Ukraine and Afghanistan Refugees in Washington need to get permission immediately ( News Washington )

Nina Shapiro / Seattle Times

For seven months, Ivan Lopatskyi waited for a work permit. Like the thousands of Ukrainians coming to the U.S. fleeing the Russian invasion, the Everett resident’s lack of official refugee status left him at the mercy of a backlogged immigration system that slows the job application process.

This week, Lopatskyi got good news. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), after it was obtained, announced that the Ukrainians and Afghans with “human language” status will work immediately.

This US state gave many people fleeing the war in Ukraine and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan – many refugees, but not officially because there was no time to go through the necessary bureaucratic deliberation.

These, however, were treated as refugees, according to the laws passed by Congress. And as the case in the federal court of Illinois states, the refugees are allowed to work as soon as they get here.

Lopatskyi, sharing a text and speaking English with his 18-year-old Ivanka, said he contacted the nursery plant again who wanted to hire him, after reading in the Seattle Times about his family’s months to Everett and the long journey. they want to work. The 42-year-old owned his own nursery in the western Ukrainian city of Rivne, the first target of the bombing, and traveled with his wife and six children to Poland and Mexico, arriving here in April.

“I don’t know if they still expect me to work,” he said of the owners of the local nursery. But there is hope.

So is Oleg Pynda, executive director of the Ukrainian Community Center in Washington. “This is strange,” he said of the dumb rule.

Pynda noted that many Ukrainians, like Lopatskyi, had to wait six or seven months for a work permit, even though the most recent ones were approved in two to three months – a discrepancy he attributed to the ugly nature of new applications.

Not waiting at all makes many people happy, said Karina Dmitrieva, the company’s media staffer. She received excited calls from people who heard the news, wanting to know if it was true.

Ukrainians will benefit in particular. Most of the approximately 80,000 Afghans arrived in the U.S. in recent months at military bases, where their work authorization was processed. By the time nearly 3,300 humanitarian parolees had traveled to Washington, they could begin work.

The Ukrainians did not have such a station, and applied for work permits when they got here. While they wait, relying on the government and resources does not help, religious institutions and family members.

That has been one of the biggest problems facing Ukrainians, who continue to arrive in large numbers, said Sarah Peterson, Washington’s refugee coordinator. While the exact numbers are being assessed, the government has given benefits to almost 12,000 Ukrainians to the state between January and October.

One of the first stops for many is the Ukrainian Community Center on the Skyway. Every day, the center has a dozen agents helping newcomers make job applications.

Verzhynia Palamarchuk, 56, a former Ukrainian government employee, was there Tuesday, along with her daughter and two young grandchildren, who lives in Tacoma. Palamarchuk submitted the application as early as October, but it was recently returned because the checked marks could not be clearly seen from some of the boxes. He came to the center to help get back into shape.

Demitrieva said Palamarchuk could immediately start looking for work. Palamarchuk agreed. “I need work,” he said, when the center’s executive director interpreted. “I don’t want to trust anyone.”

However, they did not want to allow the work of the application again, because they take the change of one rule. Ukrainian and Afghan parolees are allowed to work for a specified period of time — 90 days after being hired — just by submitting a form showing their immigration status. After that, you need to be given a work authorization document or a “social security” social security card, a work permit for people, and a government license or ID.

“Many say how does it help us?” said Greg Siskind, a lawyer representing plaintiffs in the Illinois case, including some in Washington. Work permits may still take more than 90 days to process. And the Social Security Administration doesn’t typically issue humanitarian parole cards, like refugees, Siskind said.

The administration is trying to find out if it has changed its policy to comply with the USCIS rule change.

“That’s the best question,” said Peterson, the state’s refugee coordinator, saying he’s taking care of the flag with another federal agency that works with refugees.

The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a reporter’s request for clarification.

For those seeking permanent work permits, granted by USCIS, a rule change exempts Ukrainian and Afghan parolees from the $410 fee, starting Dec. 5.

If bureaucratic error is confusing for workers, so it is for mice. Many may not know about the rule change, or understand its ramifications, Pynda said, adding that parole status can be different just because of the name.

In common usage, “the word means evil,” he said. “If you’re on credit, you’re a crime.”

But Bob Little, a recruiter at Huntwood, the company’s flagship locker near Spokane, heard about the rule change from a Ukrainian employee and announced the big news.

“We have lots of available jobs. Who doesn’t?” Little, he says, is referring to the acute labor shortage that has gripped the country since the covid-19 pandemic.

Huntwood is a Christian, family-owned company with a full-time chaplain on staff, Little said. When the Russians invaded Ukraine, Huntwood began reaching out to the Spokane-based migration agency and others with supplies coming to them from Ukraine.

Little Huntwood said he wanted to hire people who were lost to start a new life, and also with what he called an “old world work ethic,” wanting to stick around for a decent job rather than always looking for the next one. Some immigrants from Slavic countries and elsewhere already work for the 800-employee company, which has showrooms throughout Puget Sound, Idaho and Montana.

Until now, Huntwood’s recruitment of newcomers to the project was largely due to the work permit backlog.

The thought of rule change in Afghanistan could also help immigrants. But there is one huge problem, said Ghulam Mohmand, a board member of the Kent-based Afghan American Cultural Association: “Afghans are not coming into the US.”

The program will be withdrawn and the Afghans will soon admit that they are leaving by the end of September with many in danger from the Taliban. Others have left, but are stuck in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, with pending applications to enter the US.

In this situation, Mohmand’s parents, who had expired visas in Pakistan, could not get new ones unless they returned to Afghanistan – a dangerous proposition given Mohmand’s work for the US military and embassy in Afghanistan. They were sponsored by family-based immigration to the US and are yet to be heard.

Mohmand said he was happy for those who were helped by USCIS’ turnaround. But when the Afghans arrived, he said: “I don’t think the work is done.”

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