Ukrainians arrive at the Texas-Mexico border and apply for asylum

EL PASO – Ukrainians flee invasion of their homeland by Russian forces and the subsequent atrocities has begun Crossing the US-Mexico border and arriving in border towns across Texas to seek asylum, refugee organizations tell The Post.

A group of six refugees arrived in El Paso after traveling from Ukraine to the Netherlands before flying to Mexico.

The group included Tatiana Soloshchuk, her husband, their three sons, another mother and their little daughter. The Soloshchuks were en route to Kentucky while the other mother and child were en route to Denver.

“They spent four days in Mexico,” said Soloshchuk’s friend, who translated her answers to the Post’s questions over the phone and declined to give her name. “They came through Mexico because it’s the quickest way to get to the United States.”

As in European Union countries, Ukrainians do not need a visa to travel to Mexico. When Tatiana’s group arrived in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, they showed up at the Paso Del Norte International Port of Entry and queued to submit their asylum application. They waited 20 hours outside in the cold desert night until they were seen by a Customs and Border Protection officer, who granted them parole on humanitarian grounds.

“They are sad and heartbroken,” the friend said. “They were afraid for their sons. The younger one has asthma. It got bad when they hid from the bombing in the basement.”

Ukrainian family Tatiana Soloshchuk, her husband Taras and their three sons after crossing the Paso del Norte International Bridge to the United States on April 7, 2022.
James Keivom for the New York Post
Taras Soloshchuk with his son Zkhar and another Ukrainian woman and her daughter.
Taras Soloshchuk with his son Zkhar and another Ukrainian woman and her daughter.
James Keivom for the New York Post
The Soloshchuk will relocate to Kentucky after receiving support from friends in the US.
The Soloshchuks will relocate to Kentucky after receiving support from friends in the US.
James Keivom for the New York Post

After friends in Kentucky offered to pay for their trip and help them settle in the United States, the Soloshchuks decided to leave, leaving other family members and loved ones behind.

“Many (Ukrainian) families would like to come to the United States, but not all can make the trip,” Tatiana’s friend said. “It’s only because of their friends in Kentucky that they can afford this trip.”

The Soloschucks don’t know whether they will stay in the USA or return to Ukraine the day after the end of the war.

Ukrainian troops walk amidst destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, Ukraine, near Kyiv on April 3, 2022.
AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, file

“Right now, they want their sons to be able to go back to school,” her friend said. “Education, freedom, security, that’s important now.”

The Soloschucks and their translator friend only had five minutes to chat before a car arrived. Her friends from Kentucky had arranged for the family to be picked up from the International Bridge in El Paso and taken to the airport for the final leg of their trip.

Proclamation House director Ruben Garcia, who runs El Paso’s largest immigration shelter, told the Post his staff sees between two and eight Ukrainians a day.

A Ukrainian mother and daughter wait to cross the border into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, April 5, 2022.
A Ukrainian mother and daughter wait to cross the border into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, April 5, 2022.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Tents of Ukrainian refugees in Tijuana on April 5, 2022.
Tents of Ukrainian refugees in Tijuana on April 5, 2022.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

“We only see a trickle and they don’t stay at the shelter for long,” Garcia said.

600 miles away, in Laredo, the Catholic Charities chapter of the local diocese has taken in at least 10 Ukrainians into its shelter. Executive Director Rebecca Solloa said those who come to her facility are from the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, about a three-hour drive south of the border.

“You will drive [in] by taxi all the way to the bridge, and they’ll say, ‘We’re asking for asylum,'” she said. “[Customs agents] will get her out of the car and move forward.”

Ukrainian refugees wait to enter the United States at the Mexicali-Calexico West pedestrian crossing in Mexicali, April 5, 2022.
Ukrainian refugees wait to enter the United States at the Mexicali-Calexico West pedestrian crossing in Mexicali, April 5, 2022.
REUTERS/ Viktor Medina
A number of Ukrainians gathered in Mexicali before seeking asylum in the United States.
A number of Ukrainians gathered in Mexicali before seeking asylum in the United States.
REUTERS/ Viktor Medina

The number of shelters is unofficial and the actual number of border crossings is likely higher as many Ukrainian asylum seekers bypass migrant shelters entirely upon arrival.

The Biden administration announced this last month Welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees expelled by the war.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to The Post’s requests for information on the number of Ukrainian refugees. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that more than 10,000 Ukrainians visited Mexico as tourists in the first two months of this year, and officials believe most of that number will eventually travel to the United States.

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