Mar 1, 2023 - News

Miami among most welcoming U.S. cities for Ukrainian refugees

U.S. requests to sponsor Ukrainians, per capita
Data: U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Miami area has been one of the most welcoming places in the U.S. for Ukrainians fleeing the war, with nearly 5,700 people volunteering to sponsor a refugee this past year, per Homeland Security data.

Why it matters: Although the war precipitated by Russia's invasion may no longer be at the top of Americans’ minds, a need for humanitarian help in South Florida persists, says Iryna Maxfield, president of the board at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Cooper City.

  • Maxfield says she is grateful for the support the South Florida community has provided, but less attention is being paid to the issue more than a year later.
  • “We still have a demand for sponsorship,” Maxfield told Axios. “We still receive a lot of emails about sponsorship. We want to remind everybody that it's still an ongoing issue.”

One Cooper City resident, Philip Bradford, was watching the Russian invasion on TV when he felt the urge to help.

  • The 79-year-old retired athletic director donated a couple hundred dollars to the St. Nicholas church and was put in contact with a mother of three, Iryna Timoshenko, who had recently fled Ukraine, the Miami Herald reported.
  • Bradford hosted Timoshenko and her children at his home in Cooper City and paid for them to visit Disney World, CNN reported. Timoshenko’s husband, Oleksandr, joined them when he made it out of the country.
  • “I was shocked,” Iryna Timoshenko said of Bradford’s generosity. “But now we are like one family altogether.”

By the numbers: Miami ranked eighth overall in host applications, but ninth on a per capita basis.

  • Of the more than a quarter million Ukrainians who have been granted entry into the U.S., more than 113,000 came through the Uniting for Ukraine program, which offers two years of humanitarian parole to Ukrainians sponsored by family, friends or total strangers, Axios’ Stef W. Kight writes
  • Some took a chance, flying to Mexico and crossing the border into the U.S. to seek asylum last spring. Others arrived with previously obtained short-term visas or were granted official refugee resettlement — a much longer process.

State of play: Maxfield, whose church has assisted about 1,000 refugees, said it has received about 10 requests from locals about sponsoring Ukrainians, but fewer people are calling nowadays despite frequent emails from Ukrainians seeking to enter the U.S.

  • For refugees already in South Florida, work opportunities are the most important resource, she said.

Baires Grill, an Argentine steakhouse chain, partnered with humanitarian group Florida for Ukraine to hire several newly arrived refugees at its restaurants.

  • Nathaly Petrey, a project manager with the company, told Axios the idea came from owner Martin Koenig, who wanted to do more than donate money toward the cause.
  • “His idea was to give them an opportunity to start a new life,” Petrey said.

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