A Valley teacher learns that her Ukrainian fiancé was held up in Mexico by ICE while he was trying to get to Arizona. She has many questions. ABC15 has been informed that Senator Kyrsten Sinema is becoming involved.
Olesya Balzhyk and Mykhailo Pikovets met in Israel three years ago before getting engaged in 2020. The wish of the Ukrainians was to build a house together here in the valley.
“This is the best way to live here. I have arranged my life. I received my education here. So I’ve been pursuing the American dream,” Balzhyk said.
But that dream is now on hold.
Mykhailo lives in Ukraine. His fiancé applied for his visa in April 2021. COVID, she says, caused delay upon delay.
“I’ve planned my wedding in my mind, but I can’t go any further,” Balzhyk added.
Olesya says she found hope when President Joe Biden ordered Americans out of Ukraine in early February.
Her fiancé then began planning his trip to the United States.
Olesya says her fiancé planned to get here through Mexico, but was detained by ICE near the border. He is now being held in Louisiana.
“This is how he explained it at the border. I’m on the run because of the war. I left Ukraine because of the war. I wouldn’t have done it if there hadn’t been a war. I didn’t know what to do,” added Balzhyk.
Sheree Wright, an immigration attorney with IBF Law in Phoenix, says the FBI taking Mykhailo into custody is normal.
“Once you report yourself at the border and apply for asylum or a refugee, they have to take you to a detention center,” Wright said.
But holding someone for almost a month is not common.
“I could understand if it was someone who is from Mexico, but this person is really coming … his citizenship is Ukraine and the facilities, at the moment, are to let them in,” Wright added.
Oleysa says she called ICE several times, sent emails and hired a lawyer. She even sought help from local politicians.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema is now interfering. Her office tells ABC15, “Our treatment team is in contact with the voter and has contacted ICE about the matter.”
“This gave me a lot of peace of mind because I cried myself out every night even though I believe in God and know that everything is in God’s hands,” added Balzhyk.
ABC15 also contacted ICE and was told they would be in touch. We haven’t heard back yet.