This is our story about why we chose Humanitarian Parole and how we traveled to Tijuana and Crossed the Border at San Ysidro.

Like many American/Ukrainian couples with loved ones in Ukraine, we were eager to get my wife’s adult (>21 yr old) daughter to America and away from the danger in Ukraine. We still have many relatives in peril in Ukraine, but besides my wife’s daughter, we were successful in getting her niece safely situated in Germany. This was our niece’s choice of where to go for exile until the war is over. Getting my wife’s adult daughter, Valeriya, into America was a month-long ordeal, but we could finally do it by bringing her through the San Ysidro Border Crossing this past week.

We hope to explain our journey in enough detail that other American/Ukrainian families can use our experience as a guide to help them make better or more confident decisions on their journey to bring family members here.

Part One: Why we used the Humanitarian Parole from the DHS’s US Customs and Border Patrol

First, a couple of quick caveats. The first is our experience is a one-day glimpse at the Mexico City Airport encounter with their immigration/border patrol function, and the San Ysidro Border Crossing and interactions with the US Border Patrol personnel on duty the morning that we crossed. Official government policies and US Border Patrol procedures can change at any time. Already we know that the number of Ukrainians at the San Ysidro crossing is over 800 and the nearby Otay Mesa crossing is over 200. Someone staffed well enough neither border crossing station to process many Ukrainians per day efficiently. So those numbers may rise sharply as more Ukrainians learn that these ports of entry are available.

The second caveat is that some links we will share will be in Russian. And we cannot guarantee or warrant any information that you read or hear is of any value to you. We think the people who started these links are trying to help Ukrainians make it safely into America. The information on these links helped us in getting to, and understanding what to expect at, the border crossing. We found and collected them during our travel to get to the US.

Russian Language Resources:

The Spring of Life Church in San Diego is providing volunteers to help Ukrainians at the San Ysidro Border Crossing Station (725 E San Ysidro Blvd, San Diego, CA 92173). They have two Telegram Group Chats you can join. We recommend signing up for both and reading as much as possible.

https://t.me/+lo_pyiOwnK0wMTUx

https://t.me/newmexicohelp

Here is a table full of answers to questions:

https://bit.ly/3DaUnqP

Here are some helpful videos to watch:

https://youtu.be/teO5CiK6GQw

https://youtu.be/HXePYs7y5-0

https://youtu.be/R_wyhLSE2SI

https://youtu.be/mOpZNNncrLc

Part 1: https://youtu.be/TsrLsI54aMg

Part 2: https://youtu.be/HieNEM9__Ao

Hopefully, you will start with these links, communicate in advance with these humanitarian support groups that are helping Ukrainians, and learn everything you want to know before coming to this border crossing and asking for humanitarian parole.

Now back to our story…..

I have several male friends who were not yet engaged or started a K-1/K-2 visa process with their female Ukrainian girlfriend. This process will work for them, but it’s stretching the rules so far that they will need to be very discrete. This group should actively investigate their individual situation and attempt to expedite their K-1 visa and conduct the embassy interview in whichever country they presently settled their fiancé outside of Ukraine. If a couple has not yet submitted the K-1 visa, the humanitarian parole route will be faster to unite in America and make the final decision to marry a few (>3) months after living together in the US.

I have other friends who are already married and living in the US and their wife’s mother, father, nieces and nephews, or children and grandchildren, even close cousins would not normally be allowed to get an immigration or tourist visa to live long term in the US or visit them. The humanitarian parole process will be good for this group of people.

Then there are people who really want to come to America but have been unsuccessful in getting a visa. These Ukrainians have no loved ones or friends in America willing to house and feed them until they can get permission to work. They know no one and no one is ready to house and feed them until they can get on their own two feet.

The humanitarian parole process is not a good idea for these people because they will be asked for an address and phone number of someone who will be financially responsible for them. No one should start by lying to the Customs and Border Patrol. Eventually, you will be found out and returned to Ukraine after being banned from ever getting permission to enter America again.

The other downside is America is 3-5 times more expensive to live in than Ukraine. Humanitarian parole does not convey permission to work. One must apply for that after they enter the US, and it can take 3-6 months for that permission to be given. So, if someone doesn’t have a family relative to provide shelter and food, then they will most likely starve or get pulled into illegal activities in order to feed themselves and be able to pay for a place to live.

Humanitarian parole does not provide a pathway to immigration. It is only good for short-term stay in America. If the war drags on over a year from now, there are no public plans for how to proceed into the future. Most likely Ukrainians on humanitarian parole will be added to the Temporary Protection System. But there are no guarantees. Ukrainians who cross into America should, upon arrival, apply for a social security number and a permission to work card through the normal methods (visiting a local social security office, and applying online at USCIS.gov). It may take 3 months or longer, but eventually Ukrainians should be able to get a work permit and find a job during their time in America.

One way our family differed from most families at the border was that we had a small 4 kg German Spitz female dog, 3 years old, named Cina, with us. We had the dog’s complete Ukrainian vaccine records. Valeriya got the dog as a young puppy, but there is no argument the dog thinks Anzhela is Mama. We were smart to take Cina to a veterinarian in Bucharest and got her examined, dewormed, micro-chipped and her vaccination record placed in a European Pet Passport.

Airline personnel reviewed that EU Pet Passport at every stop along the way, and it was essential to get the dog on the plane when leaving Bucharest, Barcelona, and when we arrived in Mexico City. We received additional forms for the dog’s passport by Lufthansa out of Barcelona, and an inspection of the dog and some paperwork by Animal Control in Mexico City in the Baggage Area after we passed passport control.

Other than that, airline agents weighed the dog and in cabin travel carrier in Barcelona and Mexico City when we checked in for our flights to Frankfort and Tijuana, respectively.

So back to our decision to seek humanitarian parole. We had tried the State Dept visa pathways, and they were most often a simple “No,” and sometimes a “maybe in 7 years we will say Yes.” There is no non-immigration visa for coming to the US and stay with a family member until the war is over. The official policy of the US State Dept is that a Tourist Visa is not appropriate for bringing a loved one into the country and wait until the war is over. They could create one with a snap of the fingers, but they won’t do it. Human behavior has taught them over the years once in the country foreigners want to stay.

So, the DHS-controlled “Humanitarian Parole” was the only pathway that would appear to work. It is for people seeking protection from danger (not political oppression) in their home country. The standard process is simple, and the Custom and Border Patrol will advise you to file for it abroad and wait months and months until it gets approved. You can get humanitarian parole if you present yourself at an American Port of Entry, but that leads to a secondary problem: how to get to a port of entry to request humanitarian parole.

International airlines require you to have a visa or prearranged mutually agreed visa waivers to board a plane to a foreign country. So, no Ukrainian can fly to America without a visa. That includes if you want to change planes in America (like at JFK) and then proceed to another foreign country. And the state department will not give tourist visas for people who want a humanitarian parole.

This means if a Ukrainian wants to get to a port of entry in America, they must either travel to Canada or Mexico. Or you must book passage on a merchant ship, which is not a straightforward thing to do and is probably too difficult for most people.

The first question facing our family with our Ukrainian daughter was how to get to a port of entry. We chose to go to Tijuana in Mexico. We considered this to be the easiest way to get to the US border because Ukrainians may file for an electronic visa to enter Mexico.

We had been watching end skimming YouTube channels and US news sources to monitor what was actually happening at the border at the San Ysidro Border Crossing for Ukrainians. At first, while we were in Bucharest Romania during the middle of March, Ukrainians could not cross over to the American side of the border.

After we had shifted locations to Barcelona, we heard news reports that Ukrainians had been allowed to cross the border in January and February, but it had stopped in March once the fighting war had started. Now there were news reports that the Customs and Border Patrol had reversed this decision and were now granting humanitarian parole to Ukrainians at the Tijuana Border. I even called an information line for the Border Patrol and learned that they would allow Ukrainians to enter at almost all US Ports of Entry. So as quickly as we could, we bought tickets to go to Tijuana. We left Barcelona on 25 March 2022.

Part Two: The Basic Steps for Traveling to Mexico

  1. Have an International Passport. If you don’t have one, check with the Telegram Group Chats and find someone who had this problem before you and see how the situation was handled. This is good general advice.
  2. Have a contact in America who will provide you shelter and food for several months until you can get a work permit and start earning enough to become self-sufficient. You will need their name, phone number, and street address to be processed for humanitarian parole.
  3. Make plane reservations to fly from your location in Europe to Tijuana, Mexico. We recommend arranging a long layover (5-6 hours or more) in Mexico City Airport to ensure that no problems arise at the Border Crossing desk at the airport.
  4. Beware some discount airlines severely overbook their flights from Mexico City to Tijuana and you will have to check into your flight 3 days before your flight to Tijuana to make sure they don’t give your seat to someone else.
  5. 🇲🇽 Get a Tourist Visa to Mexico:

          In Russian, https://www.inm.gob.mx/sae/publico/ru/solicitud.html

          In English, https://www.inm.gob.mx/sae/publico/en/solicitud.html

  1. There is also an Entry-To-Mexico Card that the airline will give you to fill out. This is besides the electronic visa. Fill this out both the top and bottom parts of the form and take with you from the plane. There is a way to complete this card online, but our border crossing agent only wanted their pre-printed card that the airline handed out. We lost time filling it out in the Passport Control area. On this form, they ask you where you are staying. We made a reservation at a hotel in Tijuana and then canceled it after we made it to Tijuana and just got in line. These days, though, you may really need that hotel room for a few days before it can be your turn to cross.

 

Part Three: Flying from Barcelona to Tijuana

We had a taxi pick us up at 03:30 am outside our hotel in the Gothic Quarter. Our flight from Barcelona was at 6 am, so we wanted to be at the check-in counter no less than 2 hours before the flight. Imagine our surprise when we were checking out of our hotel and electronic dance music penetrated the hotel. We went outside as our taxi pulled up and about 50 young people were standing outside drinking and talking with the electronic music pulsating in the background. A club was open two doors down from our hotel, normally a storm/security door with graffiti on it was rolled down at this location, giving no sign there was a nightclub behind the door.

We loaded up the taxi with all our bags and our dog in his airline travel case and started for the airport. The trip took less than 25 minutes, and our driver deposited us in front of our airline at 0350. The first class and business class desks were manned, but otherwise the line of passengers had formed for Economy Class. I monitored the airline employees that strolled in and prepared their computer stations to check in passengers. More and more travelers joined our line, and I was glad that we got to the airport as early as we did.

Economy class did not start checking in until 0400 and at the initial pace, I started thinking there was no way that the airline was going to get everyone taken care of in time for them to make it through security and all the way to our assigned gate in time to be finished boarding at 0550. But after a few minutes, all the business class passengers must have checked in and this desk started servicing economy passengers. We were the 12th group of passengers (families, couples, and singles) in the line for the 3 counter agents to check in, and we got called up at about 4:25.

We were expecting some issues as we started in Barcelona since we had two women with Ukrainian passports and a dog in our party. There ended up being no issue with the Ukrainians getting on a plane since they both had the new Biometric Passports. We had secured an EU Pet Passport and the counter agent looked over this passport and went looking for a form to fill out, which I signed and then he gave me a copy. He told me to keep it with the passport and that I would need it at the gate. We showed our COVID Antigen tests at the desk and there was no discussion of whether we had COVID Vaccines. This differed from when we were in Switzerland. But all was good in Spain. We were finished at the counter and had checked our bags all the way to Tijuana by 4:40 am.

After going through security, we got to our gate before 5 am. We had about 30 minutes before they began boarding. Because of our dog, we could pass through an early boarding line. Our first leg was to Frankfurt GE, a flight of 2 hours and 20 minutes. When we got there, we made the mistake of stopping to get drinks and a snack before heading to our next gate. It turns out that Germany screens you as you leave your International Arrival Concourse and proceed to another International Departure Concourse. A huge line had formed in front of us because we did not get to our next gate immediately. It was a large, unorganized mess that only resolved when we were about 15 feet in front of the airline people who were prescreening passengers for this departure concourse.

When we finally reached the desk where an airline representative asked us for boarding passes, Covid Tests, the Pet Passport, and our passports. While handing the paperwork back and forth, the gentleman forgot to give us back our Covid tests. I didn’t realize this until 15 minutes later and I didn’t want to go back outside security and passport control to go retrieve them since I knew Mexico did not require any tests or vaccines to enter the country.

Immediately after this desk was another line to pass through Passport Control. This was interesting and a bit confusing, too. Here, the agent looked over our boarding passes first thing and saw we were going to Mexico City from Frankfurt. He handed them back and asked for some other paperwork we had completed to show we were going to be tourists in Mexico. I forgot to put the boarding passes back in my bag or pockets, so I left our boarding passes at Passport Control desk. But we got through Passport Control without too much trouble, and we started walking to our gate. But there was another line of airline employees checking things and they told us we wouldn’t be allowed down the Concourse until 11 am.

We went back to an area with an open restaurant and some nearby lounge chairs. Every other chair was supposed to be open, but people had just taken off the soft signs asking to keep the chair open for social distancing. Airport employees didn’t seem to care that families were not socially distancing, so we took a strap off too and we all laid out on some nice lounge chairs to relax and wait the 3 hours until our flight boarded.

When it was finally time to walk down to our gate, the airline employees were packing up and leaving their review stations and they weren’t checking passengers anymore. We walked right by them and down to our gate, where I could get three more boarding passes for the flight to Mexico City. We found a place to sit and wait until they called our group. No one from Lufthansa Airlines asked about visas for entry into Mexico.

Our plane was an older Boeing 757 or something, and there was no place to charge your phone at your seat in Economy Class. I had paid a lot of money for each ticket, and I felt the whole service by Lufthansa was very much like a discount airline. The meal was tiny and there was no selection. Welcome to vegetarian pasta. They reduced the snack to a vegetarian half a veggie wrap. It didn’t taste good. During the flight, they gave you a single bottle of water. Other drinks were available for free before mealtime, but if you wanted something else, you had to buy it off their overpriced catering menu. I was unimpressed.

12 hours after takeoff, we landed in Mexico City, we grabbed our carry-on luggage and pet carrier and headed to the huge line for Passport Control. We had completed the mandatory Landing Card online, so I didn’t bother filling out the big Landing Card that the airline handed us after we had taken off. This was a big mistake. The Passport Control agent didn’t care about our online forms that we had filled out. They wanted a Landing Card like the one the airline had given us. So, when we got to the front of the line, we had to back off twice to fill the card out properly. (Hint: there are places on the top AND bottom of the form to fill out.) The Mexican authorities fill out the middle of the card, and then tear off the bottom of the form and give it back to you. The second group of information that you place on this form is on this stub that they give you and tell you to keep it with your passport while you are in America.

On this form, we said we were coming to Mexico for “TOURISM” and that we planned to stay “3 to 7 days.” We had the name and address of a hotel in Tijuana, where we were planning to stay. Angela insisted we had to prove that we had a reservation at this location, but no one ever asked us to prove we had a reservation. We didn’t have a reservation, so I’m glad about that. I tried to make a reservation, but the hotel’s website and phone number did not allow us to make a reservation or talk to anyone at the hotel. Since our plan was to go straight to the border after landing in Tijuana, I didn’t want to pay for a night in a hotel that we were going to use. Almost all hotels had a no cancellation policy.

The big surprised occurred when the Passport Control Agent asked for an electronic visa for Valeriya. I was shocked. This was something that we didn’t know about. In all our research and Angela’s message boards in Russian, no one ever said Valeriya needed a visa. And they didn’t ask about Angela either, who was traveling on her Ukrainian passport. I explained I was very sorry that I was ignorant of this requirement and asked what we must do. The agent checked with her supervisor, and they were kind enough to create one for Valeriya. It took about 10 extra minutes and they finally showed up with a piece of paper, talk to Valeriya to keep it with her passport, while in Mexico.

We then moved through Passport Control, walked through some doors and down a corridor to get to the baggage claim hall. Since we were late coming through Passport Control compared to other people on our flight, we were surprised that our bags were not on the carousel for our flight. Angela finally figured out that they had taken our bags off the carousel and were sitting in a grouping of bags for people to claim. We then hit the bathrooms (Angela said they were nasty.) and tried to leave the area. But we were stopped because of our dog, and a lady kindly walked us all the way back to the entrance of the baggage claim hall. There on the right, just after you pass the duty-free store and as you enter the hall, is the Mexican government’s animal control office. It looks empty when you walk by and it’s very easy to miss. But it is across baggage claim area 18.

It took us about 40 minutes once we got to the window, but that was because two people were ahead of us. One of these people went through the process easily, and one was having problems. This second person was very frustrated because somehow the process had changed, and she wasn’t totally prepared with all her pet’s documentation. Once we got helped, it was easy to do. Angela had a paper to sign that the Mexican Officials prepared from our EU Pet Passport. A lady had us take the dog out of her travel case and our Cina was given a quick inspection to look for medical problems on the dog. Since they found none, they gave us the paperwork Angela signed, and we were on our way.

We walked past the Customs Officials in the Nothing-To-Declare line, and at the end of the baggage hall, there was an unattended conveyor belt that we placed our luggage on so that they could move all pre-checked luggage to its next flight.

Once we got rid of our checked baggage, it was a lot easier to move around and we went outside security and into the main International Terminal. We looked for signs for the Sky Train that would take us to the Domestic Terminal for our next flight to Tijuana. Finding the train was a little tricky. You must go up one level and across the street from the International Terminal. The signage for the train is not that easy to spot. We walked right by it. But once we got pointed back in the right direction, we went up another level and waited for the train to arrive. They come by about every 15 minutes at night. We hopped on this tram and rode over to the Domestic Terminal. When we came out of the tram area, we walked to the right and there, immediately on the left, was a series of AeroMéxico check-in booths. There was a manned booth on the far left side. After walking up, we asked for boarding passes for our next flight. We waited while the airline rep looked us up in the computer, figured out that we had a dog in the cabin and that we had already paid to take the animal with us.

He said that animals must be in special seat locations and that the gate agent would have to do the final seat assignments. So, he told us to go to the gate and see the gate agent for our final seat assignments. We did that by going right back in the direction we came, and with a little shift in our walking pattern, we found ourselves in the security line to go to the correct section of gates.

We grabbed a snack since we hadn’t eaten dinner and made it to the gate in plenty of time. Most people were not wearing masks or wearing them improperly. Everything was like a normal flight after this. We boarded, stowed the dog and our carryon luggage, settled in, and waited for the 3-hour flight north to Tijuana.

We all slept on the flight to Tijuana because we had been traveling all day long. Locally, we left Mexico City at 10:30 pm and we were supposed to arrive at 1:30 am. We landed at Tijuana 15 minutes early at 1:15 am.

Part Four: Arrival in Tijuana and Crossing the Border

After we walked off the plane, we visited the bathrooms and started towards baggage claim. Mexican immigration pulled Valeriya and Anzhela aside–we never knew why. I’m guessing they were just counting and categorizing all the foreign nationals who were coming through the airport. They didn’t want to look at my passport. It took about an extra 15 minutes. We then collected our bags. There is a Cross Border Xpress company at the airport that allows people to walk over a pedestrian bridge at the airport directly to America. This is not for Ukrainians. Don’t get in a line, stay left and walk out of the secure area.

We were then in the Tijuana Airport Arrival Hall, and we started looking for the church volunteers with the Ukrainian Flag. They will take you for free to the San Ysidro Border Crossing via a small bus. We found them, then lost track of them, and finally headed to the border on our own. We took a taxi from airport to the San Ysidro border crossing. It cost $20.

We grabbed our bags out of the taxi and flowed with the people already walking to the border. We found the enclave of Ukrainian travelers and got in line at 2:30 am. Few people were being processed at this hour. One of the local Ukrainian Support volunteers said they took 5 people about 2 hours ago. He doesn’t expect them to get to full strength processing until 0500-0600, and maybe even later because it was Sunday.

We were standing on a sidewalk out of the breeze, and it’s about 55 F. There are about 50 people in front of us. 2-3 more people show up behind us every 10 minutes. The cement sidewalk is not spotless, so people sit on their luggage to stay off the cold and dirty concrete.

I bought some great tortas for 5 bucks each at the Food Truck at the entrance. It appeared to be cleaner than the street vendors’ cooking areas.

Someone gave Angela a warm woolen blanket to keep Valeriya or Angela super warm. By 5 am, we are all getting a little tired. I was too tired to figure out when we left our hotel in Barcelona yesterday and how many hours it took to make it to this point of our journey.

About 20 more Ukrainians showed up right before 5 am. The number kept growing slowly until there were more that 100 people in our waiting area.

CBP came out about 6:15 am and asked the volunteers to get a headcount. They wanted to process mothers with small children first. There were 41 different families and 122+ men, women and children at 6:30 in the morning.

At 6:30 am, CBP agents grabbed three families with about 7 kids, about 10-12 people total, and took them to be processed. Then the volunteers tried to organize everyone into a single file line. The problem was that the people in the back didn’t want to move backwards even though their place in line, so the people up front just crammed together.

CBP didn’t come for another group until almost 9:30 am. Then they took another 10 people. I asked the border patrol agent about Valeriya. We took too long writing the info he asked for, so Valeriya didn’t get in that group.

They were back though in another half hour and took ten more. Now the Ukrainian refugees were lined up single file and Valeriya could cross the border when it was her turn at the front of the line.

At this rate, it would take another 90 minutes to two hours before they will take her to a room to fill out forms. Then there will be an interview. Angela plans to be there for the interview to translate.

The CBP agent came out in less than 30 mins. I was convinced that we will have to wait our turn. But as I’m watching the agent, he pointed in my direction. I tipped my ball cap towards the agent and he mimicked the movement and shook his head up and down. I thought he remembered me and was calling us through. So, I grabbed all the luggage, called out to Angela and Valeria in line to move forward and join me.

Several people got upset when it looked like I had jumped the line earlier, and they started asking me questions again. All I told to them was that I got called up.

When we got up to the front of the line, I got motioned through with my American Passport and Angela got stopped with Ukrainian passports.

I was stumbling with the 5 little suitcases and our pet carrier trying to move to a place where I could talk to the CBP agent who’s talking to someone else. I was distracted and didn’t notice Angela was not moving towards me.

The CBP agent then told me he didn’t mean to call me up. He wanted to get the attention of the female Ukrainian Aid worker, who was also wearing a ball cap. I immediately said then that’s Ok, we’ll go back and wait our turn, but he told me to stay where I am, and he motioned to the other agents to let Angela and Valeriya through. He said he’ll just add us to the end of the next group.

So we got through. The downside was we had to sit on a bench in full view of all the other Ukrainians while the CBP and volunteers figure out who’s in the next group. If looks from the other Ukrainians still in line could kill, we would have been dead ten or twelve times. No one likes line jumpers, except the people jumping the line.

Finally, the agent came and got us. Valeriya (and Angela as her interpreter) went into the room to be processed with all the others. I sat outside in the sunshine and waited for them. It was 10:30 am.

By 11:15, I was getting a little worried. I’d been sitting in the warm sun and had taken off my sweater. Then I realized I had the dog with me. Cina was napping sweetly, but it was warm in her travel case. I put my jacket over her to give her some shade.

I finally started checking for hotels and airline prices back to Pensacola. Anzhela messaged me to ask when we were flying home. I guessed it’s a question on the forms that she’s filling out. I told her not today. Maybe by Wednesday.

Then, 15 minutes later, Anzhela came out. The CBP agent directed us to head through the border station and meet Valeriya on the other side as they escorted this entire group of Ukrainians through. Valeriya had her bag with her. We walked through a big line of people and came into an enormous hall with about 12 double-sided CBP booths, like at the airport. We realized the line has stacked up because people aren’t being told by an agent to go stand in a specific line to be processed. Angela and I never actually got in the big line, we walked around it, then through a couple of lines filled with people to get to a booth, and we finally got into a shorter line in the middle of the hall.

I kept telling Angela to put her passport away and finally asked her to give it to me, then I asked her for her green card. I put her passport in my back pocket and put her green card with my passport. This is all the while we’re pushing 2 little rollaway suitcases, a large carry-on bag, and my backpack. I have slid the soft luggage pet carrier over the handle of one of the carry-on bags. It looks like regular luggage, I’m hoping. We didn’t want to deal with CDC/animal control people this Sunday morning.

We got up to the border agent. He asked Angela to pull down her mask and look at the camera. Then he asked Angela our purpose in Mexico. She remembered to say tourism. He asked how long we were in Mexico, and she recalled the answer we prepared for the Mexican Border Patrol, 3-7 days. The guy looked confused, and I laughed and said, “No honey, he’s asking how long we were in Mexico. So I said, “One Day.”

He then asked me to pull down my mask, and Angela tried to pull down her mask again and put her face into the camera. We were all exhausted now. I laughed again and said, “No, it is my turn for the picture. Then the agent asked if we have anything to declare. He started giving this long list of plants and food. I held my breath and waited for him to say DOG or PETS.

He finished his list as I realized he hadn’t said pets! I’m stunned. Finally, I blurt out a “No.” If he saw the pet, he must have assumed we took it out with us and have brought it back in. I motion for Angela to go through the little gate, and we are in! One last thing to do was to get in line to have our luggage X-rayed. I was still worried that someone would come up and ask us about the dog. But no one did. We collected our bags on the other side of the X-ray machine and walked out of the large hall into bright sunshine. We were in America together.

The first thing Valeriya did was show me the stamps in her passport that let her stay one year. I gave her a big hug and then we commemorate the moment with a selfie.

We sat down and I used my phone to arrange an Uber to take us to the hotel in San Diego we had found. There are electric trolley trains and busses to move you from the border to downtown San Diego and places north of there. Angela wanted the simplicity and convenience of using an Uber, but we needed lots of space for our bags, so we got an Uber XL which cost over $50 to take us 16 miles north to our hotel near Old Town in San Diego.

And that’s how we got to America.

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