WISCONSIN — It's possible Wisconsinites could see Ukrainian refugees in communities across the state over the next few months.
This comes after the Department of Homeland Security approved nearly 6,000 Ukrainians to enter the United States through a streamlined process called Uniting for Ukraine.
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"We're very excited for communities in Wisconsin to participate in Uniting for Ukraine and really excited to see the Wisconsin community stand up and be a part of the global response to the war in Ukraine," said Kit Taintor, vice president of policy and practice at Welcome.US, a non-profit working alongside the federal government to help those arriving through the program.
Welcome.US began in the fall of 2021 to help America respond to the arrival of Afghan refugees following the fall of Kabul. Now, the organization hopes to assist Ukrainian refugees in the resettlement process.
"These are families that are going to be restarting their lives here," Taintor said. "They're moving to your communities. They're really eager to feel safety and sanctuary, but they're also eager to enjoy their local communities as best as they can."
Just months ago, Wisconsin saw nearly 13,000 Afghan evacuees housed at Ft. McCoy as they waited weeks - sometimes months - to be resettled in the U.S. and in Northeast Wisconsin.
Taintor said the resettlement process will look different with Ukrainian refugees
“There’s not evacuation planes the same that there were in Kabul, so we’ll see a little bit of a different organic arrival process for the Ukrainians than we saw for the Afghans," Taintor said. "Right now there are no plans to stand up a military base to allow for arrivals coming in. This is a little bit of a different program than we've seen before, in that individual sponsors like you, like me, are able to raise their hands and participate a little bit more directly in this process by putting in an application to support a beneficiary, which would be somebody that fled Ukraine, and their arrival into the United States."
Sponsors need to be able to provide financial support for their beneficiary and pass a background check. Those looking to take on the role will also need to name a Ukrainian refugee they'd like to sponsor.
Welcome.US is working to find a way to match sponsors with beneficiaries, but there is currently no way to do that through the federal government. Until then, Welcome.US suggests working with local organizations to find a match.
"It's people like you and me that will really make the difference for these individuals," Taintor said.
Taintor said sponsoring a beneficiary as a group, like a church or a synagogue, can also help. That way there are more people to help the refugee navigate life in a community thousands of miles away from home.
Refugees approved for sponsorship will be able to live and work in the U.S. for at least two years.
People can find more information on sponsorship here.