U.S. announces sponsorship program to help Ukrainian refugees and discourage travel to the U.S.-Mexico border

The Biden administration will launch a program to allow Americans and groups to financially support Ukrainians who have been displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine so they can get to the U.S. faster, President Biden and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced Thursday.

U.S. announces sponsorship program to help Ukrainian refugees and discourage travel to the U.S.-Mexico border

Ukrainians who have been selected for the initiative to travel to the U.S. will be granted humanitarian parole. This allows them to bypass visa and refugee programs that can take many years. It does not grant permanent status but parole would allow Ukrainians to work and live in the U.S.A for two years.

The first U.S. policy to fulfill Mr. Biden's promise to welcome up to 100,000 of the 5,000,000 Ukrainians forced to flee their homeland in the worst refugee crisis since World War II is "Uniting for Ukraine", and it will launch April 25.

In remarks to the White House, Mr. Biden stated that "This new humanitarian parole programme will complement the existing legal paths available to Ukrainians including immigrant visas or refugee processing." It will offer a fast route for legal, secure migration from Europe to America for Ukrainians with a sponsor in the United States, such as a family member or nongovernmental organization.

Officials said that the policy is designed to discourage Ukrainians traveling to Mexico to seek entry at the U.S. Southern Border. In March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed a record 3,274 Ukrainians, a jump of over 1,100% from February.

In the last three months, nearly 15,000 Ukrainians have been processed by U.S. immigration officers, according to a DHS official speaking with reporters on Thursday.

U.S. border officials were instructed in March to look into admitting Ukrainians as humanitarian exemptions to Title 42 pandemic restrictions. However, administration officials stated on Thursday that U.S. border officers will not process Ukrainians without travel documents after April 25.

The senior DHS official stated that "we will apply Title 42 equally at the border" and referred to the migrant expulsion policies, which expire May 23.

The senior DHS official stated that Ukrainian nationals who are present but do not have visas or have not been through the "Uniting for Ukraine" program will not be paroled unless they have other factors that would allow a CBP officer to determine if they deserve a humanitarian exception for Title 42.

According to the president, the initiative will ensure that the United States honours its promise to Ukraine and does not need to cross our southern border.

The sponsorship program will open for applications in the latter part of this month. U.S. citizens or organizations who wish to sponsor Ukrainians abroad must file affidavits and go through background checks. DHS will determine if they are eligible to become sponsors.

Officials from the administration stated that Ukrainians must be identified first by potential sponsors before they can apply directly for permission to travel to America. If they have been living in Ukraine since February 11, Ukrainians are eligible for sponsorship.

The sponsorship will be approved. If they are, the Ukrainians will have to go through security screenings abroad to make sure that they do not pose a risk to U.S. security and public safety. They will also need to be vaccinated for communicable diseases.

The U.S. announced Thursday that it would sponsor thousands of displaced Ukrainians who have U.S. connections. These people, up until now, had limited options for coming to the U.S. to seek asylum. A U.S. administration official stated that the U.S. expected the "majority of Ukrainians" to be welcomed into the country through the new program.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary, said that "We are proud of delivering on President Biden’s commitment to receive 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression to America."

Due to the massive backlog of applications, which has been made worse by the pandemic and many Ukrainians not being eligible for visas, U.S. visa applicants have long wait times. The U.S. refugee processing, which was hampered by COVID-19 and takes 18 to 24 months for those who are allowed to enter, is still in progress.

According to officials from the administration, they established the parole program after speaking with displaced Ukrainians. They believe that many Ukrainians seek temporary safety and not permanent resettlement.

However, Ukrainians who come to the U.S. under the parole program may face legal uncertainty if they choose to stay permanently. They won't have any clear path to U.S. residency like the thousands of Afghan evacuees paroled last year.

On Thursday, however, the administration also announced that it would be referring more Ukrainians to U.S. refugee programs. This will focus on identifying vulnerable individuals in Eastern Europe, such as women, children and people with serious medical conditions, and members of the LGBTQ community.

According to a senior administration official, the State Department is also trying to locate 18,000 Ukrainians who entered the U.S. refugee program before the Russian invasion. This was under the Lautenberg program which allows religious minorities from former Soviet republics to receive expedited U.S. settlement.

The official stated that U.S. refugee resettlement personnel who moved to Moldova from Kyiv after the war ended have identified "a lot" of Ukrainians living in Eastern Europe, who are still awaiting Lautenberg program cases.

According to administration officials, U.S. consulates and embassies are working together to make it easier for Ukrainians to apply for temporary U.S. visas. They also work to expedite cases involving urgent humanitarian, medical, or other "extraordinary" circumstances.

The U.S. had set out to resettle 125,000 refugees around the world in fiscal year 2022. However, less than 9,000 refugees have been accepted so far, according to State Department figures. Only a dozen Ukrainians were admitted to the U.S. in March as refugees.

Matthew La Corte is an immigration policy analyst with the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center. He said that the Ukrainian sponsorship program could help Biden achieve his goal of allowing Americans the ability to sponsor refugees from other countries. The U.S. launched a smaller program to allow individuals to sponsor Afghan refugees.

CBS News reported that La Corte said, "This urgency about Ukraine could ultimately speed up the launch full private sponsorship. This has the opportunity to aid the administration expand the resettlement program." "They have really struggled, fifteen months into the administration to resettle large amounts of refugees."


 

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