From Ukraine to Las Vegas, a young woman shares her arduous journey

From Ukraine to Las Vegas, refugees are making their way to the valley, but the journey here was not only difficult for one young woman, but traumatic.
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 10:46 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - From Ukraine to Las Vegas, refugees are making their way to the valley, but the journey here was not only difficult for one young woman, but traumatic.

Las Vegas immigration lawyer, Darren Heyman, said he’s beyond exhausted. For the past several weeks he worked to get his mother-in-law and sister-in-law to the U.S. from Ukraine. His mother-in-law had a visa and was able to arrive to the valley smoothly. His sister-in-law, Viktoriia Olishevska, on the other hand was without a green card or visa which made her trek complicated.

Heyman went online and saw that a Mexican visa was a possibility for her.

“So we went to from Slovakia, to Vienna, to Madrid, then to Mexico City and once we got through customs which was not a problem...thank goodness we had to make our way to the border,” Heyman said.

The pair made their way to Otay Mesa border crossing.

“I told him that I was a immigration attorney and I was planning on presenting my sister in-law for asylum. To which the Customs and Boarder Patrol supervisor said we don’t do that here,” Heyman said.

At one point Heyman said they threatened to arrest him for human trafficking.

Once they went through interviews, Heyman was asked to leave and Victoriia was detained.

They heard she would be held between 12 hours to 12 days and had prepared for that. However they weren’t prepared for no-contact.

“For the next six days we didn’t hear from her we wouldn’t hear a single word from her and I contacted everyone I contacted the CBP attorneys, I contacted ICE attorneys I contacted anyone and everyone who would talk to me and very few people would talk to me,” Heyman said.

Heyman flew to San Diego to get answers and was unsuccessful. Eventually Victoriia was allowed to make a phone call.

She was taken to a ICE detention center in Basile, Louisiana.

“They put her in feet restraints, wrist restraints, hip restraints, and they didn’t tell them where they were going, and they put them on a bus to a plane, at that point she said I had been tough until then at that point I lost it, I thought I had done nothing wrong. All I had done was come to this country and ask for help and I’ve been treated as a criminal,” Heyman said.

Heyman flew into New Orleans and drove to Basile to visit with his sister.

“Through plexiglass, and holding the phones on either end, she was wearing an orange jumpsuit, she had her hair in corn rows, and she just burst out crying, Heyman said.

She shared a cell with fellow refugee Ukrainians and Russians.

“There were 23 of them in a cell sleeping on concrete with tin foil blankets where they kept the lights on for 24 hours,” Heyman said.

On Saturday FOX5 met Heyman at a Ukrainian community picnic, where he learned she would be released from ICE custody on Tuesday, March 22.

“It was amazing, it was amazing to see her she was so happy,” Heyman said.

Heyman and Victoriia landed in Las Vegas at 11p.m. Tuesday night.

“Seven heads under one roof is going to be cozy, but we’re fortunate all seven heads are under one roof now and for that we are really really grateful,” Heyman said.

Victoriia was granted humanitarian parole, which allows her to live in the U.S. for at least a year. During that time she can file for asylum. She is entitled for work authorization immediately.

Heyman has been giving his time and advice about going through this process to other Ukrainians trying to get family members to the U.S. through his firm Heyman Law Group.