Russian Asylum Seekers At A Standstill As U.S. Continues To Deny Entry

As thousands of citizens from both Ukraine and its surrounding countries flee the worsening crisis, Russian citizens at the United States-Mexico border are facing a unique new problem. While U.S. officials are allowing dozens of Ukrainians to enter the country, many Russians journeyed across Europe and into North America, only to be denied entry.

Irina Zolina, a math teacher from Moscow who was arrested after attending an anti-war protest, fled Russia through Turkey and later ended up in Cancún, Mexico – where Russians are gathering in hopes of reaching the United States. “There are so many years of fear that we’re living in,” she told Reuters in an interview. “It’s awful inside Russia too.”

The war in Ukraine has left many Russians with unthinkable decisions. One individual fled Russia out of fear that he would be called to fight and ultimately forced to attack family in Ukraine. Others cited fear of imprisonment, as new legislation establishes up to 15 years of jail time for “actions found to discredit Russia’s army.” U.S. government reports state that between October and January, roughly 6,400 Russians were amassed at the border.

But fear and anger have also been gathering at the border as Ukrainian families are let in, while Russian families are instantly denied. “It’s unfair that we can’t get in,” Mark, a restaurant manager who flew to Mexico in early March, said in an interview with N.B.C. News.

Rates of Ukrainian acceptance have been considerably high. 1,553 Russians applied for entry between September and February, and only four individuals were denied. Denial of many migrants of various nationalities has been compounded by public health mandates from the COVID-19 pandemic that allow the United States to expel migrants.

N.B.C. News reported that as of March 18th, 34 Russians were camped outside the border. However, Mexican officials have been urging them to leave, dismantling camps and tents of migrants at the border in the past months. Officials also distributed information stating that they must leave, providing free shelter to those who could not afford a hotel.

As the crisis develops, the United States and other countries must accept refugees and migrants equitably. Millions of people across Europe have been, and will be, displaced. Humanitarian aid bias and immigration bias have no place in international conflicts.