SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Katia Lolia said she couldn’t believe how simple it was for her Ukrainian mother and sister to obtain humanitarian visas and enter the U.S. through Ped West, one of the pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Lolia lives in Salt Lake City but met her family members in Mexico City a few days ago.
Together they flew to Tijuana.
Her mother and sister spent a day in a shelter before being bused to the border and allowed to cross into the U.S.
“We’re very thankful it’s a very easy process for Ukrainians,” said Lolia, adding that the process was made easy by a network of volunteers from the moment they arrived at Tijuana’s airport.
“The Ukrainian volunteers with Ukrainian flags, they meet you at the airport and they register you they give every person a number,” she said.
Many of the volunteers are from north of the border and are providing transportation services for the migrants, the majority of whom fled Ukraine after Russia launched an attack on their county. They also find them a place to stay or take them to a shelter recently opened by the city of Tijuana.
“They are so nice, they even have music concerts for the migrants at the shelter,” said Lolia, whose mother and sister were taken by bus to the border where they crossed Thursday morning and got their visas.
Lolia met them on the north side of the border crossing as they came out.
“They’re allowed to stay in the United States for one year and who knows what it’s going to be in a year, if there’s still a war, they are allowed to extend, if the war is over they have to come back,” she said.
Pastor Phil Metzger, one of the volunteers, said they have lost track of how many Ukrainians have been helped, he believes it’s well over 2,000.
“We try to grab them right away at the airport to make sure people don’t get lost or get picked up by the wrong people that have other motives,” said Metzger. “We give them a number, we get them into digital system to track them all the way until they get across the border right here.”
Metzger says every migrant has one thing in common as they make it across the border.
“They’re tired, kind of scared but they’re feeling really welcomed, they come to be free and to be able to get out is a big deal.”
Metzger told Border Report that aside from the city of Tijuana making the shelter available, volunteers are providing almost all the resources to help the migrants.
But he is worried as more and more migrants arrive in Tijuana, their efforts might fall short.
“It’s been working, but the numbers now are too much, it’s overwhelming the system, it’s overwhelming all of us, they’ve got a lot of people over there right now.”