Ukrainian refugees are now seeking asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry using the PedWest border crossing, according to refugees and volunteers at the border on Wednesday.
It's the first time in two years that the pedestrian crossing has been used since it closed down two years ago due to the pandemic. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it has "expanded use of additional facilities" at the port to help speed up processing, "... for humanitarian reasons and on a case-by-case basis," a CBP spokesperson told NBC 7 Wednesday night.
“I was just so so grateful that she’s alive,” said Kateryna Vechkanovaa, a student at La Sierra University in Riverside.
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Vechkanova drove down from Riverside to the border to reunite with her friend who escaped the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv following a journey through Romania, Germany, Spain and Mexico.
“She saw all the explosion, the bomb, yeah, and the worst thing, she was alone there,” said Vechkanova. “Her parents were in Nikolaev and she was there alone with no one. It was just terrible.”
As families make their way to Tijuana, where currently hundreds of refugees are waiting their chance at asylum, many are feeling a sense of relief as they are welcomed into the United States.
Efforts on the ground are led by volunteer groups such as Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities and churches like Calvary San Diego.
“We need help, we don’t have the resources to house 200, 300 people,” said Phil Metzger, the lead pastor at Calvary San Diego. “CBP is trying to do more, but if they do more, what do we do on this side?”
CBP has not answered or addressed what their plan is moving forward with the PedWest crossing. As for the volunteers they have these tents set up offering food, snacks and then assistance with transportation and plans for shelters.