Pennington, New Jersey — Yana, a 10-year-old fourth-grader from Ukraine with a vibrant smile and massive goals, stated she has felt welcomed in New Jersey, calling the U.S. “very, very, very good.”

“I just like the flowers right here,” Yana stated in English, which she has realized remarkably rapidly. “People aren’t, like, being imply to anyone. They’re being good to all people.”

Asked if she feels secure in America, Yana stated, “Yeah.”

Roughly two years in the past, Yana and her household had their lives instantly upended by Russia’s invasion of their native nation. Olena Kopchak, Yana’s mom, remembers the very second their neighborhood within the port metropolis of Mykolaiv was shelled by the Russian army.

“We heard highly effective explosions,” Kopchak stated in her native tongue. “We couldn’t consider it at the start … our home was actually shifting. It began to shake. We thought it was the tip.”

Olena Kopchak and her daughter Yana.
Olena Kopchak and her daughter Yana.

Courtesy of Olena Kopchak

Russia’s invasion in February 2022 displaced thousands and thousands of refugees, most of them girls and youngsters, triggering the largest refugee exodus in Europe since World War II. As different European nations like Poland and Germany absorbed these refugees, the U.S. rapidly adopted swimsuit, with President Biden vowing to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians.

In April 2022, the Biden administration created an unprecedented program referred to as “Uniting for Ukraine,” permitting a vast variety of Ukrainians sponsored by Americans to come back to the U.S. and work right here legally with out having to undergo the prolonged visa course of.

“I did not sleep on that evening when this system was launched. I used to be sitting at midnight ready for the web site to open,” stated Lana Rogers, Kopchak’s sister and an American citizen residing in New Jersey.

Rogers used the Uniting for Ukraine program to sponsor her sister and her household, who arrived in New Jersey in June 2022. While they initially lived with Rogers and used authorities assist for fundamental requirements, Kopchak and her husband have since discovered jobs and their very own condominium in central New Jersey.

Olena Kopchak, left, with her sister Lana Rogers.
Olena Kopchak, left, along with her sister Lana Rogers.

CBS News

In two years, U.S. immigration officers have authorised greater than 236,000 circumstances underneath the Uniting for Ukraine program, in keeping with the Department of Homeland Security. As of the tip of March, greater than 187,000 Ukrainians had arrived within the U.S. underneath the coverage.

Another 350,000 Ukrainians have arrived within the U.S. exterior of the sponsorship course of for the reason that begin of the Russian invasion, primarily by way of short-term visas, in keeping with DHS. 

“The Department has delivered on President Biden’s dedication to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked warfare on Ukraine,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated in an announcement.

Unlike most U.S. immigration insurance policies, the resettlement of tens of hundreds of Ukrainian refugees in American communities has occurred with resounding effectivity and comparatively little controversy.

Republican-led states, for instance, have filed lawsuits in opposition to nearly each main Biden administration immigration coverage, together with the same sponsorship program for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. But the Uniting for Ukraine program has not been challenged in court docket. In reality, some Republican lawmakers have expressed assist for welcoming Ukrainian refugees.

While the arrival of a whole bunch of hundreds of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border has strained assets in some communities like New York City, Chicago and Denver, the resettlement of Ukrainians has not provoked the identical backlash, nor triggered main political issues for the Biden administration.

Unlike this system for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, which is capped at 30,000 approvals per 30 days, Uniting for Ukraine has no numerical restrict. Applications for the Uniting for Ukraine program are additionally adjudicated pretty rapidly, typically in a matter of weeks and even days — a rarity in a backlogged and understaffed U.S. immigration system.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the refugee resettlement group Global Refuge, stated Uniting for Ukraine “reveals how the U.S. can act with swiftness when it desires to.”

Vignarajah stated geopolitics is partially behind the nice and cozy reception within the U.S. for Ukrainian arrivals, who’re seen as victims of an anti-American authorities in Moscow. “There’s actually a way of solidarity between the American and Ukrainian folks,” she stated.

Another cause Ukrainian refugees have loved a smoother transition within the U.S. than some new arrivals, Vignarajah argued, is the distinctive nature of Uniting for Ukraine.

Those who come to the U.S. underneath Uniting for Ukraine want an American sponsor keen to assist them financially, and so they can work legally instantly after setting foot on U.S. soil. Congress additionally made the primary wave of Ukrainian refugees eligible for refugee resettlement advantages, corresponding to meals stamps.

Migrants coming from the southern border cannot work legally till 180 days after they request asylum. They’re additionally usually not eligible for federal advantages. Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguan and Venezuelans who arrive underneath the opposite sponsor coverage have to use for a piece allow earlier than they’ll work legally.

Vignarajah stated race can also be taking part in a task in how Ukrainians have been welcomed, in comparison with different immigrant populations. “Just as racism and xenophobia have penetrated so many parts of our society, it did issue into the distinctive remedy that Ukrainians acquired,” she stated.

Still, Ukrainians face their very own obstacles. Their permission to be within the U.S. underneath an immigration authority referred to as humanitarian parole expires each two years, and so they lack a path to everlasting authorized standing or American citizenship. 

While the Biden administration has argued that the majority Ukrainians will finally go dwelling as soon as the warfare of their homeland ends, there is no signal that may occur anytime quickly. 

“I [cannot] come again,” Kopchak stated in English, noting her hometown of Mykolaiv continues to be bombed by the Russians. “I not haven’t any home. I not don’t have anything.”

Costanza Maio contributed to this report.