US

US unveils sponsorship program to resettle Ukrainian refugees and discourage travel to US-Mexico border

Biden administration launches program that will allow U.S. citizens and groups to financially sponsor Ukrainians displaced by Russian invasion from their country so they can come to the United States sooner, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Thursday.

Ukrainians selected to travel to the United States under the initiative will be granted humanitarian parole, allowing them to bypass visa and refugee programs, which typically take years. Although it does not offer permanent status, parole would allow Ukrainians to live and work in the United States for two years.

The sponsorship program, dubbed “Uniting for Ukraine,” and slated to launch on April 25, is the first concrete U.S. policy aimed at fulfilling President Biden’s will. pledge to host up to 100,000 of the 5 million Ukrainians who have fled their homeland in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The policy, administration officials said, is also designed to discourage Ukrainians from traveling to Mexico seeking entry along the US southern border, where US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has processed a record 3,274 Ukrainians in March alone, a jump of more than 1,100 percent from February.

U.S. immigration officials have processed nearly 15,000 undocumented Ukrainians in the past three months, most along the Mexican border, a senior DHS official said Thursday in a call with reporters.

In early March, U.S. officials at border crossings were asked to consider admitting Ukrainians under humanitarian exemptions to Title 42 pandemic restrictions. But administration officials said Thursday that U.S. border officials would not process plus Ukrainians without travel documents on April 25.

Ukrainians gather at the Mexican border in hopes of entering the United States
A Ukrainian woman seeking asylum in the United States displays her passport while waiting to cross the border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on April 5, 2022 in Tijuana, Mexico.

Getty Images


From there, the senior DHS official said, “we will apply Title 42 equally to all nationalities at the border,” referring to the migrant deportation policy set to expire May 23.

“Ukrainian nationals who show up and do not have a visa or who have not completed the ‘United for Ukraine’ program will no longer be released on parole, unless they have another factor that would bring a border agent, a CBP agent, to plead their case – case-by-case determination if they deserve a humanitarian exception for Title 42,” the senior DHS official added.

Once the sponsorship program opens for applications later this month, American individuals or organizations seeking to sponsor Ukrainians abroad will be required to file affidavits of financial support and undergo background checks. DHS will then determine if they qualify to be sponsors.

In order to be allowed to travel to the United States, Ukrainians will first need to be identified by their potential sponsors, as they will not be able to apply directly to the program, administration officials said. Ukrainians will be eligible for the sponsorship initiative if they had resided in Ukraine as of February 11.

If sponsorship is approved, Ukrainians identified by U.S. sponsors will be required to undergo overseas security checks to ensure they will not pose a risk to U.S. public safety or security. They must also be vaccinated against communicable diseases.

Sponsorship of the initiative announced Thursday could benefit thousands of displaced Ukrainians with US ties who until now had limited options to come directly to the United States. An administration official said the United States expects the “majority” of Ukrainians hosted by the United States to arrive through the new program.

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Asylum seekers from Ukraine line up before crossing into the United States at the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, April 2, 2022.

GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images


U.S. visa applicants are facing long wait times due to massive backlogs of applications worsened by the pandemic, and many Ukrainians may not be eligible for visas. Meanwhile, the asylum process in the United States, which has been crippled by COVID-19, is taking between 18 and 24 months to complete for the privileged few allowed to enter the pipeline.

The administration also announced Thursday an effort to refer more Ukrainians to the U.S. refugee program, focusing on identifying vulnerable displaced people in Eastern Europe, including women, children, people seniors, people with serious medical conditions, and members of the LGBTQ community.

The State Department, a senior administration official said, is also working to track down 18,000 Ukrainians who entered the US refugee pipeline before the Russian invasion under the so-called Lautenberg program, which allows religious minorities from former Soviet republics to obtain expedited resettlement in the United States. .

US refugee resettlement staff who moved to Moldova after their post in kyiv closed due to war have identified “a number” of Ukrainians in Eastern Europe who have pending cases from the Lautenberg program , the official said.

Administration officials said U.S. embassies and consulates are also working to increase appointments for Ukrainians seeking temporary U.S. visas and expedite cases for Ukrainians with humanitarian, medical, or medical needs. or “extraordinary” urgent.

Nicole Sganga contributed reporting.

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