The Road to Ohio: Ukrainian Refugees and the Journey to the U.S.

Ukraine has been under a terrifying military assault from Russia for weeks. Thousands of Ukrainian refugees have fled their country in search of safety, and some may find it in Ohio. Keep reading to learn more.

Summit for Sanctuary

Governor Mike DeWine announced a summit scheduled for mid-March to verify that the state and state officials are prepared for an influx of Ukrainian refugees. While there have not been formal requests to the Ohio legislature to begin housing asylum seekers, the governor has made it clear that he intends to prepare the state and infrastructure for the eventuality of new Ukrainian residents.

This comes after President Biden announced that all Ukrainian refugees in the U.S. before March 1 will receive Temporary Protected Status. Temporary Protected Status gives refugees protection against deportation and the opportunity to receive a work permit and seek employment in the United States.

Originally, the number of refugees receiving TPS was around 31,000 but a recent report from the State Department shows that over 75,000 Ukrainians need a place to live and work for the foreseeable future. TPS will allow them to remain in the U.S. for the next 18 months at least and in that time, they may pursue employment opportunities and apply for immigrant status.

Pros and Cons

The impending arrival of thousands of Ukrainian migrants has a dividing affect on Ohio officials. Many support the Governors forethought and welcome the opportunity to help displaced Ukrainian families start a new life. Others are frustrated and concerned that the Governor’s approach may be too cavalier.

Immigration advocates are celebrating Gov. DeWine’s efforts and the President’s decision to grant TPS. Many see the mass migration as an opportunity for the American economy to expand and allow skilled workers to find jobs in their trade thousands of miles from home.

As with most legislative procedures, there are dissenters as well. Some fear that the potential arrival of thousands of migrants may over tax Ohio’s infrastructure. The systems in place to accommodate new arrivals is already overtaxed because of worker shortages and the fallout of economic decline. The workforce currently employed to handle immigration affairs and even those who tangentially contribute may not be able to handle it.

How Hard Is It to Migrate from Ukraine?

The Governor’s actions are preemptive, and it may take much longer than expected for Ukrainians to reach American soil. The complexity of the war between Russia and Ukraine makes travel from country to country extremely difficult and many families have left their loved ones to fight for their home.

Neighboring countries like Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia have different rules for refugees and some may not open their doors at all. Many refugees have fled to Poland, a smaller country with a long history of bloody conflict with Russia. Poland is sympathetic to the plight of Ukraine as a former territory of Russia. However, despite their bet intentions, Polish officials have stopped allowing refugees to enter their country and are struggling to accommodate those already residing there.

Their immigration system is not well prepared for such a massive influx of refugees. Officials are also understandably concerned about Russian military invasion into their country. The fear of invasion coupled with an overtaxed system is making travel through Poland to other western European countries and the U.S. nearly impossible.

For the U.S. room and the threat of invasion are not as much of a concern. However, the immigration system continues to be backlogged from COVID-19 delays and shutdowns and the continued efforts to help displaced Afghan refugees from the Talban takeover in 2021. Adding more to the docket makes the margin for error increase and refugee opportunities decrease dramatically.

What Happens Now?

The Governor will continue to prepare Ohio to receive Ukrainian refugees. There are no scheduled arrivals currently, but officials are getting ready to place them when they arrive. As for refugees in Poland, as tensions rise and the Polish officials close the border, leaving is becoming increasingly difficult. It’s unclear how this situation will resolve, but the government is working toward providing safety in any way it can.

If you are a refugee in need of legal counsel, contact Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A.