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Getting Ukrainian refugees to Northeast Ohio won’t be easy, expert says

Immigration attorney said U.S. system still back logged with Afghan refugees.
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 1:45 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced a summit will be held in mid-March to make sure Ohio is ready, if the state is asked, to take in Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war with Russia.

Last week, President Joe Biden granted what’s known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for those Ukrainians already in the U.S. who were waiting on proceeding and paperwork to become permanent citizens.

It was originally thought there were somewhere around 31,000 waiting in limbo, but when announced the State Department said it’s more like 75,000 who could have faced deportation back to a war torn nation.

With TSP, not only are they allowed to stay in the U.S. for the next 18 months, they are also able to apply for a legal work permit and driver’s license.

“Absolutely this was the right move, because it allows the Ukrainian people not to be removed,” Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong said. “It also allows them to work to pay their bills, to increase America’s tax base, they don’t have to run away from their home. So it’s extremely important.”

As for those who will now try to get family out of Ukraine, or if they’ve fled to Poland, the process of getting them into the U.S. will be difficult according to Wong.

“It’s practically impossible,” Wong said. “In fact I’ve heard and seen a lot of people going to the American embassy in Poland, and the embassy in Poland is really working so hard to approved Visa for them to come. It’s very difficult.”

Wong’s officer, Margaret Wong & Associates, is actually trying to help a few clients and even she is skeptical that many of the refugees will actually be able to make it to the U.S.

“No. Because we actually have quite a few people that I’m personally helping. It is impossible. First they deny the visa. These people have to get in there and pay again. And ultimately to get these visas approved it takes days, and days, and days, and weeks. And calling from American senators, and senator’s aides and congressman. It’s very difficult.”

On top of all of the requests for visas coming in from Ukrainian refugees, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department is still backlogged trying to get Afghans who helped U.S. armed forces out of their country.

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