SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Long lines of Ukrainians trying to enter the United States have caused a backlog at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Volunteers helping those refugees tell CBS 8 many are waiting for several hours, and in some cases days to get in.
“The processing has slowed down on and off, so basically the backlog has grown exponentially,” said volunteer, Inna Levien.
Levien is one of several volunteers who has been crossing over daily delivering food, blankets and other necessities, as well as comfort to those waiting in line.
After Customs and Border Protection announced Ukrainians would be allowed in under humanitarian exemptions, thousands have taken the long journey to the San Ysidro Port of Entry where it’s said to be easier to get in compared to elsewhere in the U.S.
“They go into the first country that allows them. They stay there, then to the next one and to the next one. Everyone has been to at least five countries before they get here,” said volunteer David Miramontes.
Miramontes, who lived in Ukraine while serving in the Peace Corps, says while the Mexican government and nearby shelters are doing what they can to accommodate everyone, it’s a logistical nightmare forcing many refugees, mostly women and children, to sleep outside as they go through the process.
“So far, it's a day and a half to two days for each group that arrives,” said Miramontes.
The Tijuana bus station is being used to house some of the refugees.
Meanwhile, others are bused to Otay Mesa, where there aren't sufficient facilities.
Volunteers tell CBS 8 they're looking for blankets, tents, host families both in Mexico and here in the U.S., as well as a way to get running water to the bus station where there isn't any.
They need financial donations as well, saying the problem will only get worse in the coming days.
“It's really sad. However, it's really positive too because people are very patient, and they keep telling us 'oh, we've seen worse, we've seen so much worse',” said Levien.
If you'd like to help, a lot of the volunteer efforts are being organized by the Calgary Church in Chula Vista and the House of Ukraine. Contact either to get involved.
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