A Ukrainian family fleeing the war has no official travel documents or visas, so their extended family in America bought them plane tickets to Mexico where they could cross the border.
But a new government policy starting Monday could derail the family’s plan.
Andre and Juliet Heerden, who live in Clay County, flew to Romania to meet their Ukrainian family and bring them back with them. The return trip is scheduled for Monday. But with the US-Mexico border closed to asylum seekers from the war in Ukraine, the Van Heerdens may have to return home on their own.
In 2016, the Van Heerdens lived in Ukraine for three months while adopting two 16-year-old brothers, and they gained an entire second family.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, the Van Heerdens’ relatives fled to Romania a few days later.
“I left everything. I had a small bag. I put pants, a shirt and snacks in it for my daughter. And we got on a train,” said Lana, a family friend. “And so, a lot of military people were standing with the guns, and some of them were pointing at us just to check if we were Ukrainians or Russians. It was scary, but we got through it.”
It took a month, but the Van Heerdens raised enough money to fly to their family, now in Romania, and personally bring four of them back to their new home in the United States.
“The people of the greater Jacksonville area have come together to give everything they need when they arrive in America with nothing,” Juliet Van Heerden said.
As the United States facilitates the arrival in the United States of refugees fleeing Russia from Europe, starting Monday, the Biden administration is closing an informal route through northern Mexico that has emerged in recent weeks.
Know the time it would take to file and wait for the appropriate documents –
“We looked at it,” said Andre Van Heerden. “It’s almost as rigorous as doing a formal adoption. It is complicated.”
This is why the group made the choice to fly to Mexico on Monday.
“We were told that was the way to do it, and a lot of people did it that way,” Juliet Van Heerden said. “So we said, ‘OK. We will too. And we’re just a day too late.
The Van Heerdens reached out to local members of Congress, who they say are working hard to get the extended family home. But on Friday night, it didn’t look promising for their Ukrainian family.
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