Russians find asylum lifeline to US, but at a high price

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. (AP) — Phil Metzger promises to arrange entry to the United States for Russian-speaking asylum-seekers through unmatched connections with U.S. border officials and people in Mexico who can guarantee safety while traveling. Though seeking asylum is free, the pastor of Calvary San Diego said his services are “not cheap.”

In an interview with a Russian-language YouTube channel, he touted direct computer access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enroll migrants and was vague about “opportunists” in Mexico who ensure customers’ safety after they fly there on tourist visas and while they wait in Tijuana to cross.

“I just know there’s a lot of power on that side that I just don’t control,” the evangelical Christian pastor said. “But I do have one control. I control who goes across. So I have to negotiate. To keep those people safe, I have to negotiate with those in power (in Mexico).”

Asylum is supposed to be free and for those most in need; many have been unable to even ask for protection under COVID-19 restrictions that are set to expire Wednesday.

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