One woman has made it her mission to help people seek asylum from war-torn Ukraine.
In April, immigration lawyer Dana Bucin traveled from her Hartford office to a refugee camp in Tijuana, Mexico. There she spent three days helping 2,000 Ukrainians obtain the proper paperwork to legally cross the border. At the time, she and her colleague were the only attorneys on site.
"We sat there, we answered questions, we listened to their stories, which are heartbreaking," said Bucin. "Especially when we got the Mariupol refugees. Lots of children, lots of babies, lots of unaccompanied minors or accompanied by whatever relative could escape."
Between March 11 and April 25, Ukrainians could enter the U.S. as they were exempt from Title 42, a President Trump-era Covid-19 policy that restricted immigration. During this window, Bucin says U.S. Customs and Border Patrol was processing 700 to 1,000 refugees a day at the camp in Tijuana.
Today, there is President Biden's Humanitarian Parole Program, which grants Ukrainian refugees a two-year stay in the U.S. The effort has prompted Bucin to encourage Connecticut families to host Ukrainian citizens.
Prospective sponsors are asked to file form I-134. Among the list of requirements, families must be financially viable, have a clean record, and have enough space to house refugees.
"It is totally possible for any U.S. citizen or permanent resident or anyone here in lawful immigration status to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee," said Bucin.
During her time in Mexico, Bucin brought three Ukrainians back to Connecticut. Two of them are a married couple from Kyiv who officiated their wedding inside the Tijuana refugee camp.
"She told us like, 'it's not a problem. We can marry you here, in Tijuana,'" said 29-year-old Simon Bobrovskii from Kyiv.
Despite living in Ukraine for four years, Bobrovskii was initially denied entry into the U.S. because of his Russian citizenship. But if he got married to his Ukrainian girlfriend, he would have Ukrainian status and be allowed in.
With the help of Bucin and the border patrol, the newlyweds are now living in Cromwell with a host family.
"These people do for us everything. What we need, they give," said Daria Sakhnyuk, Bobrovskii's wife.
The couple, who worked in Ukraine as a hearing specialist and dentistry administrator, now must wait 3 to 6 months for the U.S. government to process their work permits.
Bucin is also the Honorary Consul of Romania to Connecticut and says the U.S. should implement immigration laws similar to her native country. In Romania, Ukrainian refugees are offered Temporary Protected Status for 90 days, which upon entry, immediately allows them to work.
Until then, the couple is without an income, social security number, and driver's license. They ask the U.S. government, on behalf of all Ukrainian refugees, for their help in speeding up this process.
"It would help every single Ukrainian refugee who is coming to the United States feel self-sufficient because we want to be helpful," said Bobrovskii.
Any sponsor who wants to host refugees can get in touch with Dana Bucin via email: email@example.com.