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Ukrainians resettling in U.S. face a years-long process without family, visas

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) said Congress and the White House are working to expedite the process for Ukrainian refugees.

COLORADO, USA — More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled their homes to find safety in other countries, and while some have found there way to Colorado, there's no fast track to get here for Ukrainian refugees. 

"We have three folks who have recently come here," said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). "Not under the refugee resettlement, but because they have family ties." 

On Tuesday morning, DeGette sat at a table with three women, all who have fled Ukraine in the last few weeks. 

Iryna Rothko left her husband behind and came to Colorado with her two kids, 9 and 7. 

"And then they made a decision to move to their house in the country, but today this house is destroyed, the bomb hit the house," a translator said about Rothko's family.

Katerina Khmil and her daughter, Tetiana, spent five days getting out of their war-torn home. Tetiana had to leave behind her husband and two adult sons. 

They told their stories to DeGette and Jennifer Wilson, the executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Denver.

These women would not have been able to get to Colorado so quickly without family who are already here. Wilson said the wait for most Ukrainian refugees to get to the U.S. is still about two years.

"So, while we may see refugees from this conflict, at present there's no expedited mechanism and it will likely be sometime before people are able to access that as an option to come here," said Wilson. 

DeGette said Congress and the White House are working on that expedited mechanism.

"But we think that with the refugee resettlement program being authorized by the administration -- that Denver and Colorado may be getting a lot more refugees," she said. 

Colorado is a welcoming state for refugees, but it's hard to find affordable housing. 

Wilson said of 700 Afghani families her agency helped to resettle in Colorado, a third of them are still in temporary housing. Wilson added that many Ukrainians are hoping a home in the U.S. is not permanent. 

"We recognize that most of the people displaced really just want to come home and it is the best and most preferable option if we can restore safety in the country for people to return," she said. 

That's another unknown for the women around the table on Tuesday morning and millions of Ukrainians.

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