SAN DIEGO – The United States will no longer accept Ukrainian refugees into the country through Mexico.
Starting Monday, “Uniting for Ukraine,” a new program launched by the Biden Administration, will allow Ukrainians to get their visa in Europe and fly directly into the United States.
Thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war have traveled through an informal route via Mexico to get into the United States. The majority of Ukrainians made their way to Tijuana, but there was a smaller number who traveled to Matamoros.
“An officer came up to us and told us that they could no longer allow Ukrainians to pass through here that they have orders to close this particular section of the border,” said Nadiia Pyshnova who tried to cross into the U.S through the Brownsville Port of Entry with her daughter in law and grandson.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Ukrainians who arrive at the port of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to the United States will be denied entry and referred to apply to this program, following Monday’s launch.
Pyshnova says she did not receive an explanation from the Customs and Border Protection officer on why she wasn’t allowed into the United States with her family before the program launched.
“My question is: why on the 22nd, two days earlier, why?” asked Pyshnova.
The program, which is set to make it easier for Ukrainians to come into the U.S. will now leave several Ukrainians who are currently in Mexico in limbo.
“If we could request anything from the federal government it’s just more clarity and maybe more time but that is probably not an option at this point,” said Zhenya Shvartsman, a volunteer from Colorado.
Volunteers from all over San Diego County and the country have made the San Ysidro Port of Entry a welcome hub for Ukrainians coming across– offering them food, transportation and any other resources to help them get to their final destination.
“We don’t know what is going to happen, there is still a lot of Ukrainians that are coming to Mexico because they have tickets to Mexico and we are very concerned about what is going to be happening with them,” said Shvartsman.
Ukrainians who do not make it into the port of entry before the cut-off will have to seek asylum in Mexico City or Europe.