While already working to help Afghans fleeing oppression navigate a new county, the Broomfield Resettlement Task Force has also been challenged to aid a host of Ukrainians seeking refuge from their war-torn nation.
“We help resettle anyone who's here basically under duress,” Resettlement Task Force Director Heidi Henkel said.
To address the immediate danger Ukrainians faced, in April the U.S. began offering humanitarian parole status to hasten the border entry process.
“It is meant to be a humanitarian benefit because of the wartime crisis, immigration lawyer Alyssa Reed said. “As soon as the crisis unfolded there were a lot of Ukrainians who were showing up to the U.S. border seeking entry or asylum.”
Reed noted that immigrants requesting refugee status are required to apply prior to entering the U.S. By contrast, refugees seeking political asylum can start the process after arriving stateside.
“It takes a long time to process,” she said. “The parole process is kind of meant to bridge those two things.”
The humanitarian parole program provides a federal pathway to obtain aid from resettlement agencies, Henkel explained.
The approach was adopted to provide an immediate but temporary safe haven for Ukrainians, with asylum seekers having one year to apply for consideration.
“It kind of gives them that limbo moment,” Henkel said. “Ukrainians are stuck in this point where they're like, ‘well, is it safe to go back to Ukraine?’”
To add more difficulty, the U.S. has continued to curtail the resettlement process.
“It used to take a year and a half — that was sort of like the law,” Henkel said. “Now resettlement agencies are saying six months and on your own, but our families definitely are taking over a year.”
Under the Humanitarian Parole designation, Ukrainians with a sponsor in the U.S. can gain immediate entry.
“It doesn't grant them a green card, it's a temporary permit,” Reed said. “It would allow the person to get work authorization to be employed while they're here, but it doesn't offer any sort of long term solution.”
Financial hurdles have added challenges for Ukrainians to obtain work in the U.S.
“Ukrainians had to apply for their security card and in order to do so they had to pay (up to) $500 for a work permit,” Henkel said. “Where are they gonna get this money?”
In addition to language barriers, educational credentials from native lands are often non transferrable, Henkel explained.
“One of the biggest things for our families is just figuring out, yes, we’re a land of opportunity, but we're also a very expensive land of opportunity,” she said. “They’re really behind the eight ball.”
Reed said the U.S. will revisit the humanitarian parole program for Ukrainians after a year to consider extending the timeframes permitted.
“The government could also designate Ukraine for something called Temporary Protected Status to allow them to remain here legally until the crisis is fully resolved,” she said.