Nearly 10,000 Ukrainians without permission to enter the U.S. have been processed by border officials in the past two months as thousands of refugees displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have traveled to Mexico hoping to request refuge in the U.S., according to internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data obtained by CBS News.
Between February 1 and April 6, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported encountering 9,926 Ukrainians who lacked legal documentation needed to enter the country, the unpublished agency statistics show. On April 6 alone, 767 Ukrainian migrants were processed by CBP.
The numbers show the dramatic increase in Ukrainians entering U.S. border custody over the past few weeks. In February, CBP officials reported encountering 1,147 undocumented Ukrainians, including 272 migrants along the Mexican border, according to public agency data. Russia’s invasion began on February 24.
Between February 1 and April 6, CBP also reported 41,074 “legal entries” of Ukrainians who had permission to enter the U.S., which can include such visas the U.S. awards to short-term travelers, including tourists, or immigrants allowed to live in the U.S. permanently, the internal agency data show.
Russia’s invasion triggered the largest displacement crisis since World War II, prompting 4.4 million refugees to flee to other European countries in just over two months. While the vast majority of displaced Ukrainians remain in Europe, a growing number has sought to reach the U.S.
On March 24, President Biden vowed to receive up to 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by the war over an undefined time period. But the administration has yet to announce any concrete steps to achieve the ambitious plan and expedite a visa and refugee process that typically takes months and years to complete.
Faced with limited direct pathways to reach the U.S., thousands of Ukrainians have embarked on a days-long trek to Mexico that typically involves several flights to reach the U.S. southern border, where officials have been directed to consider admitting Ukrainians, despite pandemic-era entry restrictions for other migrants.