Russian Asylum Seekers in San Ysidro Port of Entry at Imminent Risk of Transfer to ICE Prison

Updated: Sep 23


Russian Asylum Seekers in San Ysidro Port of Entry at Imminent Risk of Transfer to Louisiana ICE Prison on Second Anniversary of Title 42


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, March 21, 2022


PRESS CONTACT: Sarai Herrera, sherrera@immdef.org; 213-634-0999


San Diego, CA — Monday, March 21, marks the two-year anniversary of the implementation of Title 42, a federal policy that closed the border to asylum seeking families, adults fleeing violence and persecution to seek safety in the U.S. In light of ongoing war between Russian and Ukraine, asylum seekers from both countries have begun sleeping on the streets in front of the San Ysidro Port-of-Entry in Tijuana, Mexico in hopes of humanitarian parole into the U.S. under a Title 42 exemption. A Russian couple represented by Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) arrived in Tijuana after fleeing Russia due to political persecution for supporting a candidate that was targeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Due to fear of violence in Tijuana, the couple slept at the port-of-entry in hopes of being paroled in—it is there that they met their attorney, Margaret Cargioli. The couple was taken into the San Ysidro Customs and Border Protection facility on Sunday, March 20th after sleeping at the entrance for several days. Rather than immediately releasing them to their sponsor in California, according to Directing Attorney Margaret Cargioli, who has not had meaningful access to her clients was told by her client’s sponsor the Russian political asylum seekers will be transferred to an ICE prison in Louisiana. In addition to our clients, ImmDef has received confirmation from multiple sources that potentially dozens of Russian and Ukrainian individuals and families of adults are being transferred to ICE detention in Louisiana.


Additionally, while Cargioli was speaking by phone to her client at the port-of-entry she was abruptly cut off by an officer who told her told her she could not speak to her client. Once her client was in CBP custody Cargioli attempted again via telephone to make contact and was once more told she could not speak to her client. Access to counsel for asylum seekers is a fundamental due process right that should not be infringed upon, and it is unacceptably for these asylum seekers to be held incommunicado in CBP custody.


According to other reports, some Ukrainian refugees have been imprisoned in Louisiana ICE prisons for over two weeks. Louisiana ICE prisons are known for their inhumane and abusive conditions.


Directing Attorney Margaret Cargioli shared, “By continuing to implement Title 42, the Biden administration justifies expelling asylum seekers fleeing political persecution. The very essence of asylum law is to protect people such as those targeted and tortured by the Putin administration on the basis of their fundamental political beliefs. ICE prison is no place for asylum seekers. It is wrong to expel asylum seekers to harm and to expose them to prisonlike conditions in ICE detention centers. Title 42 must end so Biden can get back to work and repair our asylum system and re-establish his commitment to international law and moral leadership.”


Executive Director Lindsay Toczylowski said, “By processing Eastern Europeans into the US as exceptions to Title 42 while simultaneously slamming the door in the face of Black and brown asylum seekers, the US is failing to welcome the most vulnerable with dignity. Throwing Russians and Ukrainians into ICE prisons after allowing them to seek safety in the US is inhumane and cruel. We are asking that all asylum seekers, regardless of their country of origin, be given access to due process. This means access to counsel, freedom from ICE prisons and being treated with dignity and respect.”


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Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) is a next-generation social justice law firm that defends our immigrant communities against injustices in the immigration system. We envision a future where no immigrant will be forced to face an unjust immigration system alone. Our programs are a first step towards the long-term goal of providing universal representation to all immigrants facing deportation and seeking access to asylum. ImmDef is the largest non‐profit, pro bono provider of deportation defense in Southern California with offices in Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Ana, and San Diego.


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