Fox 9 Twin Cities

By Tim Blotz

The Biden Administration on Thursday granted Temporary Extended Status to thousands of non-immigration visa holders working in the U.S. The move by the Department of Homeland Security granted 18-month visa extensions, after 41 U.S. senators including Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota petitioned the White House.

"They're a big part of our work force in Minnesota, especially in our agricultural areas. And right now, they can't just return home," said Klobuchar.

One of those workers is Mariana Pykivska. She works at a flower and vegetable farm in Waverly, Minnesota, where she has rotated in and out of the farm on a seasonal basis for the past 13 years.

Pykivska is from Vinnytsia in central Ukraine where most of her family still resides.

"Expanding my visa status here allows me to continue supporting my family and the country in general," said Pykivska. "I'm the only one person in our family who's still working. They are just sitting in the shelter."

In their letter to President Joe Biden, the senators cited State Department data that shows 29,510 non-immigrant visas issued to Ukrainian nationals for Fiscal Year 2020. It’s the most recent year that such data is available. The senators argued that granting TPS status to the Ukrainian visa holders would create a minimal disruption to the United States and forcing them to return to a war zone would be unacceptable.

"The reason they come over here is to work because we don't have enough workers on our farms and they're an integral part of our workforce," explained Klobuchar during an interview with FOX 9’s Tim Blotz. "So it makes total sense that she should be allowed to stay and continue working.’

Pykivska first came to Minnesota while studying agronomy and landscaping at an agriculture university in Ukraine.

"My first season, my first year here was on a temporary work, a temporary student visa," said Pykivska.  "And I just keep coming back because this is what I love and this company was good to work for."

Currently, Pykivska says she is busy transplanting flowers on the farm to get ready for the spring market season. Then later in the spring the farm will switch to vegetable production. "Our tomatoes are the best in Minnesota," she said.

Her current work visa was set to expire on Nov. 15, but with Thursday’s extension by the Department of Homeland Security she will not have to return to Ukraine until the spring of 2024. Pykivska feared having to return home during the middle of the war with Russia.

"My biggest fear would be not to see my family, and I can't even think about that, to see cities destroyed. You see children without their parents, it's just devastating," said Pykivska.

For now, she said her family is safe since Russian forces have yet to attack her city. But it doesn’t mean she’s not worried.

"We are praying every day," she said.