Tijuana, a door for Ukrainians, Russians and Iranians to reach the United States

The wave of immigration is the most important challenge facing Montserrat Caballero Ramirez, the mayor of Montserrat Tijuana. As a matter of urgency, the young mayor, who came as a girl from Oaxaca to the industrial city of Baja California, enabled a plan to help more than three thousand Ukrainians expelled from their country due to the invasion of the Russian army. It also urgently monitored the arrival of Russian, Iranian and Central American immigrants.

The aid plan has been in the works since the beginning of the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine and gained further strength when Joe Biden, President of the United States, announced humanitarian asylum for 100,000 Ukrainians, explains the first female mayor of Tijuana, who came to office by voting in an election 2021.

“Since Tijuana is a gateway to the world,” he said, “I began to consider that the Ukrainians would arrive.” Forbes Mexico.

Ukrainians in Tijuana, Photo: © Oswaldo Ramirez

Read: Ukrainian refugees are placed in temporary shelter in Tijuana

The official says that many Ukrainians, who have applied for asylum in the United States, initially did not know where Tijuana was, but today they are already on their minds to cross over to a better life.

“These Ukrainians will say wherever they go: We passed through Tijuana and the Tijuana name will become known and recognized, so it is a small example of how the name spreads,” says the mayor, who loves Tlayudas and Mezcal for his family and mother.

Tijuana is a city with many opportunities and growth for an immigrant from Mexico and the rest of the world: “That’s why it’s my sympathy and part of my government plan.”

“The immigrant policy is my empathy because I am an immigrant from Oaxaca and I think that gives me the added advantage of understanding how an immigrant feels,” says Caballero Ramirez.

-?How do you deal with the arrival of Ukrainians to Tijuana?

– I took charge of Chaparral because it was my first training in immigration issues. We’ve been able to get people to leave of their own accord, and that has given me leadership to lead by example that immigrants are polite, respectful, and don’t come arbitrarily. What would have happened if we had not cleansed El Chaparral? Well, we’ll have a crisis. There are bad comparisons between Ukrainians and Latin Americans, who were in El Chaparral, but left of their own free will. We seek that this does not happen with the Ukrainian camp (the El Chaparral disturbance) and from the first moment we prevent and count the number of those who will arrive and stay in Tijuana.

– How many Ukrainians have arrived?

– 500 arrived first, then 250 and 250 more. We went to visit them and asked for an order so they wouldn’t be at El Chaparral or make another camp, for now they got it, they accepted it and then I left lump because CBP didn’t have enough staff to take care of them.

“Help me containment in Tijuana, where they look for more immigration officials,” the US Customs and Border Protection told me. I help containment and put the sports center as a shelter and about three thousand Ukrainians arrived in two weeks.

—How many Ukrainians will arrive in Tijuana?

– That’s a number we can’t get because I don’t know if Ukrainian families decided to arrive via Mexicali, or decided to arrive via Tijuana or across the other Mexican border.

But does Tijuana have greater and better connectivity with respect to other cities on Mexico’s northern border?

– Certainly and in the order we apply, Tijuana is the best route, and I think other governments are planning a route of doing nothing so that more Ukrainians will not arrive and go elsewhere.

Do Ukrainians arrive on direct flights from Mexico City?

– They arrived from Cancun, which is the widest route. From Cancun, flights are cheaper to Tijuana: what to do in Tijuana? At Tijuana International Airport there are staff responsible for making suggestions to the Ukrainians to go to Camp Benito Juárez.

Has the Baja California government helped run shelters for Ukrainians or are you doing this on your own?

The Baja California government has supported El Chaparral shelters. And state shelters are full, so we can’t take the blanket off the first migrants either. The union helps me provide mattresses, food, and water, Tijuana City Council provides health services, a decent life, and the Internet is a distraction for Ukrainians. Through the Internet they can be with their family and friends who will never meet each other again.

Ukrainians in Tijuana, Photo: © Oswaldo Ramirez

– Did you only find out that the Ukrainians arrived, or were there Russians too?

– We also have Ross. After about three months, the Russians begin to arrive, but the political and social situation is different. They wondered why they let Ukrainians in and said they let them in because they are blond hair and darker others don’t. But this is not the case, rather the immigration situation is quite different. We have Russians who have arrived in Tijuana, but they cannot cross into the United States because of their immigration status. We also had a group of Iranians three or four months ago, and now the peak of the Ukrainian refugee influx. I don’t define immigration status, it’s what the state determines. Now they only host Ukrainians.

How many Russians reached Tijuana?

– We have more than a thousand Russians. However, the Russians came with different economic capabilities, so that they did not ask for stability like the Ukrainians. Russians also come with economic resources, renting cars or staying in various hotels in Tijuana. Russians take advantage of physical characteristics, which are often blond and light, to stand far in front of the border line and resemble the conditions of an American citizen: this generates traffic for us and results in not enough personnel from USCBP or having enough personnel to organize it . The Russians come up with the idea, for the most part, of suddenly crossing the border into the United States.

Read: Ukrainian camp on US-Mexico border grows as more refugees arrive in Tijuana

Ukrainians in Tijuana, Photo: © Oswaldo Ramirez

Is the sudden crossing of the Russians illegal?

-illegal.

How many Iranians have reached Tijuana?

– There were very few, about 100. How did they find out? We discover them through language. Farsi is very similar to French, but we didn’t know what they were doing in Tijuana, some people were directed to the National Institute of Migration (INAMI).

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