Welcome Ukrainians – WSJ


A man with a child crosses the Ukrainian-Polish border at Korczowa in southeastern Poland on Thursday.


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louisa gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris may have given the impression that the United States is not very concerned about the plight of Ukrainian refugees. But it’s not too late for her and her boss, President Joe Biden, to seize the opportunity to welcome more people fleeing war to American shores. History says that the United States will benefit greatly.

As for the VP, Ms Harris is used to having fun where others don’t and today she chose a particularly odd occasion to share her joy. Here is an excerpt from the official White House transcript of its press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda at Belweder Palace in Warsaw:

Q Madam Vice President, every day we can see the unimaginable death and suffering of the Ukrainian people caused by the decisions taken by Vladimir Putin. My question is, will the United States support an international investigation into Russian war crimes in Ukraine? And do you see a political future for Putin?

(As interpreted.) This is also the question to the Polish president.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Okay, I’m going.

PRESIDENT DUDA: (Shows himself.)

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Go ahead this time, please. (Laughs.)

Q (Inaudible) I will start with Madam Vice-President.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: (Laughs.) Okay.

PRESIDENT DUDA: (Points to Vice President Harris.)

Q Thank you. I appreciate that. (To laugh.)

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Not at all. I – we are very clear: the NATO Alliance is stronger and Russia is weaker because of what Putin has done. It is very clear to us.

And when it comes to crimes and violations of international norms and rules, we are also very clear that any intentional attack on innocent civilians is a violation. The UN has a process in place whereby there will be review and investigations, and we will of course participate if appropriate and necessary.

Sometimes there are awkward moments when it’s not clear who is speaking, but the vice president’s amused tone continued later in the press conference:

Q Thank you. Thank you, Madam Vice President. I wanted to ask you about some news reports that my colleague here in Poland noticed. He recently spoke with the mayor of the largest border town, who told him that the refugee system is essentially not designed for this, that it is going to collapse. It’s an improvised system that can work for maybe two weeks, but not indefinitely. And I wonder what the United States is going to do more concretely to put in place a permanent infrastructure. And in the same vein, is the United States ready to give a specific allowance to Ukrainian refugees?

And for President Duda, I wanted to know if you think and if you have asked the United States to specifically accept more refugees.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Okay. (Laughter.) A friend in need is really a friend. (To laugh.)

PRESIDENT DUDA: Okay. I will go first. Okay, so this time — (as interpreted) — Madame, the situation is very complex. That’s what I was saying today and I discussed it at length with Vice President Kamala Harris. I said, very bluntly, that today we are witnessing a refugee crisis.

President Duda went on to describe a massive human tragedy which, given its scale, could completely overwhelm his country and create a “refugee disaster”. The Journal’s Drew Hinshaw and Ian Lovett report today from Warsaw:

Local governments cannot buy beds quickly enough. Poles offering to take in refugees receive more than 100 emails from new arrivals looking for a place to sleep, often full of details about their ordeal. The influx of people has increased Poland’s population for the first time since 1987…

Two Ukrainians enter Poland every three seconds. The 1.4 million people who arrived in Poland would create the second largest city in the country. By next week, they will likely overtake Warsaw, the country’s largest city, Polish officials expect.

During the press conference, President Duda indicated that he had told Vice President Harris that Poland needed immediate financial and material aid as well as technical assistance because it lacked experience in management of such a huge flow of migrants. He added:

In addition, we discussed refugees from Ukraine who have relatives and families in the United States, and who would be willing – at least during the period when the war is still raging, they would like to visit these families, stay with their families in the United States, and wait there for the end of the war, and then return home.

I called for expediting and simplifying procedures for these people — for consular procedures to be simplified for people who want to go to the United States, to give these people the opportunity to see their families as soon as possible, to be reunited with their families, to help them survive this time.

When it was her turn to speak again, thankfully Ms Harris didn’t laugh at the idea, but she didn’t make a commitment either, offering vague assurances of help and noting only help for Ukrainians who were already in the United States:

You probably know that we made a decision on TPS — temporary protected status. So for Ukrainians who are in the United States whose visa may expire or has expired: if they were in the United States before — I believe it’s in March; I don’t have the exact date — they can stay; they won’t have to leave, even if their visa has expired because, of course, we wouldn’t send them back to what is a war zone.

The vice president should immediately seek the president’s approval to take in refugees from the war zone, especially those who already have family ties to the United States. And let’s not assume that their moves have to be temporary. Stuart Anderson reminds us today of another refugee from another invasion of Russian troops who came to settle with his family in America. After the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Andrew Grove, then known as Andras Grof, set out on his journey:

With the help of a family friend, Grove escaped. He took a long train ride and passed through a dozen villages, dodging Russian patrols before reaching Austria.

In Vienna, thousands of Hungarians lined up at the American consulate and refugee organizations. At the consulate, he gave the names of an aunt and uncle, Lenke and Lajos, who lived in New York. He interviewed a representative of the International Rescue Committee, but found out a few days later that his name was not on the acceptance list in the United States.

After being rejected, Grove did something remarkable: he didn’t take “no” for an answer. What follows raises the question of whether refugees who are admitted to other countries are, to some extent, “self-selected” for characteristics such as courage and risk-taking. In other words, are resettled refugees in the United States and Western countries the most resilient, even among a group of resilient displaced people?

Grove ran to a school where he overheard another group of International Rescue Committee staff conducting interviews. “I wiped the sweat from my face with my hands and, still panting, started speaking in English as fast as I could,” Grove writes. “I explained that I had been interviewed yesterday, that I had not been selected, but that I really, really wanted to go to the United States. One of the interviewers asked me why. I told him that I had relatives in New York who would take me in, that I was a chemistry student, that I thought I would be a good chemist, and that I belonged in the United States.

“The words poured out, without eloquence or coherence, but I spoke and spoke as if I could overwhelm their objections with the volume of my words. I almost didn’t dare stop talking, but finally I had nothing more to say. I lay there, panting slightly still in a profuse sweat. The students looked at each other and smiled, and then one of them said, “Okay, you can go to the United States. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I wanted to hug each of the young men sitting across the long table.

Good fortune was America’s. Grove died in 2016, but not before a hugely productive career culminating in a long tenure as Intel CEO..

The next Andrew Grove could cross the border into Poland right now. But even if we don’t land another Grove, with more than 11 million open positions in the United States right now, we’re bound to find some helpful hands. Considering the hell they’ve just been through, can you imagine a more grateful group of employees?

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James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival”.

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