US admits 100,000 Ukrainians in 5 months, fulfilling Biden pledge – NBCNEWS

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The US received more than 100,000 Ukrainians in roughly five months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fulfilling President Biden’s pledge or providing a temporary safe haven to those displaced as part of the largest refugee exodus since World War II, government statistics obtained by CBS News show.

The tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have set foot on US soil since the February 24 invasion have arrived through various immigration channels and with different legal status, most of them with temporary permission to stay in the country, according to the government data.

Approximately 47,000 Ukrainians have come to the US on temporary or immigrant visas; nearly 30,000 Ukrainians arrived under a private sponsorship program; more than 22,000 Ukrainians were admitted along the US-Mexico border; and 500 Ukrainians entered the country through the traditional refugee system, the data show.

As part of his aggressive stance against Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Biden in late March promised to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by the war — a small fraction of the millions of Ukrainians who have fled to other parts of Europe. The White House said at the time that Ukrainians would come to the US through different immigration programs.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed the over 100,000 Ukrainian arrivals, saying the objective “was never a cap.” DHS spokesperson Angelo Fernandez said in a statement that the US “will continue processing additional Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s unprovoked invasion in the weeks and months to come, consistent with the President’s commitment.”

MEXICO-US-UKRAINE-IMMIGRATION
A family of a dozen Ukrainian refugees waits to be transported after arriving at the Tijuana airport, where they are met by volunteers who are helping them on their journey to the US after fleeing the war in Ukraine, in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, April 8, 2022.

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Only Ukrainians who entered the US with immigrant visas or through the refugee admissions program have a direct path to permanent residency and ultimately, US citizenship. These immigration pathways, however, typically take years to complete due to interviews, vetting and other steps.

Those who have arrived through the Uniting for Ukraine program, which was launched in late April to allow US-based individuals to financially sponsor Ukrainians, were granted parole, a temporary humanitarian immigration classification that allows them to live and work in the US for two years.

Ukrainians who were processed at ports of entry along the US southern border after flying to Mexico, an unprecedented flow that peaked in April, were exempted from the Title 42 pandemic-era restrictions on humanitarian grounds and also granted parole on a temporary basis.

Ukrainians who arrived on temporary visas, such as those for tourists and business travelers, similarly do not have a clear pathway to obtain permanent US legal status.

However, Ukrainians on US soil can seek asylum, which, if granted, would allow them to become permanent residents. Ukrainians who arrived in the US before April 19 are also eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), another humanitarian program that allows beneficiaries to work and live in the US legally.

To fulfill Mr. Biden’s pledge, DHS in late April set up the Uniting for Ukraine program, a free initiative that has drawn tens of thousands of applications from US citizens and others hoping to sponsor the resettlement of Ukrainians, including their family members.

Since April 25, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received 92,000 applications from US individuals seeking to sponsor Ukrainians, DHS figures show. In addition to the 30,000 arrivals under the initiative so far, another 64,000 Ukrainians have been granted permission to travel to the US

First lady Jill Biden speaks with Ukrainian refugees during a NATO summit in Spain
Spain’s Queen Letizia (2nd R) and US first lady Jill Biden (center) speak with members of a family from Ukraine during a visit to a reception center for Ukrainian refugees in Pozuelo de Alarcon, near Madrid, on the sidelines of a NATO summit, on June 28, 2022.

OSCAR DEL POZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

While the US was able to achieve Mr. Biden’s objective in a relatively short time period, the 100,000 Ukrainian arrivals in the US pales in comparison to the number of Ukrainians that European countries have received.

European countries are hosting more than 6 million Ukrainian refugees, the bulk of whom are in Russia, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Turkey, Spain and the United Kingdom, accordingly to the United Nations refugee agency.

While Biden administration officials have said most Ukrainians are seeking temporary refuge from the Russian invasion — not permanent resettlement — immigration experts expect that many Ukrainians will decide to stay in the US, especially if the war in their homeland rages on.

Those Ukrainians could find themselves in legal limbo unless Congress legalizes them or they apply for and win asylum. But Congress has failed to pass legalization programs in recent years amid intense partisan fighting over immigration, and the US asylum system is massively backlogged with nearly 500,000 pending cases.

The Biden administration has also faced criticism from progressives and refugee advocates for prioritizing displaced Ukrainians while other migrant populations, including at-risk Afghans who were not resettled last summer and some asylum-seekers who face expulsion at the US-Mexico border, remain in limbo.

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