For Ashley Testa and her husband Mykhaylo Gryb, the harrowing images of the devastation from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are deeply personal.
Gryb, who now lives in Jacksonville, FL, immigrated from Ukraine 17 years ago and his family stayed in Ukraine.
“You’re wondering every second of every day whether they’re OK, whether they’re alive,” said Testa.
After the war broke out, Gryb’s family in Ukraine fled to Poland for safety where they don’t have any ties.
“Now they’re in a foreign country,” said Gryb. “They have little money. They don’t know the language. They can’t work or put kids to school so there are new challenges.”
That’s why Gryb and Testa have been pushing to bring their family here in the U.S. but they’ve been faced with roadblocks.
The Department of Homeland Security granted temporary protected status (TPS) for Ukrainian nationals who arrived by March 1, 2022 for 18 months but there is no plan on the table to streamline the process for Ukrainian refugees who seek to come to the U.S. after that point.
“We are America, land of immigrants, doing nothing at this time,” said Gryb.
White House officials said they are working closely with European allies to help Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries.
“There are statements being made very often that these people want to stay in Europe, these Ukrainian refugees want to stay in Europe, and while that may be true for a significant portion of Ukrainian refugees, it’s completely dismissing the fact that there are Ukrainian refugees with family in other countries that desperately want to do everything they can to help them,” said Testa.
Last week, President Biden pledged to welcome Ukrainians here in the U.S.
“I will welcome Ukrainian refugees,” said Biden on March 11. “We should welcome them here with open arms.”
It’s a statement that Testa said led to confusion for families of Ukrainian refugees.
“When they hear that, they assume this component of the issue has been taken care of and it hasn’t,” said Testa. “There is not a streamlined or simple way for Ukrainian refugees to get here.”
Testa and Gryb said they’re calling on the Biden administration to take immediate action to help displaced Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in the U.S. and to establish a long term plan to help them.
“We think a good first step would be to allow Ukrainians with family members who are here that are U.S. citizens or green card holders to come in through parole,” said Testa.
We asked members of Congress and the White House about that very proposal to offer parole and so far, there’s no word on any measure to make that happen at this time.
Testa and Gyrb, meanwhile, are trying every action they can including applying for family reunification, but it’s a process that could take years to get approval.
“We won’t stop until we find some way to reunite with them,” said Testa.
They have started an online petition calling for the U.S. to accept Ukrainian refugees immediately.
We asked members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus about efforts to help refugees looking to enter the U.S. in the weeks and months ahead.
In a statement, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said: “The world has watched in horror as Putin’s invasion has increasingly targeted civilians, taking the lives of hundreds of innocent Ukrainians. As co-chair of the Ukraine Caucus, I have called for the Biden administration to deploy every humanitarian resource at our disposal. We must provide support to the nations currently hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees and when the need arises, we must open our doors to welcome Ukrainians ourselves. The United States has a long history as a safe harbor for the people of the world. I know that we will do the right thing once again.”
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