Ukrainian Refugees: The New Migrants in Mexico and the US
Since the beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the Mexico and the US have received thousands of refugee applications. Although many have applauded the initiatives of both governments, they have also been criticized for not applying the same framework to refugees coming from Latin American countries.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Mexican government has received 17,000 refugee requests from Ukrainians and Russians. Ebrard emphasized that Mexico is open to receiving refugees regardless of their country of origin. In addition, he announced that instructions have already been given to speed up their migration and refugee processes in Mexico.
Meanwhile, the US government announced last month that it would accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, prompting a wave of Ukrainians to arrive in Mexico and then walk toward the US-Mexico border with the aim of applying for refugee protection. However, the US government has not formally implemented a process to receive the Ukrainian refugees, which has led to some being processed quickly where others needed to sleep in tents and under tarps for days.
Although both countries have been applauded for supporting Ukrainian refugees, they have also been criticized for not applying the same lenient policy to refugees and migrants from other countries that are also suffering from violence.
For instance, Mexican authorities have been criticized for allegedly dividing refugees and migrants into primary and secondary categories. Ukrainian refugees are in the primary category, while the secondary category is reserved for immigrants from Latin American countries. This last group accused Mexican authorities of unequal treatment: whereas Ukrainians can enter Mexico without a visa, Latin American refugees must wait months for their documentation and are not allowed travel to the US.
“We want them to not abandon us. That they give us humanitarian or visiting visas so that we can remain safe. However, they are not helping us. To the contrary, if we try to do it alone [without the visas], they stop us and beat us,” said Wilbert Cardenal, a migrant from Nicaragua.
US President Joe Biden recently announced that while he will suspend Title 42, which prevented asylum seekers from applying for US protection and allows the US to send migrants back to their home countries within hours of their arrival, deportations will continue regardless. The announcement has been widely criticized, as human rights advocates argue that it is a violation to the US’ legal responsibility toward people fleeing from violence.
“Asking for asylum is a right for anyone in danger in their country of origin. We ask for no more Title 42, no more deportations that put people’s lives at risk. We are humans just as the Ukrainians and we feel in danger in our countries as much as they do,” said Francel, a Haitian asylum seeker.