Home » U.S. Expands Ukrainian Immigration Program to 167,000 New Potential Applicants

U.S. Expands Ukrainian Immigration Program to 167,000 New Potential Applicants

The Biden administration on Friday expanded an immigration relief program for Ukrainians in the U.S., saying Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia justified offering temporary legal protections to tens of thousands of additional potential applicants.

The Department of Homeland Security said it would allow 166,700 more Ukrainians in the U.S. to apply for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, an immigration relief program that allows migrants from crisis-stricken countries to obtain work permits and deportation protections. 

The Biden administration first created a TPS program for Ukrainians in the spring of 2022, soon after Russian forces invaded Ukraine. The war is the largest conventional conflict in Europe since World War II, and the invasion triggered a mass exodus of millions of Ukrainian refugees, most of them women and children.

Friday’s announcement will allow roughly 26,000 Ukrainians who applied for and received TPS to continue their enrollment in the program through April 2025. It will also move the program’s cut-off date from April 11, 2022, to Aug. 16, 2023, allowing recently arrived Ukrainians to also qualify for TPS.

“Russia’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis requires that the United States continue to offer safety and protection to Ukrainians who may not be able to return to their country,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

The U.S. government has admitted a record number of Ukrainians since the start of the war in Ukraine, which has dragged on for over a year, with no end in sight. The Biden administration has cast its efforts to welcome Ukrainians as a key element of its broader campaign to support Ukraine’s war effort through billions of dollars in aid, weapons and an intense diplomatic campaign to isolate Russia.

In the spring of 2022, U.S. border officials admitted more than 20,000 Ukrainians who had flown to Mexico to escape Ukraine during the early days of the war. Then, in late April 2022, the Biden administration created a program to allow Ukrainian refugees to fly directly to the U.S. if Americans agreed to financially sponsor them. More than 146,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. under that policy, DHS data show.  

Moreover, an additional 235,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. since March 2022 through other programs, such as temporary visas, according to DHS statistics.

The Biden administration’s use of TPS

First created in 1990 by Congress, the TPS program has been used at an unprecedented scale by the Biden administration. In two years, the administration has made hundreds of thousands of additional migrants from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan and Venezuela eligible for TPS.

It has also kept in place long-standing TPS programs for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nepal, reversing the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate them. TPS was sharply criticized by Trump administration officials who said it had been improperly used to give legal status to migrants, some of whom entered the U.S. illegally, for indefinite periods of time despite its temporary nature.

While the Biden administration has expanded the policy dramatically, it has faced criticism from progressive advocates and Democrats for not expanding TPS programs for countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela and not creating new designations for other nations like Mauritania. 

More than 7 million people have fled authoritarian rule and economic catastrophe in Venezuela in recent years, the largest refugee crisis recorded in the Western Hemisphere. In Nicaragua, poverty and government crackdowns against dissidents have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Costa Rica or the U.S. The State Department has described numerous serious human rights abuses in Mauritania, including continued use of slavery, female genital mutilation and violence targeting minorities.

Local leaders in New York City and other cities struggling to house migrants have been particularly vocal about pushing for an expansion of the TPS programs for Nicaragua and Venezuela. They’ve said such moves would allow the hundreds of thousands of migrants from those countries who have entered the U.S. along the southern border over the past two years to work legally and be self-sufficient.

But the Biden administration has been reluctant to expand the TPS programs for Nicaragua and Venezuela due to concerns that such moves could act as “pull factors” that incentivize migrants from those countries to cross the southern border illegally, current and former U.S. officials told CBS News.

“The Department regularly monitors country conditions and consults other appropriate government agencies to determine whether a TPS designation is warranted,” DHS said in a statement. “The department does not have anything specific to share regarding the status of these considerations for any particular country.”

Andrea Flores, a former Biden administration immigration official who left the White House in the fall of 2021, said it was “striking” that the TPS program for Ukraine had been expanded, while those for other countries had not been.

“President Biden’s steps to prevent Ukrainians from coming to the border, shielding them from deportation, and giving them timely work authorization, is a powerful example of what more could be done right now for other populations including Venezuelans, Nicaraguans [and] Mauritanians,” Flores said.

Source : CBSNEWS