Friday, 23 Feb 2024

Biden Extends Stay for Thousands of Ukrainians

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said on Monday that thousands of Ukrainians who fled to the United States in the first months after Russia invaded their country would be eligible to extend their stay, as the war in Ukraine continues into a second year.

About 25,000 Ukrainians and their family members who came into the country through Mexico at a U.S. port of entry between Feb. 24 and April 25 last year were allowed to stay for a year. The Department of Homeland Security said it would consider one-year extensions for that group.

The total two-year period aligns with the length of time Ukrainians fleeing the war were later permitted to stay in the United States under a program in a system known as humanitarian parole.

“As Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented humanitarian crisis it has caused continue, D.H.S. assesses that there remain urgent humanitarian reasons, as well as a significant public benefit, for extending the parole of certain Ukrainians and family members on a case-by-case basis,” Angelo Fernandez, a homeland security spokesman, said in a statement on Monday.

Nearly 300,000 Ukrainians and their families have entered the country since the start of the war under humanitarian parole, with a visa or as a refugee. More than eight million have fled to European countries in the past year.

The Biden administration had indicated that it would find a way to let the early Ukrainian arrivals extend their stay and work in the United States, but it did not announce a solution until Monday. Thousands of Ukrainians had been left to wonder whether they would have to uproot themselves to find refuge in another country while the war raged on in theirs.

“This process will provide critical relief to thousands of Ukrainians who have been facing tremendous anxiety and uncertainty about their future here,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Human rights advocates said people from other countries who are in the United States under temporary humanitarian parole should be given similar assurances. Ms. Vignarajah said protections would expire this summer for thousands of Afghans who were among the first to arrive in the United States after the rushed evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021.

“The administration’s broader use of parole must be accompanied by a thoughtful plan for how and when temporary protections will be extended, and how beneficiaries can access pathways to longer-term status,” she said.

A legislative proposal to give Afghan parolees an opportunity to apply for permanent residency in the United States has failed to get enough Republican support.

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