TIJUANA (Border Report) — A week after Russian migrants started gathering on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, hoping to gain access into the U.S., the city of Tijuana worried they were getting in the way of thousands of people who walk across the border daily.
Officials asked the migrants to vacate the area, but the migrants held their ground until this weekend when they agreed to be moved to hotels and pay out of their own pockets.
“We’re tired, we’re tired,” said one woman.
Another Russian immigrant called it unfair that the U.S. has refused to give them access.
“America was always open for refugees it is a country of immigrants,” he said.
The city said it had no choice but to act.
“They were very respectful and agreed to the move,” said Enrique Lucero, director of Tijuana’s Migrant Affairs Office. “Some were getting sick due to the cold and rain.”
Lucero said the migrants were offered shelter space, but they declined.
“Some didn’t like the distance to the border from the shelters, others didn’t like the conditions.”
Lucero said the Russian nationals have every right to be in Tijuana.
“Let’s remember they arrived in the city as tourists and so they remain as tourists since their visas have not expired,” said Lucero. “They have no access to asylum due to Title 42, which forces migrants be sent back to Mexico immediately after crossing the border.”
As a directive from the Centers for Disease Control, Title 42 was instituted under the Trump administration as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the border, although it’s never been proven migrants are bringing the virus with them.
Lucero stated the migrants for the most part took the move very well.
“Some offered their apologies, and told us they were not here to cause problems, but all we could do was offer advice telling them to hire lawyers who could help them with the asylum process.
Before the migrants departed, they were serenaded with songs by a group of volunteers from a church in Sacramento, California.
“We’re out here hoping to somehow lift the spirits of people along the border,” said Vitali, a member of the church. “A lot of these people are misunderstood, they are looked at as aggressors instead of those trying to flee from a country where they have no voice at all so they are running here.”