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Ukrainians struggle to reunite with loved ones at US-Mexico border

Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 21:19:44-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diegans whose loved ones fled Ukraine are now waiting to be reunited with them here. Many are continuing to arrive at the US-Mexico border.

ABC10 News reporter Sophia Hernandez, first met Vitalii and Bogdan Leshanych a week ago, when they traveled from Chicago to Mexico to meet Vitalii's mother and Bogdan's daughter, who was living in Ukraine.

"We can say a lot of words but you need to be there," said Vitalii Lutsitskyi.

"There are people who are there or who are expecting and waiting for families. Only those people can know how it feels."

Thursday, Vitalii and Bogdan were able to cross the Mexico border into San Diego, but their loved ones were taken to a detention center.

"Right now, I don't have no information yet," is what Vitalii shared then.

Vitalii says that he was just glad they were no longer in Ukraine, but safe near US soil, "She's already in a safe place, so I can wait."

And that is exactly what they did. For six days, they received no word from ICE or CBP.

"It was so scary because I don't know what's going on right now," explains Vitalii.

However, on Wednesday, one of them got a very important phone call. Bogdan was reunited with his daughter who is 7 months pregnant.

"That's like, it's another birthday for him to see her," translates Vitalii for his friend.

While Bogdan is relieved that one family member is safe, he has other worries. His wife is still in Ukraine, now stuck in a basement as her city is occupied by Russian forces.

"That is a huge problem for him," explains Vitalii, and Bogdan point's to the sky.

"He is trying to say it is only in God's hands to save her life."

Bogdan does not know if he will ever see his wife again. And these two are not the only ones in this situation.

"If someone has a family member here the goal is that if they are detained they will be released eventually," explains Immigration Attorney Jacob Sapochnick.

"And the process to legalize them happens inside the United States through the courts."

Sapochnick says that his office got 20 calls just this week. He says they have either been from people in Europe who are trying to see how they can come to the US, or individuals who are already at the border and don't know what to do.

"There is no clear policy as to how they allow, they select these people," shares Sapochnick.

"Why one family or one person gets asylum and gets in here and the other person gets sent back, it's still very much up in the air."

Sapochnick says stories like Vitalii's and Bogdan's give others hope. It's why he believes that there are hundreds more who will also try to find freedom in the states, no matter how long it takes.

As for Vitalii, he says he will continue waiting, counting down the days till he gets his call, "I feel no more stress, no more nervous I know everything that is going on, everything is fine," said Sapochnick.

"That is everything that I need to know."

Bogdan says he has one more daughter who has paperwork that will try and seek refugee here in the US. Another daughter is also stuck in Ukraine with his wife.

Sapochnick says many people who have crossed into the US have family members or someone they know who is either a US citizen or green cardholder. The process for the refugee is that they are detained, eventually released, and then go through the court's system's process of removal.

Those who do not know someone who is either a US citizen or green card holder must seek asylum, a process that could take years.