SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Ukraine's growing humanitarian crisis is now hitting close to home.
CBS 8 has learned that at least three families, seeking asylum from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, were denied entry into the United States on Wednesday at the US Mexico border at San Ysidro.
On Thursday, at least one of those families were granted entry and have been going through the process to cross over into America. Their goal is to be reunited with their family who live in the United States, after what has been a grueling 11 days trying to get to safety.
Sofia, a Ukrainian mom of three children aged 6, 12 and 14-years-old says coming to the United States was her best option.
"I probably don't have any other place to go. I have family and friend in the USA, and they are ready to support me, and they asked me to leave Ukraine in this situation,” Sofia said. “In any other case, I wouldn't leave, I'm sure because I have more family and friends over there."
She says she started the trek from Ukraine with her children on February 27, before it was too tough to get out of the country, leaving behind her mother and other family members.
"My friends were worried that my life was really in danger so that's why (I came),” Sofia shared.
But once Sofia and her children got to the Port at San Ysidro on Wednesday, they were denied entry.
"I saw the family hunched together crying right next to the port of entry."
That's where Blaine Bookey, legal director for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies found them and offered her legal assistance.
"She said that we were angels in her path who just happened to be there at the same time as her and there are so many other people who are just not that lucky,” said Bookey. “When we found out today that she was being processed under an exemption, the family and we were just happy and relieved to have the chance to seek asylum and seek safety,"
Bookey says Sofia and her family and any other Ukrainian families looking to come to the United States through the San Ysidro Port of Entry are all facing the same hurdle.
Title 42, which prevents asylum seekers from entering the United States for coronavirus restrictions.
"Ukrainian asylum seekers just like all of the other asylum seekers from Haiti, Cameroon, Central America - when they show up at the border, they are told that they cannot seek asylum and there are no exceptions,” said Bookey. “So, this case just shows that this policy is being applied across the board in extremely horrific circumstances. You have lots of other families who are not as lucky as our clients were today. Who are also fleeing war torn countries, very dangerous conditions, living in Tijuana in incredibly difficult and dangerous circumstances.”
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