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Ukrainian refugees with family in America are having their asylum requests rejected and are stuck in Europe or at the southern border despite President Biden’s promise to welcome them with open arms.
Since war broke out on February 24, European countries have flung open their borders to welcome the 3million refugees who have already fled the warzone.
Some 100,000 British households have volunteered to welcome them into their own homes. Spain has pledged to accept 12,000 refugees. Germany has already taken in 18,000 and France says it expects at least 7,000 to be there soon.
But the US has not yet confirmed how many refugees have asked for asylum or received it. In the meantime, Ukrainian-American families are waiting anxiously as their loved ones bounce from European country to European country, waiting for the greenlight to board a plane to the US and join them.
Among them is the Semenkova family who live in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Married couple Igor and Galyna Semenkova are desperate to bring their daughter Kseniia and her husband Oleksandr Isaienko over to the US along with her new husband.
The pair were living in Kyiv but fled under bombing.
Kseniia and her husband Oleksandr Isaienko are stuck in northern Italy despite her entire family living in Long Island with green cards. They had their ESTA visa applications rejected
The Semenkova family live in Oyster Bay, Long Island, and are desperate for their youngest daughter to join them
At the southern border, Ukrainians and Russians are being questioned over their plans to enter the country. Some are being rejected under Title 42 – a COVID rule to block the spread of the virus
A group of people from Ukraine wait for US authorities to let them in at San Ysidro Crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 12, 2022. Homeland Security has not confirmed how many people have entered – or tried to enter – the country so far
Ukrainian citizens walk along with advocates on the Mexican side of the border after being rejected from entering the United States under Title 42 by Customs and Border Protection authorities, at the San Ysidro crossing port, in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 9, 2022
A Ukrainian family interact with an U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent as they seek for a humanitarian visa at the San Ysidro Port of Entry of the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico March 15, 2022
An U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent gestures toward a Ukrainian family seeking for a humanitarian visa at the San Ysidro Port of Entry of the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico March 15, 2022
REFUGEE COUNT BY COUNTRY – HOW MANY IS AMERICA TAKING IN?
USA: 514 Ukrainians have entered the US from the southern border in January and February
Biden promised to take in refugees but didn’t specify how many.
It is unclear how many have actually entered the country so far.
UK: 100,000 Britons offer up their homes to Ukrainian families. The UK’s Secretary for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, promised ‘no cap’ on the number they will take
France: 7,000 expected
Spain: 12,000 promised
Germany: 18,000 taken in so far
Now, they are stuck in northern Italy.
They had their requests for ESTA visas turned down because they could not tell the US ‘when they would be returning home’, they said.
‘We left our home because it was a bomb attack near our apartment,’ Kseniia told NBC news.
Her sister Jenya added to Newsday: ‘My sister and her family has to bounce from European country to European country to European country — driving how many miles, not speaking the language, not knowing what to do — (when) we’re here.
”All we’re asking is for the government to give them a visa, any kind of visa.’
Separately, other Ukrainians are being turned away at the southern border under a controversial COVID measure called Title 42.
It was brought in by Trump and still exists under Biden’s presidency and it stops the influx of asylum seekers to America citing COVID as the reason why.
It applies to all asylum seekers at the southern border, but is being noticed now because of the Ukrainian crisis.
Among those who were originally told they could not get into the country was a Ukrainian mother who gave her name only as Sofia, who was turned away at the border with her young children.
She has now been allowed into the country after immigration lawyers campaigned on her behalf.
The exact number of people seeking asylum in the US from Ukraine as a result of the war is unclear.
In January and February, Customs and Border Patrol allowed 514 refugees across the border. Since October, some 1,300 have presented themselves at the border.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to inquiries about the number of Ukrainian refugees who have been granted asylum or visas in the US.
Ukrainian and Russian refugees were told they could not enter the US at the southern border because of Title 42 – a COVID rule that blocked refugees from entering the country to stop the spread of the virus
Democrats are urging Biden to drop the Title 42 rule to allow more refugees – of all nationalities – enter the US.
Immigration advocates have been calling for an end to enforcing Title 42 – even though the U.S. is still in a state of emergency – and calls have increased this week as Ukrainians begin to arrive and request asylum, according to San Diego affiliate CBS8.
The outlet said Tijuana journalists have witnessed dozens of Ukrainian and Russian families gathering outside the U.S. southern border and families in Tijuana claim Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are selective of who they let in.
Vicente Calderon, editor for Tijuanapress.com, said: ‘Even people with humanitarian parole, it would take a long time for them to get a waiver. Some are allowed to get in, but not others.’
In February alone, CBP encountered 164,973 migrants at the southern border – up more than 10,000 from January figures of 154,745.
Since Biden has taken office, the crossing per-month has massively increased. In 2020, the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency, a total of 458,088 migrants were encountered at the border. In 2021, that number spiked to 1.73 million with Biden in the White House.
As the administration struggles to find ways to deter migration and stop the surge at the southern border, now Ukrainian refugees are seeking asylum in the U.S.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, leading to a massive refugee crisis in Eastern Europe with millions fleeing the conflict. While many are going to neighboring countries like Poland, more and more are arriving in the U.S. now that Ukraine faces its 19th day of attack from Vladimir Putin.
Immigration lawyers in San Diego argue the Title 42 policy is no longer needed and is leading to inhumane treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers at the border as the administration claims it’s necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Biden administration already ended the policy for children crossing without their parents, but as restrictions in the U.S. ease, there are increased calls to ditch the policy altogether.