Refugee Services of Texas (RST) is deeply distressed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calls for international cooperation to respond to the likely displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. RST condemns any use of violence against civilians and urges the recognition of and adherence to international humanitarian law in this conflict.
We call for all parties to work together to bring an end to this conflict immediately.
The United Nations has estimated that 100,000 Ukrainians have already been displaced and that millions more could soon be affected. Thousands have already arrived in neighboring countries like Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, and many more will likely flee to find refuge outside of Ukraine.
We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
While RST is awaiting guidance from its national refugee partners on the future need for possible resettlement of refugees to Texas from Ukraine, we know the need may be great – even as RST is working diligently to resettle thousands of Afghan evacuees in Texas. The latest guidance is that with the Ukrainian airspace closed, it will take some time before refugees are able to leave Ukraine, let alone make it to the U.S.
Historically, Ukrainians as a population group have resettled in the Pacific Northwest when arriving in the United States, which continues to be a destination for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, because of family ties there.
However, RST is fully prepared to resettle as many Ukrainian refugees in Texas as are approved for resettlement, should our national refugee partners, working with the U.S. government, authorize our team of professional humanitarians and volunteers to do so. We typically resettle 3-5% of all refugees who come to the US (and 30-40% of the ones who come to Texas), so, looking at the size of the potential Ukrainian refugee wave, we expect that RST will resettle thousands in the coming months. Our National funders released a list of the top 10 cities for Afghan settlement, and Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio (all RST cities) were in the top 10.
Since 2014, Refugee Services of Texas has welcomed a few dozen Ukrainians into the state, primarily in the Fort Worth area. As one of the leading states for resettlement in the U.S., Texas is willing and able to welcome this vulnerable population and give them a new start in our great state. On a personal note, great grandparents on both sides of my family were Russian, with a significant number coming from the Odessa region in Ukraine. My great-grandmother Fania Kruger escaped as a refugee with her family after risking her life helping fellow Jews escape Russian pogroms. They initially resettled in Fort Worth, before the family eventually moved to Wichita Falls and then Austin.
Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict, or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country. Refugees are defined and protected by international law. RST has been instrumental in this nation’s efforts to resettle millions of refugees for decades, including the most recent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Those who wish to support refugee resettlement efforts for displaced Ukrainian people are invited to visit RSTX.org to make an impact during this crisis. Another way to make a difference is during this week's Amplify Austin.
- RST CEO Russell Smith, LMSW