for refugees like his nephew.
“We would like to shorten this process to make it easier for people who are escaping the war,” Vadym said.