McAllen, Texas (Border report) — A young Russian family who legally crossed the border from Mexico to the United States earlier this year reached Seattle, where a Russian-speaking church welcomed them and is helping them.

But 25-year-old Mikhail Manzurin tells Border Report that it is difficult for him to earn enough income to support his family because he does not have a work permit in the United States.

Manzurin, who is a Christian pastor and foreign language teacher, and his wife Nellie, 27, and their two young sons, Philip and Mark, spent 40 days in Reynosa, Mexico, before being allowed to legally move to South Texas in January . . They left Russia, fearing that Mikhail would be drafted into the Russian army, they said.

Mikhail Manzurin is a pastor and language teacher. His wife Nellie is a dancer. They left Russia with their two sons, Philip (left) and Mark (right), fearing that Mikhail would be drafted into the Russian army to fight against Ukraine. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Border Report first caught up with them when they were living in the basement of Macallan’s church for two weeks after arriving. They then went to Austin and then eventually made their way to Seattle where they put down roots.

Border Report recently spoke with Michael via Zoom, where he said they were “blessed” to be in America.

He said other Russians, as well as Ukrainians and other immigrants from the region who live in Seattle, have donated items for the apartment they helped them rent. They bring toys and clothes for boys. A Moldovan couple even brought them a coffee maker, he said.

“It is so nice to feel that there are people here who can support you, who can feel you. And this is a great happiness for us,” said Mikhail.

The family decided to fly from Russia to Mexico in late 2022 after they were outspoken opponents of Russia’s war against Ukraine. They made it to the northern Mexican border with help the non-profit organization Practice Mercy Foundationbut waited more than 40 days in a crime-ridden, cartel-controlled border town before U.S. Customs and Border Protection called them in for an interview at a port of entry in South Texas and were legally allowed into the United States.

But permission to live in the United States and permission to work in the United States are two very different things.

An asylum seeker who is in the country on humanitarian parole “should not work without a work permit,” Priscilla Horta, an attorney with the nonprofit Lawyers For Good Government, told Border Report.

But Horta says that makes it difficult — and sometimes impossible — for thousands of immigrants like Mikhail to support their families.

Mikhail does not yet have a work permit in the United States, he told Border Report on Tuesday. However, he provides language services online, where he conducts classes in English and Chinese.

He does not need to prove that he has the right to work in the United States to enter into a contract for online services. But he cannot be hired by a US company until he receives a work permit, legal experts told Border Report.

“Generally speaking, it’s not a crime to work in the U.S. without authorization, although it is a crime to hire someone without authorization,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, told Border Report on Tuesday.

“Many undocumented people work without a work permit. How can it be? Well, there is no law that says working without a work permit is illegal. Rather, the law says that it is illegal to hire a person without a work permit,” Orta said.

Mikhail says that he tries not to break any laws while trying to feed his family.

After immigrating from Russia, 25-year-old Mikhail Manzurin is struggling to support his family in Seattle. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“It’s so difficult because you have to pay the bills. You have to pay for housing. And it’s difficult. I’m trying to find a job online because if I do a job online I’m not breaking US laws. I don’t want to work illegally. So it’s quite difficult,” said Mikhail.

But even finding a job online is sometimes difficult. He says he lost students after clients learned of his political opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“I shared on Instagram that we still support Ukraine, we pray for Ukraine and we want Ukraine to win this war. One mom of one of my students told me that “we don’t want to work with you anymore because you support (Ukraine). So that’s still what happened. And you know, Russian propaganda works. And it works very, very effectively,” he said.

But they saved enough money to buy a car. And he says they are grateful for every little thing they have and for their safety in America.

He says he knows of many Russian families trying to cross the border from Mexico, only to be stopped and detained at airports in Cancun and Mexico City because officials fear they will head north to the border to go to the United States.

“People in Russia understand that nothing is getting better. And I think that most people do not believe that the war will end soon. That’s why people make such decisions,” he said.

Russia has just entered the second year of war against Ukraine.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced the extension of humanitarian parole protection for Ukrainians who entered the United States between February 24, 2022 and April 25, 2022. This was before the United for Ukraine parole program was implemented.

The expansion would allow up to 20,000 Ukrainians who came across the southern border — many from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California — to remain in the United States legally.

About 100,000 Ukrainians entered the United States through The United for Ukraine program offered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The program allows Ukrainians to work while in the US without a work permit, according to the American Immigration Service.

Mikhail says that he met a Ukrainian couple in Seattle, who at that time passed through the southern border.

“Praise the Lord if these things work for them,” he said.

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