August 19, 2022
It used to be no longer a reunion, but it surely gave the look of

It used to be no longer a reunion, but it surely gave the look of one. That they had by no means met earlier than in-person, however they hugged like shut buddies after a chronic separation. One in every of them used to be an American citizen born in Ghana and the opposite used to be a Ukrainian youngster launched from U.S. govt custody. 

On April 29, Sharon Fletcher traveled to New York’s LaGuardia Airport to pick out up Yelyzaveta, a 17-year-old Ukrainian woman who have been residing in a central authority refuge for unaccompanied minors in federal custody. Yelyzaveta mentioned she teared up when she hugged Fletcher, who had agreed to sponsor her so she may well be launched from U.S. custody.

“I used to be crying,” Yelyzaveta mentioned, recalling their come upon on the airport’s luggage declare space. “I used to be so glad.” CBS Information isn’t disclosing Yelyzaveta’s surname as a result of she is a minor.

Lower than two hours when they met, Yelyzaveta and Fletcher boarded a flight to the Washington, D.C., space, the place Fletcher, her husband and their two small children are internet hosting the Ukrainian woman of their Maryland house.

“We undoubtedly have a 3rd kid. My husband says that at all times,” Fletcher mentioned.

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Yelyzaveta and Sharon Fletcher at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Courtesy of Sharon Fletcher


Yelyzaveta is certainly one of hundreds of Ukrainians who’ve entered the U.S. alongside the southern border since Russia invaded Ukraine in overdue February. In two months, the U.S. allowed a document 20,000 Ukrainians to go into the rustic below humanitarian exceptions to pandemic border restrictions, govt information display.

However a small collection of the Ukrainians who have asked access alongside the U.S.-Mexico border were minors touring with out their folks, prompting U.S. government to procedure them as unaccompanied kids who will have to stay in govt custody till they’re positioned with a sponsor or flip 18.

As of Tuesday, the Workplace of Refugee Resettlement, the Division of Well being and Human Products and services (HHS) company that cares for unaccompanied minors, used to be housing 30 kids from Ukraine, a U.S. legitimate informed CBS Information, soliciting for anonymity to talk about inner statistics.

Many of those Ukrainian kids traveled from Europe to Mexico with nonparental members of the family, like grandparents, uncles and aunts, consistent with immigration legal professionals. Others, like Yelyzaveta, reached the U.S.-Mexico border with unrelated partners, like buddies, or utterly by myself.

On account of a 2008 regulation designed to give protection to migrant minors from exploitation, those Ukrainian early life displaced by way of the conflict of their native land have ended up in U.S. govt shelters that predominantly space kids who’ve escaped excessive poverty, meals lack of confidence and violence in Central The usa.

Total, Ukrainian kids make up a small portion of greater than 8,000 unaccompanied minors lately in HHS custody, consistent with company statistics.

Erika Pinheiro, an legal professional with the advocacy staff Al Otro Lado who has assisted migrant kids alongside the Tijuana-San Diego border, together with a couple of dozen from Ukraine, mentioned all unaccompanied minors must be allowed to request U.S. asylum, irrespective of their nationality.

“Legally, they must be capable of simply stroll as much as a port of access and be admitted by way of [Customs and Border Protection] as a result of unaccompanied kids aren’t topic to Name 42. However that isn’t what is taking place in follow for non-Ukrainian kids,” Pinheiro mentioned, regarding the pandemic-era border restrictions.

The glide of Ukrainians flying to Mexico to hunt access alongside the U.S. border has slowed lately after U.S. government stopped admitting maximum undocumented Ukrainians on April 25, when the Biden management introduced a program for sponsoring Ukrainian refugees, consistent with legal professionals and U.S. officers.

Whilst she known as her preliminary detention by way of U.S. border officers close to San Diego a “terrible” enjoy, Yelyzaveta mentioned she considers herself fortunate since she had somebody within the U.S. keen to take care of her. 

“I simply noticed a human being in want”

Yelyzaveta mentioned she traveled to Mexico to start out a Christian missionary program two weeks earlier than Russia introduced its army offensive in opposition to Ukraine, the place her folks and brother stay. When the conflict began, she mentioned she did not know what to do. Returning to Ukraine used to be no longer an choice.

After learning about Yelyzaveta’s dilemma, Fletcher, who runs a nonprofit group known as Forgotten Puts that sponsors younger Christian missionaries the world over, mentioned she presented to host the Ukrainian youngster in her house.

Yelyzaveta traveled to the Tijuana-San Diego border in early April, when U.S. officers have been admitting masses of Ukrainians consistent with day. However as a result of she used to be a minor touring with a chum, Yelyzaveta remained in CBP custody for 3 days.

Ukrainians Gather At Border In Mexico With Hopes Of Entering United States
Asylum-seeking Ukrainian households wait in Tijuana for access into the U.S. on March 30, 2022.

Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Team/Orange County Sign in by way of Getty Photographs


With little else to do, Yelyzaveta mentioned she spent maximum of her time on the border facility dozing, regardless that that occasionally proved tricky because of the chilly. Mentioning the unsavory meals presented by way of officers, she mentioned she additionally to begin with refused to devour. 

Yelyzaveta used to be later flown to Chicago after which to New York, the place caseworkers transferred her to an HHS refuge for unaccompanied minors within the Bronx. Aside from for some other Ukrainian woman, the opposite minors on the refuge have been Spanish-speaking migrant kids from Latin The usa, Yelyzaveta mentioned.

Whilst she discussed her keep on the refuge used to be full of some boredom, Yelyzaveta mentioned the power body of workers handled her neatly. She additionally mentioned she liked studying concerning the perilous trips some migrant kids from Central The usa undertook to succeed in the U.S. southern border, frequently by myself.

“I used to be in surprise by way of the tales, how they moved,” Yelyzaveta mentioned, bringing up a dialog with a migrant boy who informed her he have been in U.S. custody for 8 months.

Yelyzaveta, then again, spent 3 weeks on the Bronx refuge earlier than being launched to Fletcher, even if releases of unaccompanied minors to unrelated adults most often take months to procedure, consistent with immigration legal professionals who’ve labored on equivalent circumstances.

“Similar to with another unaccompanied kid in our care, it’s our prison accountability to offer secure, suitable care to unaccompanied migrant kids from Ukraine all the way through the time they’re in our care,” an HHS spokesman mentioned.

Fletcher is grateful the sponsorship procedure went easily. The symbolism of a Ghanaian immigrant sponsoring a Ukrainian refugee isn’t misplaced on her. “I used to be born and raised in Africa. I got here right here twenty years in the past. On the finish of the day, whether or not it is Ukrainian or Latin American, we are all people,” Fletcher mentioned.

Sponsoring Yelyzaveta used to be “a no brainer,” Fletcher added. “I did not consider the truth that she’s from Europe or she’s white or that she’s no longer blood associated with me. I simply noticed a human being in want.”

In the meantime, Yelyzaveta, who will flip 18 in June, is thankful to have a short lived house within the U.S. However she mentioned she intends to go back to Ukraine “to revive her nation” and notice her folks once more as soon as the conflict abates.

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