May the Statue of Liberty symbolize freedom for Ukrainian refugees as it once did for World War II survivors.
New York City, the home of refugees
Since the 1850s, the Big Apple welcomed immigrants seeking refuge and hoping for a better life. As a result, New York City has become the Mecca of multiculturalism, culture, and diversity. New Yorkers and visitors alike only need to set one foot outside to experience various cultures right on their doorstep. The whole city celebrates its multicultural identity annually during the multicultural fest.
As the most current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine impacts the world, we must do our best to welcome refugees and save lives.
Invasion of Ukraine
Previously, the Ukraine War started in 2014. On March 24, 2022, Putin once again invaded Ukraine and questioned the legitimacy of its government. Putin claimed that his motivation for the invasion was to free the oppressed Russians that were the victims of a statewide genocide. This blatant lie was used as rhetoric to cover up his dreams of expanding the Soviet Union and fears of NATO’s expansion.
Putin’s history with Ukraine
Since the end of 2009, the European Court of Human Rights ECHR has examined 115 criminal human rights violations of the Russian government. The crimes were disappearances, murder, torture, and destruction of territory in Georgia and Chechnya.
By 2014 the international community imposed sanctions on Russia for involvement in the eastern Ukraine war and its annexation of Crimea. In addition, the International Criminal Court organization (ICC) investigated Putin’s war crimes, an act that prompted Russia to withdraw its membership in 2016.
Putin’s modus operandi since 1997
Claiming property that’s not his own seems intuitive to Putin, who plagiarized his dissertation when defending an economics degree in 1996. According to the Brookings institution, 15 pages of this illustrious candidate’s dissertation derive from Strategic Planning and Policy-an American textbook authored by Mr. King and Mr. Cleland. Moreover, the St. Petersburg Mining Institute awarded the degree (an institution that Putin never physically attended). Apparently, Putin worked remotely long before the pandemic forced the rest of the world to do the same. Since then, appropriation has become the standard modus operandi for the Russian dictator.
While he is attempting to appropriate the Ukrainian territory, numerous ICC investigations into the war crimes are ongoing into the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Given the speed of the inquiry, no one knows if the verdict will get passed during his lifetime. Even then, there would be no way of enforcing a penalty unless Putin left the confines of Russia. These surreal effects of the international justice system are much like the novel, The Trial by Franz Kafka. However, unlike in the Kafka novel, these crimes are real.
What’s happening to the Ukrainian refugees
Since the Russian invasion, over 3 million people have fled Ukraine. The majority of Ukrainian refugees (over 2,145,000) seek safety through the neighboring border with Poland. However, they have no idea where their final destination may be. As a result, many have gone to Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and Slovakia. On March 4, the European Union announced the temporary protection directive that allows Ukrainian refugees to live and work in any European Union country for three years or less. By March 21, the UK issued over 12,400 temporary visas to Ukrainians with family ties in the UK. On February 25, Ireland got rid of any visa requirements for Ukrainians.
Other countries are scrambling to absorb the fleeing population of one of the largest countries in Europe during this historic refuge. So, where does the US stand?
Will the US welcome refugees with open arms
On March 2, the Department of Homeland Security offered temporary protected status TPS for any Ukrainians living in the US before March 1, 2021. GPS will allow these immigrants to reside and work in the US without the fear of deportation. DHS expects the new program to benefit 75,100 Ukrainians currently living in the US. At present, 4000 Ukrainians face deportation proceedings (out of that, 3000 seek asylum).
Seven Ukrainian refugees entered the United States during the first half of March. This week, the Biden administration announced the intention of allowing more refugees to seek solace in the US. Furthermore, the plan would be to speed up the visa process for the relatives of Ukrainians (citizens and residents) living in the US.
The NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs offers additional resources for US citizens and residents seeking to invite their Ukrainian relatives. In addition, the Mayor’s office connections to free (city-funded) legal help during this time of crisis. The NYC government is setting up a warehouse to store supplies for Ukrainian refugees as New Yorkers eagerly wait to donate supplies.
The US government will allow applications for temporary status or Humanitarian Parole. It’s imperative that individuals at high risk for murder (such as activists, members of the LGBTQ community, or journalists) shelter immediately. On March 24, the Biden administration announced that it would welcome the first 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the US. As the news changes daily and the conflict escalates, policy changes follow not far behind. As a result, we can expect frequent and impending changes in permissions and immigration law.
Indicators of hope
The pervasive flood of anxiety may soon lift for many. Truly, there is hope in our world where policy changes can seemingly happen overnight. As more officials and citizens raise concerns and advocate for the fate of Ukrainians, the government seeks resolutions for the conflict. Sanctions are increasingly exasperating Russian officials, and there are rumors of a pending revolt.
The world stands behind Ukraine, and we can be proud of doing our part to help the persecuted.
Hope, prayer and support
The Russian invasion resulted in so much more than bloodshed and an immigration influx. This conflict is a criminal attack and a fight for human rights, dignity, diversity, and freedom. This war is happening on the streets of Ukraine, at the international diplomacy level, the national policy level, and inside every single one of our hearts. So let’s do all we can to help and advocate.
Regardless of one’s position on the role of immigration in the US, basic human decency dictates that we should unite and save lives by all means necessary.