The JFON Network serves our Ukrainian Refugee Communities

Last week, President Biden announced that the U.S. is preparing to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russian aggression.

Our JFON Network stands ready to assist them. Our affiliate offices across the country are already receiving calls from Ukrainian Americans anxious to reunite family members in harm’s way in Ukraine or stranded in Eastern Europe.

Justice for our Neighbors Michigan’s Traverse City office serves an established Ukrainian community—refugees fleeing religious persecution began arriving here in the early 2000s, sponsored by the city’s Central United Methodist Church. Staff attorney Marcelo Betti estimates at least 10 percent of their clientele are Ukrainian-born.

“People are trying to bring relatives or friends here at least while the war is waging on,” says Marcelo. “But what is the legal mechanism for them to come here?  We’ll need to get more information from the Biden administration.

A Ukrainian mother and son at the border to Moldova. Credit: UN Women.
A Ukrainian mother and son at the border to Moldova. Credit: UN Women.

“Part of the issue, too,” he continues, “is that the men cannot leave Ukraine. So it’s women and children. That will affect the kinds of requests we’re going to get.”

Marcelo and other staff members are planning several informational sessions for worried community members in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration designated Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) earlier this month.

Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice is already helping a 17-year old exchange student apply for TPS so that he can stay here with his host family in Des Moines for the duration of the war.

Iowa MMJ volunteer Kseniya Herrick—a human rights activist and lawyer from Southern Ukraine—is married to an American citizen and currently studying law in the United States. She translated the boy’s birth certificate for his application.

Kseniya with her two daughters are proud of their Ukrainian heritage.
Kseniya with her two daughters when they still lived in Ukraine. 

“It was a good accident that I am here,” she says, smiling.  “I want to be part of the process to help Ukrainians get TPS,” she adds. “People who don’t have relatives in the states will need the most help.”

With so many family members and friends back in Ukraine, it’s obviously a frightening time for Kseniya. She is particularly worried about her 70-year old father, a retired merchant mariner who lives in central Ukraine.

The Russians, she says, are bombarding the area with missiles. So far the Ukrainian army has been able to stop them, but she wishes she could convince her father to leave and join her in the U.S.

“He refuses,” she says. “Every time I ask him, he says he wants to stay and help.”








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