TIJUANA, Mexico — While the world watches a humanitarian crisis unfold as Russia wages war on Ukraine, the Tijuana port of entry on the U.S. border is yet again seeing what the city has grown accustomed to: another immigration crisis, this one centered on Ukrainians seeking asylum and refugee status.
While helping the families of a wartorn country is the right thing to do, a blatant contrast emerges in the way other asylum seekers are treated and the dire, unbearable conditions that for months on end, Central Americans, Mexicans, Haitians, and Cameroonians have had to endure.
At first, some Ukrainian families were turned away. Later, families with children were allowed as the Biden administration lifted Title 42, which was set in place by the Trump administration under the pretense of avoiding the spread of COVID-19 and kept active under President Biden due to a court ruling from Texas.
Caravans of asylum keepers from Latin America, Haiti, and Cameroon had been blocked from entering the U.S. to apply for asylum, forced instead to “Remain in Mexico” under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and Title 42, spendings months in frigid temperatures at makeshift tent cities—which removed last month by local authorities.
Some may argue that Ukrainian refugees cannot be compared with asylum
seekers from Latin America, Haiti, or Cameroon.
One young girl recounts how her relatives and her one-year-old were killed in Mexico.
A mother told the story of how her husband was killed by cartels when he refused to work for them. “I packed a few things and fled with two children before they killed us too,” she said.
On July 7 of last year, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.
Wars have many fronts, many faces, many levels. The faces of children suffering violence and trauma are all the same.
“My family and I are Ukrainians living in Russia, from the Saint Petersburg area,” said one asylum seeker who asked to remain anonymous. “At a protest in Russia against the war, I barely unfolded a sign and police arrested me right away. We left the next day.”
“We had to make the long journey from Ukraine to Poland, to Paris to Mexico City (where our luggage was stolen and then inward to Tijuana,” they explained.
Advocacy groups that applauded the change in policy to grant entry to war refugees took to Twitter to express concern that other asylum seekers were not allowed the same, fair treatment.
Keep in mind that Central & South American, Haitian, African, etc refugees are turned away every day, and even the most vulnerable are denied humanitarian exemptions. No way this case would have been approved if this woman were not Ukrainian
— Erika Pinheiro (@eeerox) March 10, 2022
I will keep retweeting this from time to time. We need to help Ukrainian refugees, but we also need to help refugees from Syria, Haiti, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador etc. It is clear that we believe white refugees more than Brown or Black. We can change that. pic.twitter.com/D7id66dizW
— Jenn Budd (@BuddJenn) March 14, 2022
Francisco Lozano is a freelance photographer and writer based in Los Angeles and has covered extensively the migrants and asylum seekers at the Mexican border. Twitter: @FrancisLozano7