Apr 6, 2022 - News

Pennsylvania immigration group cautiously awaits Ukrainian refugees

Illustration of a life preserver in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Philadelphia-based immigrant and refugee group HIAS Pennsylvania is preparing for the potential arrival of Ukrainian refugees in the state.

Driving the news: Legislation is moving through the General Assembly that would appropriate $2 million in state funding to Ukrainian refugee resettlement efforts.

State of play: The Biden administration announced last month the U.S. is readying to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia's invasion through its refugee program and other pathways.

  • HIAS Pennsylvania has assessed that the organization can handle 300 incoming refugees through the 2023 fiscal year, based on staffing and available affordable housing.

Yes, but: The U.S.' refugee resettlement process is one of the most rigorous in the world. Some advocates are warning that the process for Ukrainians will be lengthy if the administration doesn't provide additional infrastructure.

  • "Unless Biden sends loads of civil servants or streamlines processing, it's going to take a long time for those pathways," Cathryn Miller-Wilson, HIAS Pennsylvania's executive director, tells Axios.

Flashback: When Ukrainians fled the Crimea conflict circa 2014, HIAS said it wasn't able to begin resettling some families until 2019.

  • Most resettled in areas from northeast Philly to Jenkintown, where affordable housing and a robust community were already present.

By the numbers: Philadelphia has a sizable Ukrainian population at about 6,900, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

Of note: The city confirmed to Axios that although some Ukrainians have arrived in Philadelphia through other immigration pathways, none have come through the federal refugee resettlement program at this time.

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