More than 20,000 Ukrainians stormed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, showing up at border crossings and asking to be let in under a new leniency policy from the Biden administration.
Some 1,500 others snuck across the border between ports of entry and were apprehended by Border Patrol agents, according to new Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday.
The Ukrainians were part of a record surge of non-traditional migrants who reached the border in April, exposing new challenges for the Biden administration.
Customs and Border Protection counted 108,555 migrants at the southern boundary who came from beyond Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. That’s out of about 234,000 migrants total.
Without the Ukrainians, April’s border numbers actually would have shown a slight improvement compared with March. But including the Ukrainians, April was the worst month on record, according to border experts.
Millions of people have fled Ukraine over the last three months as Russia planned and executed an invasion of the country. The vast majority of those refugees are in Eastern Europe, but some have made their way to the Western Hemisphere and into the U.S.
Homeland Security has imposed special entry policies for Ukrainians, exempting them from the pandemic border shutdown that allows authorities to expel many illegal border crossers immediately.
Instead, they are being paroled into the country.
Still, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said he doesn’t want people showing up unannounced at the border.
His department has created a program to allow Americans to sponsor Ukrainians to come from abroad.
Mr. Mayorkas has also announced a temporary deportation amnesty for Ukrainians who made it into the U.S. before April 19.
The number of Russians showing up at the border was also on the rise in April, though the numbers were a fraction of the Ukrainians. CBP reported 1,681 Russians. That’s down from more than 2,000 in December, but still up from earlier this year.
The biggest challenge at the border right now comes from Cubans, nearly 35,000 of whom jumped the border last month. That’s double the rate of February, and more than three times the rate in January.
Mr. Mayorkas, who fled Cuba as a child with his family, told lawmakers earlier this month that Cuba marks a special challenge because of strained relations between the two nations.
Nicaragua and Colombia also accounted for large numbers of migrants nabbed at the border last month.
The rise of migration from nontraditional countries serves as a new wrinkle for the Biden administration, which has focused heavily on trying to stop people from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
They combined for just 43,749 encounters in April, down nearly 50% compared to the same point in time last year.