By Peter Rex
Two of my Ukrainian employees are trapped.
They are software developers in Odessa and Kyiv, and while they could become refugees, they don’t want to wander across Europe for the foreseeable future. Nor should they be forced to stay put as Russia slowly advances toward their homes. The United States should help them — and millions of their fellow Ukrainians — by welcoming them to the land of the free.
American ideals and our national self-interest counsel this move. At the most fundamental level, Ukraine is enduring a worsening humanitarian crisis. Millions of people are looking at a horrible future. They are and have long been America’s friends, and when times get tough, friends offer each other a helping hand. And make no mistake: Ukrainians would help America.
Ukrainians have incredible and varied expertise, from steelmaking to shipbuilding. My two Ukrainian employees are part of one of the best tech hubs in all of Europe. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians are an important part of the global tech industry. In fact, my company and many if not most other tech companies heavily rely on Ukraine’s tech workforce. Think how these hard-working people and their families could strengthen our economy and enrich our communities.
They would bolster our culture, too. As I’ve seen on my own travels to the country, Ukrainians are broadly aligned with American values. They have a deep love of freedom and a desire to defend it, which is powerfully evident. They are also an overwhelmingly religious people, with an ingrained Judeo-Christian tradition, which also undergirds America. Such principled tenacity and ideological overlap would fortify our culture.
There are so many upsides to letting more Ukrainians come to the United States. But the current system isn’t up to the task. While Ukrainians can already apply for visas, huge numbers of qualified applicants will be denied. My two Ukrainian employees might be eligible for H-1B visas, but the number of annual recipients is capped, and they have, at best, a 1 in 3 chance of being selected. Something more expansive — and speedy — is needed.