(NewsNation) — In the wee hours of Thursday, and with help from a man who appeared to be a smuggler, hundreds of migrants from countries including Russia, Peru, Cuba and Colombia navigated through the desert and climbed a wall to cross into Yuma, Arizona.
Within a span of two and half hours — between 1:30 and 4 a.m. — NewsNation observed three groups totaling about 300 people cross over into the United States to be “apprehended” and processed by Border Patrol agents.
A man accompanied the groups, and some handed him money. A few women told NewsNation they’d paid him $20 to get help with crossing.
In the darkness, NewsNation saw vehicle after vehicle line up and unload people along a road in Mexico. Roughly 30 minutes later, a guided group of men, women and children emerged from the bushes and began to scale a rock wall dividing the two countries.
In one instance, an adult carried a child up the rocks as lights flashed behind them.
After crossing into the U.S., the migrants formed a line and walked along the border wall toward Border Patrol agents waiting to apprehend and process them.
A Russian national who crossed with the groups told NewsNation he was fleeing his war-torn country and the oppressive regime of President Vladimir Putin. The man, known only as Jahsir to NewsNation, said he left a good job and life behind in Russia because he no longer felt safe in his home country.
“In our country is a bad situation, not only for war, (but also) politically, religiously, so we decided to come here,” said Jahsir, a Muslim.
To get to the crossing point from Tijuana, Jahsir told NewsNation he used a rideshare service.
“I (paid) a little bit more than usual and he helped me here,” said Jahsir, who plans to apply for political asylum.
Facilities across the southern border are filled to the brim — and Yuma is no exception. The sector is seeing around 1,500 apprehensions daily, according to Border Patrol sources who talked to NewsNation.