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Ukrainian Refugees Find Southern Border Is Quickest Way into USA

Ukrainian refugees wait in a gymnasium Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

As Russia's war rages on in Ukraine, millions of people continue to search for refuge, often thousands of miles away from their homeland. 

Here in the U.S., hundreds of Ukrainians arrive each day after the Biden administration opened the door to 100,000 refugees. 

The administration's offer has led to a new surge of immigrants although many aren't following the rules. At the U.S. - Mexico border, more than 2,000 Ukrainians are seeking asylum as the government sifts through who gets priority to enter and whether they have permission. 

"Most of them are coming illegally. They're crossing the border into California and just spreading out," said Eduard Kislyanka, senior pastor at House of Bread Church in Sacramento.

Some of the refugees have figured out that one of the quickest ways to get into the U.S. is by booking a flight to Mexico.

"In Tijuana, here in Mexico, there are lots of refugees coming," said one church volunteer on the border in Mexico. "There's about 300 coming every day." 

Sacramento's House of Bread Church is providing food, shelter, and support to people starting over in the states. The city already has the highest concentration of Ukrainian immigrants. 

"We've set up a system of host families who can take in refugees coming here," Kislyanka said. 

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Little is known about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) plan to resettle these refugees, including the timeline or formality. Its website points out Ukrainians have 18 months to find a job and must apply online for asylum or temporary residence. 

Their growing presence at the already crowded Southern border could lead to an even bigger crisis if the Biden administration follows through with a heavily-debated policy move. 

"The DHS is saying that with the end of the Title 42 expulsions beginning in May, the federal government is planning for up to 18,000 illegal immigrants crossing per day," said Texas Governor Greg Abbott. 

That's more than half-a-million immigrants crossing into the U.S. each month with Cubans and Haitians arriving in record numbers. 

Gov. Abbott is literally sending a message to the president in the form of a bus filled with illegal immigrants headed to Washington. 

"We are sending them to the United States Capitol where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border," Abbott said. 

In response to the rising number of refugees, the White House said Wednesday it would provide cell phones to illegal immigrants in order to track and check in with them as they await immigration court. 

"In addition, I would note the DHS also put together a preparedness plan that addresses surging migration and brings additional personnel and resources to the border; improving processing, implementing mitigation measures, and working with other countries to manage migration," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when pressed about the potential for 18,000 illegal migrants crossing the border each day. 

The DHS, responsible for border security, has made its budget request for 2023, which includes a $6 billion increase. Part of that includes 600 new positions on the border. 

If Congress doesn't approve the budget, Texas lawmakers warn international gangs could target the Southern border if resources are not added quickly. 

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