Standing Up for Ukraine
In February 2022, the world was shook by Russia’s illegal military operation resulting in genocide of the Ukrainian people. The world banded together in support of the Ukrainian people, who will now be written in history as fearless defenders and patriots of democracy. Nonetheless, the crisis caused more than 12 million Ukrainians, mostly elderly, women, and children, to be displaced from their homes and flee into countries throughout Europe and even as far as the United States.
Since the beginning of Russia’s relentless assault on Ukraine, the United States has welcomed thousands of Ukrainians to its shores through the United States’ discretionary humanitarian parole program. Unfortunately, for many months between the Ukrainian parolees’ arrival and until November 27, 2022, they were not authorized to obtain employment here in America. In order to gain legal employment and become self-sufficient, each parolee was required to apply for Employment Authorization, submit a $410 filing fee ($545 if also eligible to TPS), and wait four to eight months for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to process the request.
As a result, so that they could become lawfully employed in the United States, many Ukrainian parolees were left with no other option but to borrow funds from family, friends, or others to pay the filing fee so that they might be approved to become employed, pay American taxes, and begin the settlement process. Ukrainian parolees fleeing an unprovoked war and who sought meaningful, legal employment to support their family in America were faced with an impossible choice to either to incur debt for a chance to gain such employment, or to try to survive with no income.
Attorney, Lyudmyla Kolyesnik, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to America at the age of 9, became acutely aware of this Ukrainian parolee employment concern while leading parolee workshops assisting newly-arrived Ukrainians. When Rotary Club of Jacksonville President, Pat Mulvihill, asked how he could help the local Jacksonville-Ukrainian community, Ms. Kolyesnik knew that Rotary Club’s mission to promote welfare within its communities would be directly aligned with helping Ukrainian parolees seek legal employment authorization. In partnership Global Outreach Charter Academy Foundation, which took on the administrative burden, Ms. Kolyesnik facilitated the Rotary Club’s funding of a $25,000 grant to reimburse filing fees for Ukrainian Employment Authorization applicants to ensure they are able to seek gainful employment and begin their new lives with less burden in Jacksonville, Florida.