Sen. Baldwin calls on feds to fix work permit backlogs for Afghans, Ukrainians in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — Senator Tammy Baldwin is calling on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to immediately address extensive work permit wait times for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees in Wisconsin, citing a News 3 Investigates report.

RELATED: ‘We want to work’: Ukrainians in Dane County wait months amid massive work permit backlogs

“Afghan and Ukrainian refugees in Wisconsin are facing unacceptably long waits for EADs necessary for them to provide financially for their families and fully integrate in their new communities,” Baldwin’s letter to USCIS director Ur M. Jaddou stated.

Earlier this month, Dane County officials who assist immigrants with case services told News 3 Now that eleven Ukrainian families they were actively helping were waiting on their employment authorization documents (EADs).

Families that News 3 talked to said they had been told to keep waiting after arriving in late April as efforts from Sen. Baldwin’s office to expedite work permits failed to gain traction with USCIS.

“We want to be useful,” Peter Sokor said at the time, a Ukrainian father with several daughters resettled in Stoughton. “We would say in Ukraine, ‘We are sitting on someone’s shoulders.’ We don’t want to sit like this. We want to work, be useful, do something, pay taxes.”

Baldwin’s letter to USCIS cites average wait times of seven months for permits specific to Afghans and Ukrainians; far higher than the target turnaround time of ninety days.

“We owe it to these communities, and the refugees they have welcomed, to help these migrants find the work and fill job openings that will help them contribute to and fully integrate into these communities,” the letter said.

Earlier this year, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security cited a 1.5 million application backlog, with wait times doubling from 2.6 months to 4.2 months between 2017 and 2022.

Other congressional records cited thousands of Ukrainians arriving since April, still waiting on work permits.