There are many factors that contribute to the difficulty immigrants have integrating into the American system, including the language barrier.
Learning how to navigate all the different systems required to live a safe and comfortable life in any community requires a certain level of language comprehension. Otherwise, some of the most “ordinary things such as medical insurance, taxes, employment, rent, and education” will be challenging to approach by an immigrant.
For more information on what resources are needed for immigrants coming to the US, we spoke with Liudmyla Balabai, managing editor at ForumDaily.com – a media company and integral resource for Russian-speaking immigrants who need help staying informed on news and other information that will ease their adjustment to living in the United States.
Can you tell us about the mission and vision of Forum Daily? How did it all begin?
I joined the team when the media was 15 years old. Today we are 23! We are one of the first Russian periodicals in the United States, and at the moment we are one of the largest ones. The beginning was common, like other successful projects.
There was a group of immigrants who understood what they were missing in the US and decided to fill the gap. They were missing useful information and news in Russian, but also the opportunity to communicate and share experiences.
This is what ForumDaily has been doing for almost a quarter of a century. In those years we changed the design for our website and had different ways of presenting the news. We also created accounts in new social media as they appeared and became popular.
But the main goal stays the same: supporting and bringing together Russian-speaking immigrants in the United States, helping them to comprehend the American way of life, and providing them with the latest news.
Can you introduce us to what you do? What are your main areas of focus?
In short, we are aiming to educate immigrants on life in the United States. What is evident for those born in the US, poses incredible challenges for immigrants. I’m talking about such ordinary things as medical insurance, taxes, employment, rent, and education.
So, these are all essential aspects of life that everyone should be aware of. Immigrants have to navigate these complex systems, often with limited English proficiency. At the same time, they are trying to address immigration matters, which is also a challenging system to understand.
This is where we come in.
ForumDaily’s team tries to sort out the details of all the complex processes. We explain everything in simple digestible terms. We involve professionals from very diverse spheres of life and together we sort out all the intricacies.
These explanations in the Russian language, as well as in other languages spoken in post-Soviet countries, are available on our website and provide significant assistance to immigrants. We often receive positive feedback from appreciative readers.
And, of course, the news. Immigrants are as eager as Americans to stay informed about what’s happening in the country. But not everyone can read in English.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing immigrant communities in the United States today? How does ForumDaily.com address these issues?
In short, it’s the lack of understanding about life in the United States, not knowing where to go and ask questions, and a shortage of information in their native language.
Many people remain concerned about the delays in processing their immigration cases. People are left in limbo while waiting for their case decisions, especially when it comes to asylum seekers. ForumDaily cannot reduce the waiting times or end those delays, but we can provide them with information.
We inform them about legal options to speed up the immigration process. We explain how to track waiting times in different states. We also share stories and advice from those who have gone through the process. We answer questions and assist with English. We equip them with information.
As for our audience, who are immigrants from post-Soviet countries, they are currently facing incredibly challenging times. Individuals from Ukraine are in a very difficult situation. Many came to the United States without a plan, and often without money. They need information and assistance more than others, and we strive to provide it.
There is another issue – disconnection. The community of Russian-speaking immigrants no longer exists. Ukrainians, Georgians, and Kazakhs understand the Russian language, but they no longer want to be considered 'one of us' by Russians and Belarusians.
They don’t want to be part of the same community with them. They want to speak their languages. So, we introduced an automatic translation feature on our websites. That way, everyone can read the text in their respective language.
How do you think the recent global events have influenced your field of work? How has the pandemic affected ForumDaily.com and its coverage of immigration and other topics?
I think every single business has suffered due to the pandemic. In our case, it led to the loss of advertising contracts. Local businesses shut down, and concerts and events got canceled. We experienced a substantial loss of advertising revenue, prompting us to redistribute our budget and we had to reconsider how to survive.
About our content, we shifted our focus and wrote about how to apply for a visa during the pandemic. Also, where to get vaccinated, and what medical documents are required to cross the US border.
But, immigration subjects were put on hold, and more important questions came forward, including how to vacation without leaving your apartment. You can’t even imagine how many wonderful places you can see thanks to Google and web cameras.
Such as pursuing education online, and information about COVID’s spread in the United States and around the world. In general, the editorial office worked on its usual busy schedule, focusing on themes of the pandemic that had gripped the world.
Currently, a similar information effect has been created by the war in Ukraine. It runs as a common thread through our news about immigration, the economy, and politics. Many Ukrainians in the US, Europe, and Ukraine read our publications and want to stay informed about current events. We strive to fulfill this demand. The subject of immigration and legal status is once more in the spotlight.
Can you discuss the importance of educating and informing immigrant communities about their rights and legal options?
As I mentioned earlier, our primary goal and purpose is to inform immigrants. Legal nuances play the most important role in the lives of those who have moved to the United States from another country. Therefore, we place significant emphasis on educating immigrants in this field.
One of the most important topics is fraudulent lawyers and non-professional ‘helpers’, who can aggravate immigration issues. We guide immigrants in verifying lawyer licenses, provide guidance on effective negotiation and record-keeping, and offer information on what to do in cases of fraud.
The United States is a bureaucratic country, and every coma has its significance. This can be a drawback, as each document must be diligently completed and submitted on time. Yet, it can also be an advantage – if your rights were infringed in any way, you can uphold your rights in court, and it works. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand both legal requirements and the guarantees provided by the law in the US.
This is, in short, the recipe for surviving in the US. Legislation in various domains in the US diverges from what the immigrant community is accustomed to. Lack of awareness of one’s rights and responsibilities is often the cause of unforeseen legal issues and workplace difficulties, including matters involving banks and credit.
Can you discuss some of the challenges or obstacles that ForumDaily.com has faced in its mission to inform and empower immigrant communities?
US Federal and local authorities take informing immigrants quite seriously, so we haven’t encountered any hurdles. Government officials are always prepared to respond to inquiries and participate in interviews, and vital information is readily accessible on immigration services websites.
Our challenge is rather commonplace: financial constraints. We have project ideas that we are unable to realize due to a limited budget. We are working in this direction, constantly growing and developing, and sooner or later, we will bring these plans to fruition. However, for now, some of our ideas remain in limbo, awaiting funding.
How do you handle website security and data privacy concerns? How do you prioritize the security of your data, and what measures do you take to keep it safe?
We use the reliable Secure Sockets Layer Protocol to safeguard our users’ personal information from theft and unauthorized usage.
Furthermore, we do not collect any information about users except for what they consciously provide to us, such as their name and email address when subscribing to newsletters or registering on the website to leave a comment.
In your opinion, how has the immigration landscape in the United States evolved over the past few years? Do you see any upcoming changes or trends in the forthcoming years?
To be honest, it seems that some sort of explosion, a pivotal moment, is on the horizon. The disagreement between Democrats and Republicans concerning immigration has been intensifying over the last few years and has even evolved into regional conflicts.
I am referring to the decision by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to send immigrants to New York because it is a sanctuary city. He openly declared that he attempted to chastise Democrats, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and, indirectly, President Joe Biden, for their statements on hospitality and the obligation to assist immigrants.
As states led by Democrats seek solutions to accommodate a large number of immigrants and facilitate their employment and adaptation, Republican regions are tightening their immigration policies. As of July 1st, an extremely strict immigration law has come into effect in Florida. Soon, these regional conflicts escalate to the point where the solutions must be addressed at the federal level.
This is when the pivotal moment will arrive; a deadlock that will be hard to resolve.
Donald Trump has pushed the immigration issue to the forefront of the political agenda, and the electorate is closely monitoring this matter. Both parties are reluctant to compromise for fear of losing votes.
In short, I wish my assessments were incorrect, but I believe that we will face exceedingly challenging times before the immigration policy and situation in the United States improve and stabilize. This will affect immigrants and not in a good way.
And finally, what’s next for Forum Daily?
Currently, our focus is on developing regional sections or even separate affiliate websites. We already have a section for Russian-speaking New Yorkers. Furthermore, we plan to create sections for Florida and California, which are states with significant populations of immigrants from post-Soviet countries.
Each US state is a separate world with its laws, traditions, and views on life. The Forum Daily website will continue to serve as a comprehensive informational resource. A sort of encyclopedia for immigrants on a federal level.
We aspire to provide help to regional Russian-speaking communities by helping them understand local laws and regulations. This is why we are currently working on developing sections and groups for Florida and California. We begin with these two states, and we'll see what comes next.