My name is Nadezda (Nadia) Roife. I am an immigration attorney at a law firm in Bloomington. I am also an immigrant to Minnesota from the former Soviet bloc. My family is from the Black Sea region. We have roots in Ukraine.
I write to address the uncertainty Minnesota’s Ukrainian refugees currently face. Earlier this year, the federal government opened the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program to Ukrainian nationals. Yet many questions are left unresolved for our new Ukrainian neighbors.
The TPS benefits are taking a long time to be processed. Work permits are being delayed and those who entered the U.S. lawfully after the cutoff date of April 11 are disqualified.
In a recent conversation with various government agencies, we immigration practitioners learned that the prognosis is bleak. Backlogs will continue, delays will be the status quo, and our federal government will continue to curtail access to a live representative to swiftly resolve matters.
Our Ukrainian neighbors have lost everything in this war. Their houses have been reduced to dust. The country they once knew and were proud of is now a rubble filled with disabled veterans, failed infrastructure and zero certainty as to what home, if any, they will be able to return to in the future. Talk of any peace or resolution fail as Russia continuously bombs major infrastructures such as heating plants and water channels.
Our office receives daily calls from Ukrainians. We struggle to onboard them as clients. Why? Because our ethical duty as attorneys is to protect those in need. That is what our former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson told me during my swearing-in ceremony.
These refugees are families with children. They are mostly Christians. They lack criminal histories, never violated any immigration laws. Many want to work and want to belong to our community in Minnesota. Most have found peace and comfort within our state. Yet they struggle with the fact that come April of next year, for some, or October for most, they may forced to leave unless our government acts to protect them.
Recently, a major news outlet surveyed voters in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin regarding immigration reform. Most voters, about 74%, support a path to legalization (green card), provided there was a way to “earn” this benefit through good behavior, proof of paying taxes and proof of community ties to United States. Similar programs exist across the globe, as humanitarian immigration is becoming a global trend.
About 80% of the surveyed voters also support legalization for our Dreamers, under the DACA program, which has recently been ruled unlawful in its current form. If we are moving toward this larger scale of immigration, why can’t we move toward offering shelter to this refugee group?
I urge that the plight of Ukrainian refugees not fall on deaf ears as we gear up for the 2024 elections. Simply put, as one of the most powerful nations on earth, we too can do more.
Nadia Roife is an attorney in Bloomington.