LOS ANGELES — After Iryna Merezhko persuaded her sister in Ukraine that her young nephew should join her in Los Angeles to wait out the war, she traveled halfway around the globe to pick him up. “I told him it would be a California vacation,” she recalled. “We would go to Disneyland, Universal Studios, the beach.”
The boy, Ivan Yereshov, 14, made it with her to Tijuana, Mexico, early this month, joining thousands of Ukrainians waiting at the border for permission to enter the United States.
To be on the safe side, Ms. Merezhko carried a notarized power of attorney attesting that Ivan had been handed over into his aunt’s care. But an officer informed them that Ivan could not enter with his aunt — because she was not his parent. “They told us we would be separated for one or two days,” recalled Ms. Merezhko, who said she embraced Ivan as his initial enthusiasm dissolved into dismay.
Ten days went by before she would learn his whereabouts.
Dozens of Ukrainian children have been separated from relatives, friends or older siblings with whom they have traveled to the southern border under a law designed to prevent migrant children from being trafficked. In effect since 2008, the law requires U.S. border authorities to place “unaccompanied minors” in government shelters, where they must remain until their guardians have been screened and approved.
were trapped at a large steel factory in Mariupol along with Ukrainian forces that are waging what appears to be the last defense of the city. Russia is seeking to take the city as part of a strategically important “land bridge” to occupied Crimea.