DETROIT (WXYZ) — On Monday, the United States officially launched Uniting for Ukraine, a new program allowing Americans to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing war, hosting them here in the United States for up to two years. The sponsor must prove they can provide financial support.
The program allows Ukrainians into the country under "Humanitarian Parole," which is a different process than entering as a "refugee." The U.S. hopes this will streamline the process of allowing 100,000 Ukrainians into the U.S.
The latest tally from the United Nations shows there are now more than 5.2 million people who have fled the war in Ukraine.
“There's been some good hope that's come over these past few days that the process is moving forward," metro Detroit attorney Natalia Kujan Gentry said. "But there’s a lot of confusion.”
Gentry is a Ukrainian American and a local attorney. Although she doesn't usually handle immigration, lately it’s become a focus. She's been helping friends and local Ukrainians navigate the process to get their loved ones to the U.S. She is also involved with a national task force of attorneys working on this very issue.
“I've been contacted by people I grew up with and it’s their cousin, it’s their aunt, it’s people I know and it’s their relatives that they need to get over here,” Gentry said.
But so far, that process has been slow. While official data has yet to be released for April, as of March, a few thousand Ukrainians entered the U.S. through a variety of legal channels such as Temporary Protected Status, asylum or Humanitarian Parole.
However according to the U.S. State Department, less than 500 Ukrainians have officially arrived as refugees between February and March, with just 12 Ukrainian refugees being resettled during the month of March.
Earlier this month, we spoke to a group of volunteers from a Grosse Pointe Park church who spent 10 days volunteering to assist refugees in Przemysl, Poland. While many European countries were welcoming people in, the center had signs telling Ukrainians the site was not able to send people to the United States.
“We’d have refugees ask, why don't we go to the United States? And we've got no answer for them,” volunteer Scott Lowell said while in Poland earlier this month. "It makes you sad, it makes you angry.”
While thousands of Ukrainians have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border hoping to be allowed in, the U.S. said they will no longer allow people through now that the Uniting for Ukraine program has launched. Gentry urges people to wait for this program to start up, saying it’s their best bet to bring loved ones to the U.S.
"The desperation here is intense,” Gentry said. “The advice I would give at this juncture is to wait. Hopefully we can have a very safe, streamlined process where people can be granted their status within hopefully less than a month, that’s what we’re hoping for. But we just don't know yet.”
The U.S. is also urging people to be cautious of scammers, reminding families to only work with legitimate attorneys and organizations.
You can learn more about the program and apply at the official program website.