Baton Rouge, La — Residents of Louisiana who are eager to help Ukrainian refugees now have a way to sponsor them directly on their own, according to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge (CCDBR), which has decades of experience welcoming refugees.
Under a program announced recently by President Joe Biden, Uniting for Ukraine offers a streamlined process to provide Ukrainian citizens opportunities to come to the United States. Through this process, U.S. residents can sponsor Ukrainians without the need for official resettlement agencies such as CCDBR.
“The rules are tight, but with the right help, this process could save lives,” said Lisa Namikas, a CCDBR Immigration volunteer and board member.
CCDBR’s advice is that while rewarding, sponsoring a family requires commitment and a thorough vetting of both sponsor and Ukrainians. Those who are interested can learn more about the program at https://www.dhs.gov/ukraine. Details include:
- Sponsors must apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and submit to background checks and provide documentation they have appropriate housing and the financial resources to support Ukrainians.
- Unlike Afghan evacuees and other refugees, CCDBR and local resettlement agencies will not have material support for Ukrainians.
- Uniting for Ukraine is for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members outside the United States and allows entry for up two years.
- Ukrainians who find a sponsor and receive authorization can travel directly to the United States and seek a special visa, called “parole,” at a port of entry.
CCDBR leadership emphasized that sponsoring a family can be both challenging and rewarding. “Refugees need an orientation to our culture, language and things we take for granted, such as enrolling in school or obtaining medical care,” said David Aguillard, executive director at CCDBR. “They need to learn how to get around our area whether by bus or car. Frequently a bike is their first and best means of transportation,” he said. “It is also uplifting to see them succeed,” he added.
Added Namikas, “We’ve seen the horrors these families are going through. Welcoming the stranger is a tradition that has enriched my family. It’s so rewarding to bring the clients to their home for the first night,” Namikas said. “While they are tired from their travel, they are so thankful to be in a place of safety. They look forward to new opportunities ahead.”
CCDBR has been resettling immigrants in this area since the Cuban missile crisis. Their program grew even larger following the fall of Vietnam in the mid-1970s. Since then, the agency and its volunteers like Lisa have welcomed refugees from 38 countries, most fleeing war and persecution. For more information, submit inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge services are provided regardless of religion in a 12-parish region. For over 60 years, CCDBR has been providing life-sustaining services like adoptions, transitional housing, prison ministry, refugee services, and disaster management, just to name a few. CCDBR is a member of Capital Area United Way and Catholic Charities USA.