TIJUANA, Mexico — About three dozen would-be asylum seekers from Russia found themselves blocked from entering the US today while a group of Ukrainians flashed passports and were escorted across the border.
The scene reflects a quiet but unmistakable shift in the differing treatment of Russians and Ukrainians who enter Mexico as tourists and fly to Tijuana, hoping to enter the US for a chance at asylum.
The Russians — 34 as of today — had been camped several days at the busiest US border crossing with Mexico, two days after city of Tijuana officials gently urged them to leave.
They sat on mats and blankets, checking smartphones, chatting and snacking, with sleeping bags and strollers nearby as a stream of pedestrian border crossers file past them. Five young girls sat and talked in a circle, some with stuffed animals.
Days earlier, some Russians were being admitted to the US at the San Ysidro crossing, while some Ukrainians were blocked. But by today, Russians were denied while Ukrainians were admitted after short waits.
“It’s very hard to understand how they make decisions,” says Iirina Zolinka, a 40-year-old Russian woman who camped overnight with her family of seven after arriving in Tijuana yesterday.
Erika Pinheiro, litigation and policy director for advocacy group Al Otro Lado, says the US began admitting all Ukrainians on humanitarian parole for one year around Tuesday, while at the same time blocking all Russians. There was no official announcement.