The Center Square
(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new program to expedite the immigration process for Ukrainian refugees. The “Unite for Ukraine” program will allow Americans and nongovernmental organizations to sponsor Ukrainian refugees beginning April 25.
Last month, the administration announced the U.S. would admit 100,000 Ukrainian refugees after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 23.
The program “will be fast, it will be streamlined, and it will ensure the United States honors its commitment to the people of Ukraine, and that they need not go through our southern border,” Biden said Thursday at the White House.
He said the “new humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugee processing. It will provide an expedient channel for secure, legal migration from Europe to the United States for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor such as a family or an NGO [Non-Government Organization].”
After the president and his administration reversed and halted existing immigration laws and policies last year, at least 2 million illegal immigrants from over 150 countries were encountered or apprehended by federal agents at the southern border during Biden’s first year in office. Among them were Ukrainians.
Federal officials estimate that roughly 15,000 Ukrainians have already illegally entered the U.S. through the southern border, the Daily Mail reports.
A senior official in the State Department said the federal government is attempting to find 18,000 Ukrainians who entered the U.S. as refugees before Russia invaded through the so-called Lautenberg program, CBS News reported. The program allows religious minorities in former Soviet republics to obtain expedited U.S. entry.
According to recently released Customs and Border Protection data, 5,071 Ukrainians were apprehended or encountered by CBP and Border Patrol agents in March.
Federal officials have also already granted work permits and residency to roughly 60,000 Ukrainians through the Temporary Protected Status program. The Department of Homeland Security extended TPS for Ukrainians for 18 months, allowing eligible Ukrainians to work and stay in the U.S.
On a call with reporters ahead of Biden’s announcement, a Department of Homeland Security official said that as of April 25, Ukrainians who attempt to enter the U.S. at a land border without a visa or without going through the “Unite for Ukraine” process may be refused entry.
More than 5 million Ukrainian refugees are estimated to have fled to neighboring countries since Feb. 24, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports; another 7 million are estimated to be displaced in Ukraine.
According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, most Americans want to help Ukrainian refugees, but only one-third say they’d support permanent residency for even half of the estimated 100,000 expected to arrive in the U.S.
The majority polled, 76%, agree with Biden’s pledge to welcome Ukrainian refugees “with open arms.”
But when asked if Ukrainian refugees should be allowed to stay in the U.S., only 25% of those polled said they expected 100,000 refugees should be “be granted permanent residency in the United States.”