US-Mexico Border: The Wall That Separates Ukrainian and Russian Refugees in America | International

Under a pedestrian bridge, a Tijuana municipal policeman plays with his phone. From inside a car he watches over a deserted, cordoned-off square. The El Chaparral port of entry, one of the pedestrian crossings from Mexico to the United States, housed a camp of almost 400 Central American migrants who asked to enter California. They were evicted from the place on March 6. Today they live in various shelters. The area is now preparing for the coming crisis. The uniformed officer was pointing west on Wednesday, at the San Ysidro customs office, a little more than two kilometers away. “The Russians are arriving there,” he would say impatiently to get back on the phone. One of the busiest borders in America awaits the waves caused by the war in Europe on the other side of the globe, a conflict that has so far left three million Ukrainians displaced.

Ukrainians and Russians began arriving at the border line last week. They ran into the wall that the Joe Biden Administration has left standing from the times of its predecessor, Donald Trump, a bureaucratic swamp that delays refugee and asylum applications, a mechanism that was damaged by the Republican and that the present Government has promised to repair. But the intensification of Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine has moved the gears in Washington. Anyone who shows a Ukrainian passport today can enter the United States. Eleven passed on Sunday, nine on Monday. And so it has been, by drops, in a customs office where an average of 14,400 people cross each day. The citizens of the country under siege are these days a shooting star on the border. His passage splits in two the large lines of people waiting for the crossing.

“We know that the Ukrainians are the privileged ones now,” says Marc, a 32-year-old Muscovite, who prefers not to reveal his last name. He is one of thirty Russians who have arrived in Tijuana in recent days. Manager of a restaurant, he opposes the war and attended some demonstrations against the conflict. He says that he had a good salary and a good salary. He admits that he had some problems with the police, but he does not want to go into detail because his parents and in-laws are still in the country. “The war made it clear to me that nothing will ever be the same in Russia. Things were bad and now they can only get worse, ”he says in English.

He spent $2,000 on plane tickets for himself and his 29-year-old wife, Oxana. They left six days ago for Turkey, then for Germany, from where they flew to the tourist port of Cancún. Sitting in front of the waves of the Caribbean, they thought about what to do with their lives. Four days later, there they are. They sleep on the asphalt, a few meters from the door they dream of crossing as political refugees. “It’s not a vacation, we’re on the run,” he says. He is blond, shaven, and has deep green eyes. Wear an album t-shirt And Justice for All, from Metallica. He has no choice but to wait, even if it is a year. “There will be no return for us to Russia.”

Russian citizens at the San Ysidro port of entry. Omar Martínez (CUARTOSCURO)

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Local authorities fear that this camp will get out of control in the coming weeks. The settlements arouse the optimism of many others. In less than a week, migrants from Guerrero fleeing violence, a Colombian couple and even a Syrian whose language of solidarity with the Russians was based on the exchange of cigarettes arrived there. Migrating is easier if it is a collective dream. But on Wednesday afternoon, an official from the Tijuana city hall approached the group to hand them a letter that prohibits them from sleeping or living on the streets. The text offered to take them to one of the shelters in the city. The document took days to arrive because they couldn’t find a translator who could write in Russian. The message left the new migrants worried.

A Haitian woman who was walking her dog through the border checkpoint gave advice to Maxi, a 35-year-old Chechen who also arrived in the State of Quintana Roo from Saint Petersburg with his wife, Amina, who is two months pregnant, and two daughters, 5 and 8 years. “Whatever you do, don’t lie to them [a las autoridades de EE UU] or try to enter illegally. If they do, they will never let them pass, “the woman told them. Maxi, who considers himself a dissident, says that he is not willing to put up with any more lies from the Putin regime, a name he and the others mention in a whisper. “This could never happen in Russia. We’d be five minutes and then we’d all be in jail. You included”, she says through Marc’s translation. Amina explains that the girls miss their teachers and their classmates from school. For now, they have been told that everything is an adventure. They have also lied to them saying that they will soon return home.

The San Ysidro port of entry is a point that receives the endless crises of the world. The arrival of Hondurans speaks of misery and gang violence. That of Venezuelans, of an economic and humanitarian emergency with no way out. The Haitians, from a political crisis and the natural disasters that have ravaged their country. The Mexicans flee from the bullets of the narco. And Yuri Savkin, 36, because he wanted to put as much distance as possible between his country and him. “In my opinion, there is a possibility that Putin will launch a nuclear missile at Europe,” he says with the help of Google translate.

Savkin traveled from Chernogolovka, 80 kilometers from Moscow, to Mexico City, where he landed on March 14. Along with him came his wife Helen, 44, and Sonia, his 9-year-old daughter. “I decided to leave the country and not wait for the call from the Army because I don’t want to fight against the civilian population or obey criminal orders,” he says. He is wearing a stylish Tommy Hilfiger jacket and his face is smeared with sunscreen. In his country he was a businessman with a financial investment service. Everything has vanished with the sanctions imposed by the West. He has $3,000 with him. He can’t touch the money he has in England. His cards are blocked and his accounts are frozen. Today his only privilege is to occupy the first place next to the barbed wire fence, the violent architecture of the Border Patrol. He has been posting his story on American politicians’ social media for five days. He has 180 days, the legal stay in Mexico, for someone in the United States to listen to him. “There is no plan B”, he ends.

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