The number of Ukrainian refugees waiting on the Tijuana side of the U.S.-Mexico border continues to grow. This comes as the Biden Administration pledged to take in as many as 100,000 refugees into the United States.
When FOX 11's crews were there last week, we saw a few hundred. Now, authorities in Tijuana estimate that the current number is close to 1,000 – if not more.
Some of those we spoke to, like Lonny Marquodale and his fiancé, made it safely to San Diego. They checked in with us from Maine with their family members and are in the process of figuring out their next step.
Others, like 17-year-old Lisa, whose mother is still stuck with other refugees in Poland, remain in the custody of U.S. agencies. Lisa is not able to be with other family members in the U.S. since the agencies are only allowing minors to stay with their birth parents. For example, if the child travels with their grandmother – even if they had lived together with their entire lives – they are still separated at the border as officials try to determine that the relative in question have no connection to human trafficking.
Lisa’s sponsor, who has a U.S. passport and a notarized affidavit from her mother, is beside herself. She says she got a call from Lisa, who was on speaker phone with an ICE agent, telling her she would be moved to a holding facility in New York, where they would allow her to call from one of the agency’s phones. FOX 11 was told Lisa was taken away with all her belongings for safety reasons.
"This is what has been happening with asylum-seeking families, for a long time," said Casey Revkin from Each Step Home.
The nonprofit organization specializes in helping immigrant families reunite with their children being held in detention. Revkin fears the situation could get worse before it improves as more refugees gather by the border, hoping to make the cup in the 100,000 people promised to get into the U.S.
The Ukrainian refugees face a system that was already struggling to take in refugees who are coming from Central America; many asking for asylum as they hope to escape the exploding gang violence in countries like El Salvador.
Revkin is helping with Lisa's case and knows the process may require weeks of filing paperwork. On top of that, Lisa will have to await background check results for her and her U.S. family and sponsors.
Molly Surazhsky, Lisa’s sponsor, says her family has had to set up a GoFundMe page for those looking to help.
She never imagined it would be this difficult, Surazhsky says, and would like President Biden to make it easier for refugees to enter the U.S.
Revkin is hoping for the same, especially for the minors trying to escape violence in their countries. Revkin adds she wishes the same prism that Ukrainian refugees are being seen through would be used for some of the other families she is trying to help.
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