Earlier this month, I met with Ukrainian families who fled their country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
I hope you can take a moment to read and share the Farmington Daily Times story below about my visit.
Soon after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, I wrote to President Biden urging the administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians living in the United States. Following this letter, the administration heeded our call and offered safety and protection for Ukrainian families in the United States unable to return home.
The Ukrainians I met with in Farmington told me harrowing stories about the impacts of Putin’s aggression on their friends and family members. With Putin’s aggression intensifying, Ukraine urgently needs our support. The United States must deliver more assistance. For our national security, our allies, and freedom, Congress needs to act now.
I am so grateful to the Farmington community and their unwavering support for the families I met with who have fled unthinkable violence in their home country. The bravery of Ukrainian families, in New Mexico and in their home country, is a reminder that freedom and democracy are always worth fighting for.
I won’t let up on this fight.
Gathering at Farmington church gives refugee families chance to relate their stories
By Mike Easterling
January 8, 2024
The members of five Ukrainian refugee families who have resettled in the Farmington area over the past two years got a chance to express their concerns about a potential halt in American funding for their country’s war effort against Russia during a meeting with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich on Thursday.
Heinrich, D-New Mexico, met with the families at the Providence Presbyterian Church in Farmington for approximately an hour. The Ukrainian families have been assisted in their resettlement by the Gordon Glass Sponsor Circle, a group of local residents that joined forces to provide financial and other support for Ukrainian families that have fled their country because of the Russian invasion.
Heinrich, who has been a staunch supporter of U.S. military aid to Ukraine since the conflict began in February 2022, issued a statement after the meeting reiterating his backing for continued American funding for Ukraine, despite the opposition of many congressional Republicans.
“With (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s aggression intensifying, Ukraine urgently needs our aid,” Heinrich said. “The United States must deliver. For our national security, our allies, and freedom, the Senate needs to act now, and I won’t let up on this fight.”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich listens to the stories of Ukrainian refugees during a Thursday, Jan. 4 meeting at Providence Presbyterian Church in Farmington.
Heinrich directed praise at the members of the sponsor circle who have committed to helping the Ukrainian refugees, adding that New Mexicans understand that the way they treat refugees and asylum seekers shows the world what true American values mean.
“I’m so grateful to those here in Farmington for their unwavering support for those families who have fled unthinkable violence in their home country of Ukraine,” he said. “The bravery of Ukrainian families, here and in their home country, is a reminder that freedom and democracy are always worth fighting for.”
Katya Demokhina, one of the Ukrainians who spoke at the meeting, said she found Heinrich a good listener and said the atmosphere at the event was more like an informal conversation than an official encounter.
“The feeling is, we were heard,” she said. “He knew a lot of information about Ukraine and Ukrainians, but some of the information was new to him. I think he heard us.”
The Rev. Rebecca Morgan, the former pastor of the church and a member of the sponsor circle, was instrumental in putting together the meeting. She said she was pleased with how it went and said Heinrich seemed deeply interested in the stories of the Ukrainians who spoke on Thursday.
After a meeting with Ukrainian refugee families in Farmington on Thursday, Jan. 4, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich reiterated his support for continued U.S. military aid to their country in its war against Russia.
“He is a remarkably good listener,” she said. “He was very focused on the speakers and asked really good questions for clarity.”
Morgan said many of the Ukrainians at the meeting shared their personal stories of how they wound up in Farmington and expressed their concern about the loved ones they have left behind. She described those stories as deeply moving.
“I looked around the room a couple of times, and people had tears in their eyes,” she said.
Cynthia Rapp Sandu, another member of the sponsor group, said the stories the Ukrainians shared were widely varied.
“The families all came from different places in Ukraine, at different times and under different circumstances,” she said. “It really gave a nice overview of what the Ukrainian families in our community are facing.”
In addition to their concerns about what is happening in their homeland, Morgan said that the Ukranians who have settled in Farmington also are worried about their immigration status. All of the refugees were admitted to this country on a two-year humanitarian visa, and for many of them, that two-year window will close in April. They have no idea what will become of them after that, Morgan said.
“It’s just sort of in the wind right now,” she said. “ … Some of them really don’t have any place to go back to.”
Rapp Sandu said the Ukrainians have not received any answers about whether their visas will be extended, converted to a different type of status or revoked. That has impacted their ability to seek employment, enroll in college, or access job training or scholarship programs, she said.
Many of the Ukrainian refugees who spoke during a Thursday, Jan. 4 meeting with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich in Farmington expressed concerns about their visa status.
“It puts them in a very uncertain situation,” she said.
Heinrich did his best to allay their concerns, Morgan said, but she noted he couldn’t offer them any specifics.
“He didn’t make any promises,” she said. “He indicated the uncertainty of the shenanigans in Washington, but he committed that he and his staff would help in any way that made sense.”
For their part, the Ukrainians seemed surprised and pleased to have a U.S. official of Heinrich’s status soliciting their feedback.
“I think they were absolutely shocked that a U.S. senator would take the time in the middle of a snowstorm to come and hear their stories,” she said.
The Ukrainians who spoke at the meeting also expressed their appreciation for the way Farmington residents have taken them in.
“They are, to a person, so grateful to this community and how it has supported them,” Morgan said. “San Juan County has been really welcoming and hospitable. They are aware of that and are really grateful.”
Demokhina acknowledged her future and that of the rest of the Farmington Ukrainians is unclear. But she said the help they have received since they have been here makes her optimistic about the future.
“I really have high hopes,” she said.