Chicago elected officials, nonprofits ready themselves after Biden announces 'Unite for Ukraine'

President Joe Biden announced Monday a streamlined program to help Ukrainian refugees settle in the United States.

The program is called "Unite for Ukraine."

Biden is calling this an expedited channel for secure and legal migration from Europe to America for Ukrainians who have a sponsor here in the states. 

Since Russia’s invasion, more than five million Ukrainians have already fled their country. This new program will allow them to live and work in the States for up to two years.

Last month, Biden announced the U.S. would welcome 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing their country. Tens of thousands have already come to America, according to the federal government.

Now, in Chicago, nonprofits, along with elected officials, are readying themselves for an influx of Ukrainian refugees.


"We have to do our part. The United States not only stands behind the Ukraine fighters, we stand behind their family who have been displaced," said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. 

"We need a formalized process with the federal government, and we know how to plug and play and support these folks, not only with transition and housing, but also jobs, schools and other support. So, we're ready," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

Julia Bikbova, a Chicago-area immigration attorney, who is originally from Ukraine, says she still has questions about the program.

"Who can afford to just house them, they need places to live, cars to drive, food to eat, go to school," said Bikbova.

She is voicing her concerns that once they arrive in the U.S., it could take months before Ukrainian refugees are cleared to work.

"Because of the reality of the processing times of the work authorization documents," said Bikbova. "That wait time is anywhere between six and 12 months." 

The program will go live on Monday, April 25 — when U.S. based groups and individuals can apply through the Department of Homeland Security to sponsor displaced Ukrainian citizens.

Ukrainian refugees must still pass public health requirements along with security screenings.