Mexico to Tijuana along with his 14-year old daughter. In a car with seven Russians. The only thing that prevented them from seeking asylum in the United States was an American officer who stood in traffic while vehicles rushed towards inspection booths.
He says that the emotions are difficult to express. "It's fear. The unknown. It is really difficult. It was our only choice."
It worked. Derzkho was held for a day before being released. He and his daughter were among thousands of Russians who had recently traveled the same path to America.
Before Russia's invasion in Ukraine resulted in harsh sanctions by the U.S., its allies and others, the United States already saw an increase Russian asylum-seekers from August to January. This is 35 times more than the 249 who sought refuge at the U.S. Mexican border between August and January a year ago. Nine out of ten people used San Diego's official border crossings.
Although migrant from former Soviet republics travel the same route, they are more numerous than those from Ukraine. However, some authorities anticipate that there will be more Ukrainians. After twice blocking her, the U.S. allowed a Ukrainian family with four to enter its country on Thursday.
Russians don't need visas to travel to Mexico like the U.S. Many Russians fly from Moscow to Cancun to visit Mexico. They then travel to Tijuana to pool their money and buy or rent cars. As they approach San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing where approximately 30,000 carsenter each day, adrenaline rushes.
Concrete barriers funnel traffic through 24 lanes to a border that is marked with a few rows yellow reflector bumps. Before vehicles reach inspection booths, these bumps are used as a way of dividing highway lanes. The buffer zone separates the bumps and inspection booths.
To claim asylum in the United States, migrants must reach the buffer zone. U.S. border officers are stationed at the Mexican side and first attempt to block them. They peer into cars, ask motorists for travel documents, and stop any suspicious vehicles.
Derzhko, who was crossing in August, stated that it was a frightening moment for everyone. He spoke to him in Los Angeles in an interview. "All the children were very worried.
Russians share travel tips via social media and messaging platforms. Unidentified man described his journey from Moscow's Red Square, to San Diego hotel room. He also included stops in Cancun and Mexico City. While he admits to nervousness after purchasing a Tijuana-based used car, he later claims that everything went well in San Diego, despite being held in U.S. custody for two days.
Russians have a virtually certain shot at asylum if their feet touch U.S. soil. This despite President Joe Biden's Trump-era asylum restrictions. Border agents may deny asylum seekers the chance to seek refuge because it could spread COVID-19. It is difficult to send certain nationalities home due to logistics, cost and diplomatic tensions.
Russians and other former Soviet republicans prefer to drive through official crossings rather than illegally crossing deserts or mountains. Although they don't hire smugglers, "a facilitator" might help to arrange travel, according to Chad Plantz (special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego).
Plantz stated that while Moscow to Cancun is most popular, there are also Russians who fly from Amsterdam or Paris to Mexico City, then fly to Tijuana.
Some tensions have resulted.
One involved a Russian man aged 29 who accelerated after passing the San Ysidro reflector bumps on December 12th and slammed on the brakes. This caused a sedan with six Russian asylum seekers to strike him from behind. According to CBP the incident is currently under investigation.
Martin Molina, Martin Molina's lawyer, stated that the SUV driver jumped on the gas when he saw a gap between lanes. The SUV was accompanied by eleven other Russians including his wife, 5-year old daughter, and son, aged 5 years. Passengers raised their arms and shouted "Asylum!"
Molina stated that all he saw was the bright lights of San Ysidro. "He wanted to go there."
After nearly three months in prison, the judge released the driver. Molina requested that the Associated Press not identify him. He said that his client feared being exposed could jeopardize their safety. He planned to seek asylum in Brooklyn with his family, who were against Russian intervention in Chechnya.
Plantz stated that other incidents have raised security concerns. According to court documents, another incident occurred on December 12. A car carrying migrants from Tajikistan and Ukraine was driven by a driver who ignored an officer's request to show identification. He struck the officer with a car mirror as he was speeding past him.
Plantz stated that they were probably disoriented and not sure what they were doing. However, they are failing yield, hitting the gas, and blowing through.
San Diego federal judge has ruled that it is illegal to stop asylum-seekers, but has not provided specific instructions. This allows authorities to continue with their current practices. Erika Pinheiro is the litigation and policy director of Al Otro Lado. This advocacy group sued over border crossings' asylum limits. Erika Pinheiro said that U.S. officials coordinate with Mexican officials in order to prevent migrants from reaching the buffer area.
Yuliya Pahkova, an attorney in San Diego who represents Russian asylum-seekers traces the rise in arrivals back to the detention of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader. The asylum-seekers can include Putin opponents, gays, Muslims, and business owners who were extorted.
She said, "When people think about America, they think about freedom, democracy, and, frankly speaking, a good economic condition."