U.S. awaits influx of Ukrainian refugees

Eliana Wade, Staff Writer

Imagine having to completely start over your entire life in a new country where you don’t speak the language, have no connections and are constantly unsure of what is going to happen next. That is what it is like for refugees.

“These are people who are leaving their country due to war, trauma, persecution and fear,” Melissa Elliot,  volunteer at the Bilingual International Assistant Services in St. Louis, said. “America is a land of opportunities and we are extremely wealthy with resources and jobs; we need diversity and can learn much from other cultures.”

With the recent Russian invasion in Ukraine, the world is experiencing many repercussions of the conflict, including almost 5 million refugees that must resettle in order to remain safe. In the U.S., those who are looking to come are processed through the USRAP, (United States Refugee Admissions Program), and are assigned a resettlement agency contracted with the government.

St. Louis is actually an example of a city where many refugees have been resettled, with one of the largest per capita refugee populations in the nation. Once they are approved, it is unknown to them what country will accept them or how long it will take.

“I know some refugees who have waited in refugee camps for decades before being admitted to another country,” Elliot said.

Refugees are often well-educated individuals, but sometimes the language barrier can impact the opportunities they have once they reach their destination. Refugee agencies try very hard to provide some kind of normalcy. These agencies provide an array of basic services, including housing, utilities, clothing, health insurance, as well as English and cultural training classes.

“The refugees I have worked with have been the most hard working and grateful people I know,” Elliot said. “They sacrifice a lot for the well-being of their families and save all they can to help. Many come with high skill sets but have to take a lower position due to language or education barriers.”

President Joseph Biden has said that the U.S. will admit 100,000 Ukrainians into the country. Some will come as refugees, but others will come seeking asylum at our borders or on special immigrant visas. A controversial topic in terms of taking in Ukrainians is that they would receive priority over other refugee groups, such as Afghanis and Syrians.

“I think if they come at the border, they should be treated as equals with all others at the border,” Elliot said. “I think we should take in refugees because it is the humane thing to do.”