SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KGTV) - Water, snacks, toys, and volunteers were ready at the PedWest section of the San Ysidro Port of Entry Wednesday to greet Ukrainian refugees.
"You know, there's little lulls like when you've been here that there hasn't been anything. But then all of a sudden 20 people will come out. A steady stream of about 50 people every two hours,” said Phil Metzger, the lead pastor at Calvary San Diego.
Metzger and others with Calvary San Diego, a Chula Vista-based church, said they found out Tuesday that Ukrainian refugees would be processed by Customs and Border Protection at the once-closed PedWest section on Wednesday.
PedWest has been closed since April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandmeic.
"The opened Ped West this morning and are solely putting people dedicated to processing people's passports and refugees and getting Ukrainians across as fast as possible,” said Andy Ziesemer, the worship pastor at Calvary San Diego.
ABC 10News asked CBP about the details of what's happening at PedWest.
According to CBP, the agency sends officers to different locations as needed to meet operational needs. CBP has also expanded use of additional facilities at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to enable the efficient processing of those who are excepted, for humanitarian reasons and on a case-by-case basis, from the CDC's Title 42 public health order.
The lead pastor says helping those escape the war with Russia is personal.
"I spent 20 years in Budapest, Hungary neighboring with Ukraine. So, when war broke out, our church felt like we have to get involved,” Metzger said.
“My family and I actually flew to Hungary. And I went into Ukraine and spent the week in Ukraine. Bought some white vans, put Red Cross stickers on them, drove medicine across the country and just started pulling people out of the country."
The Director of Immigrant Affairs for the City of Tijuana tells ABC 10News that more than 570 Ukrainian refugees are being processed per day by CBP authorities.
"I think it's safe to say we're in a 3,000-3,500 people range right now on the other side,” Metzger said.
Volunteers are hoping for more to be done despite this most recent effort to help process refugees.
"I think this back up on the other side is going to become a serious, serious problem and it's not going away,” Metzger said.