A Valley teacher is learning her Ukrainian fiancé got held up in Mexico, by ICE, while trying to make his way to Arizona. ABC15 has learned Senator Kyrsten Sinema is working to get answers.
Olesya Balzhyk and Mykhailo Pikovets met in Israel three years ago before getting engaged in 2020. Their wish was to make a home together here in the Valley.
“This is the best way to live here. I have my life settled. I got my education here. So, I did pursue the American dream,” said Balzhyk.
But, that dream is now on hold.
Mykhailo lives in Ukraine. His fiancée applied for his visa in April 2021, but COVID reportedly caused delay after delay.
"I've been planning in my mind my wedding, but I can't move forward,” added Balzhyk.
Olesya says she found hope when President Joe Biden ordered Americans out of Ukraine in early February.
Her fiancé then began planning his journey to the United States.
Olesya says her fiancé planned to make his way here through Mexico but was detained by ICE right near the border. He is now being held in Louisiana.
"This is how he explained it at the border. 'I am fleeing because of the war. I left Ukraine because of the war. I would not have done it had it not been for the war. I did not know what to do,'” added Balzhyk.
Sheree Wright, an immigration attorney with IBF Law in Phoenix, says the feds taking Mykhailo into custody is normal.
"Once you present yourself at the border and you make a request for either asylum or refugee, they have to take you to a detention center,” said Wright.
But, holding someone for nearly a month is not common.
“I could understand if it were someone coming from Mexico, but this individual is actually coming …his citizenship is Ukraine and the provisions, right now, are to let them in,” added Wright.
Olesya says she has called ICE several times, sent emails, and hired an attorney. She even reached out to local politicians for help.
Senator Sinema is now getting involved. Her office tells ABC15, “Our casework team is in touch with the constituent and has reached out to ICE on the issue.”
“This gave me a lot of peace because I have been crying myself out every night even though I believe in God and know everything is in God’s hands,” added Balzhyk.
ABC15 has also reached out to ICE and was told they’d be in touch. We’ve yet to hear back.