A group of Russian citizens who fled their country after the invasion of Ukraine and spent a week camped out at the U.S.-Mexico border was quietly admitted to the U.S. in a secret deal with Mexican officials, VICE World News has learned.
The group of 35 asylum seekers was whisked away in the predawn hours of March 20 and driven to a part of the border where they wouldn’t be seen: a checkpoint that has been closed to the public for several months.
There, under cover of night, Mexican immigration officers handed the Russians over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Two days before, the Russians had received an offer from a Russian-speaking man who introduced himself as an American diplomat: They would be taken across the border, but only if they broke up their growing encampment on the busy pedestrian crossing between Tijuana and San Diego.
The secret agreement, brokered by the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana and executed in conjunction with Mexican officials at the federal and state levels, bypassed Title 42, the controversial pandemic-era measure that allows U.S. border authorities to expel or deny entry to asylum seekers without hearing their claims. The policy has left tens of thousands of migrants stranded on the Mexican side of the border.