The administration of President Joe Biden on Thursday offered humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians in the United States to protect them from being deported to their war-torn country.
Ukrainians can stay in the US for up to 18 months under a program known as temporary protected status. To access the program, Ukrainians must have been in the United States since at least Tuesday.
“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in a continuous war, senseless violence” that has forced Ukrainians “to seek refuge in other countries,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
The program covers people fleeing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions in their nations. As many as 30,000 Ukrainians could benefit from the move, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
Lawmakers from both parties had stepped up pressure on the federal government, including the top Democrat in the Senate, to grant status to Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “after a week of unlawful and ruthless warfare against the people of Ukraine,” doing this was the right thing to do.
He said he was encouraged that “President Biden is once again making it clear that the United States will not waver in its support for the people of Ukraine in this dark moment in history.”
Refugee rights activists also praised the decision. More than 177 organizations signed a letter sent last week to the government asking it to extend assistance to Ukrainians.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, described the move as “a concrete show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
Protecting Ukrainian families from deportation is the least we can do amid the Russian onslaught targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
Citizens of a dozen countries are in the United States under the protection of the program, which then-President Donald Trump sought to suspend amid criticism of frequent extensions that have allowed people to live on U.S. soil for years in a kind of legal limbo.
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