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Press Release // Refugee Resettlement

Biden Administration Announces “Uniting For Ukraine”: New Sponsorship Program for Ukrainians Seeking Safety in the U.S.

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LIRS Staff

April 21, 2022

Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310

Washington, D.C. — The Biden administration today announced a new parole program, dubbed Uniting for Ukraine, to expedite the acceptance of displaced Ukrainians with U.S. ties as part of its commitment to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians seeking safety. To date, more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their home country since the Russian invasion.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, “to be eligible, Ukrainians must have been residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022, have a sponsor in the United States, complete vaccinations and other public health requirements, and pass rigorous biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.”

Any U.S. citizen or individual, including representatives of non-government organizations, can sponsor Ukrainian applicants, who will be eligible to reside in the U.S. for up to two years. Sponsors will be required to commit to fiscal sponsorship. While Ukrainians admitted would be eligible for work authorization, the program does not offer a pathway to permanent residence.

Administration officials have also said that U.S. border authorities will no longer process Ukrainians at ports of entry, such as those on the U.S.-Mexico border, who lack travel documents on April 25. “Ukrainian nationals who present and do not have a visa or have not gone through the ‘Uniting for Ukraine’ program will no longer be paroled, unless they have some other factor that would lead a border official, a CBP officer, to make a case-by-case determination that do they merit a humanitarian exception for Title 42,” a senior DHS official told CBS News.

In response to the announcement, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service said:

“This parole program is a concrete step forward towards honoring the administration’s commitment to welcome and protect 100,000 displaced Ukrainians. Families desperately seeking to bring their loved ones directly to safety in the U.S. have a glimmer of hope where there once was exceedingly little.

With the onus on sponsors to take financial responsibility, however, we are disappointed to see the administration outsource its moral obligation to support newly arrived Ukrainians. Without access to traditional refugee resettlement benefits, we urge policy makers to consider implementing some semblance of a safety net for those rebuilding their lives from scratch. Similarly, while some beneficiaries may indeed only require temporary residence, others will need lasting protection that this program does not offer.

More broadly, we are troubled by unequal access to protection for other at-risk populations, all of whom are likewise deserving and in need of refuge. Afghans left behind following last summer’s evacuation have not been afforded a parole program, despite advocates’ calls for such a pathway to safety. Exemptions to the Title 42 expulsion policy for Ukrainians presenting at the U.S. border underscore the absence of such leniency for predominantly Black and Brown asylum seekers fleeing nearly identical violence and persecution. Rather than revoking exemptions for Ukrainians, however, the administration should exercise its discretion to accept those of other nationalities equally in need of protection.

While the new parole program for Ukrainians is welcome progress, it is by no means a substitute for rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Six months into the current fiscal year, the U.S. has only resettled 8,758 refugees of all nationalities towards an annual cap of 125,000. Multiple crises in the last year alone have added to unprecedented global displacement, all of which require the administration to lead by example in using refugee resettlement to the fullest extent possible.”

To learn more about how you can help Ukrainian refugees, visit our Ukraine Crisis Action Hub

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