As U.S. promises to accept Ukrainian refugees, William & Mary immigration clinic director says it's unclear what the process would look like

Refugees Ukraine
Posted at 12:31 PM, Apr 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 15:42:17-04

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - As many as 100,000 fleeing the war in Ukraine could find themselves in the United States, according to a March announcement by President Joe Biden's administration, but attorneys with the William & Mary Law School Immigration Clinic say it's still unclear how that process would work.

"It is really vague like what that really looks like, when we say 'welcoming 100,000 Ukrainians,'" said Stacy Kern-Scheerer, the clinic's director.

In October, Kern-Scheerer told News 3 she was working to help resettle Afghans fleeing Taliban rule after the U.S. military's departure from the Middle East country over the summer. It's work that continues months later.

"We are very busy assisting our new Afghan neighbors and community members," she said last week. "[We've had] hundreds settled in our Hampton Roads community."

According to Kern-Scheerer, now that many of those refugees have been placed, her staff is working on what comes next — helping those who want to stay beyond two years apply for a green card.

She says the situation in Ukraine isn't quite the same, with many neighboring Eastern European countries readily helping those who have fled.

For those who do come to the United States, she says they could fall under the legal definition of "refugee" or they might just already have family in the country. She does say the U.S. has indicated it would prioritize fleeing members of the Ukrainian LGBTQ community and journalists, considered more vulnerable.

No matter who comes, the clinic is ready to help.

"When they get here, they claim asylum. That would be something we would handle. Helping those who have refugee status perhaps petition to have family members come join them, help them get their green cards," said Kern-Scheerer of the processes in which she and her staff would assist. "It's such an honor to help the people that we help, wherever they're coming from."