TIJUANA (Border Report) — Irene Flores has spent the last 17 years of her life selling magazines and newspapers to northbound border commuters at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Flores says she’s there bright and early each morning, except for Sundays, trying to make a living.
For the last six weeks, she’s been noticing a “different” type of commuter as she strides along traffic lanes looking to make a sale.
“You can identify them easily,” Flores said in Spanish. “They’re jammed into cars, entire families who normally don’t cross in the morning and they all look nervous.”
Flores is talking about Russian migrants who have been coming to Tijuana in greater numbers than anyone can remember.
“We saw a lot of them in 2021, but not like this,” she said.
Flores said she sees up to 20 cars each morning loaded with Russian migrants who are trying to get past U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
“Some cross while running, others hide in the trunks of cars. … I’ve seen some open doors and sneak into cars belonging to strangers,” said Flores. “CBP officers try to stop them, but they jump out of their cars and make a run for it.”
CBP did not respond to an email from Border Report asking if this is in fact happening. But Flores insists there’s no mistaking this trend.
“I see it every morning, then the officers have to close down the lanes for five to 10 minutes and it creates a bigger backup.”
Others who frequent the border said they too have noticed the issue.
“It’s a problem,” said Plablo Maciel. “It’s a big problem because when they close down the lanes to make arrests they make the lines longer and we have to wait more to cross the border on our way to work.”
The latest CBP data shows that Border Patrol agents and CBP officers have encountered Russian nationals 19,296 times this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2021. Immigration authorities encountered Russian nationals 13,240 times in FY 2021 and 5,946 in FY 2020, and the majority of those encounters took place at ports of entry.
Additionally, 45 percent of all migrant encounters involving Russian nationals this fiscal year occurred in the San Diego Sector.
Mexican officials said hotels in Tijuana are filled with Russian migrants who are visiting Mexico with tourist visas.
Mexico’s Customs office in Tijuana reported that for the first two months of this year, more than 28,000 Russians have entered Mexico.
“Without a doubt, in the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in the numbers of Russians coming to our city,” said researcher Jose Maria Ramos, who works for Tijuana’s Colegio de la Frontera. “Some do make it across and are able to ask for asylum, but most are returned.”
Ramos added the numbers of Russian migrants are up this year and expects more in the future along with migrants from other parts of the world.