The Biden administration draws up a plan for refugees in Ukraine

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On Thursday, the Biden administration announced plans to speed up the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, create a new system that allows private citizens and organizations such as churches to sponsor them, and warn Ukrainians trying to cross through Mexico, starting next week.

The announcement comes as more than 5 million people, more than 10 percent of Ukraine’s population, have fled to Poland, Romania and other neighboring countries, intensifying calls for the Biden administration to allow more into the United States. The administration is also keen to control the rapidly growing number of refugees from Ukraine and Latin America who appear suddenly at the Mexican border seeking entry to the United States.

President Biden It pledged a month ago to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians, but the administration hasn’t given clear guidance on the process yet. Left to their own devices, nearly 15,000 Ukrainians have arrived at the US-Mexico border over the past three months, senior US administration officials said in a conference call with reporters Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the new program.

The State Department and Department of Homeland Security said they are creating a new “simplified” program called “Union for Ukraine” that would grant most refugees “humanitarian parole.” to come to the United States for up to two years, as long as they have a sponsor willing to support them in the country. Officials also plan to expand permanent legal pathways under the current refugee program.

“The United States strongly encourages Ukrainians who are seeking asylum in the United States who do not have a visa and are not eligible for it to apply for cross-union entry to Ukraine from Europe, and this will be the safest and most effective way to pursue temporary asylum in the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security warned in a document released Thursday. that anyone who arrives without a valid visa at the country’s ports or borders will be “denied entry”.

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“We are proud to honor President Biden’s commitment to receive 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russian aggression to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas said in a statement. “DHS will continue to bring relief to the Ukrainian people, while supporting our European allies who have endured so much as a result of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

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State Department and Homeland Security officials said the main way they expect to accept refugees is through “humanitarian parole,” allowing them to live and work in the United States for up to two years.

Ukrainians cannot apply for the program. Alternatively, starting Monday, “individuals and entities based in the United States” such as churches may apply online to DHS To take care of Ukrainian citizens.

Ukrainians must be resident in Ukraine as of February 11, prior to the February 24 invasion. They must also have a sponsor in the United States, including “any US citizen or individual, including representatives of NGOs.” Sponsors will be required to pass background checks to prevent exploitation and to declare that they will financially support refugees.

Refugees also must undergo required vaccinations and clear background checks to come to the United States, and officials said they are working with countries in Europe to make sure Ukrainians get the vaccines.

Once approved, the officials said, Ukrainians would be granted permission to travel to the United States, and a parole order would be considered, on a case-by-case basis, and allowed to apply for a work permit.

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Officials said that organizations such as welcomean effort led by former Presidents Barack Obama (D) and George W. Bush (R) to help refugees, is expected to help in the effort, along with a number of civic groups, the Ukrainian American Church and ordinary citizens.

Officials said most refugees are expected to have families in the United States. More than 1 million people of Ukrainian descent live in the United States, most of whom are US-born citizens, as well as 355,000 immigrants. Large numbers are found in New York, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Washington state and Illinois, according to the Census Bureau. Some arrived before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, others arrived after Ukraine Been voted for independence that year.

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While officials expect most Ukrainians to enter the United States on parole on humanitarian grounds, they said they are also expanding efforts to create permanent pathways, including for “vulnerable populations” such as women, girls, children, and the elderly with disabilities.

For example, the State Department will work to expand access to traditional U.S. Refugee Admissions Program operations in Europe “to the extent possible” to provide Ukrainians with more appointments for visa processing and to give priority access to people with “humanitarian, medical, or other exceptional circumstances.” .”

They are also expanding refugee resettlement procedures under the Luttenberg Program, a route for historically persecuted religious groups from Ukraine and other former Soviet republics to meet with their relatives in the United States. There were nearly 18,000 people on this program in Ukraine, and officials said Thursday they are working to identify those who have fled so they can come to the United States.

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The new plans come as the war in Ukraine approaches the two-month mark, and the United States struggles with growing numbers of Latin American immigrants at the US-Mexico border. Majorcas and Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken attended an immigration summit in Panama this week to tackle the flow of refugees across the border, which is expected to rise further after May 23, when a public health system known as Title 42 was put in place allowing border officers to expel migrants. to end.

But lawmakers and advocacy groups have also pressured the Biden administration to expand access to Ukrainian refugees, amid harrowing reports of devastation and death in their country. The United States said it has contributed about $300 million in humanitarian aid such as food and shelter for displaced Ukrainians, and is ready to provide more than $1 billion.

The Biden administration has already given temporary protection From deportation to an estimated 59,600 Ukrainian non-citizens already living in the United States, but must have been living here as of April 11.

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