WH taps federal resources to expedite Ukrainian entry to U.S.

Refugees from Mykolaiv and nearby regions arrive during their evacuation at the railway station in Odessa, Ukraine, on April 16.

Refugees from Mykolaiv and nearby regions arrive during their evacuation at the railway station in Odessa, Ukraine, on April 16. Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Feds across multiple agencies are working to fulfill the administration's goal of allowing 100,000 Ukrainians to enter the country.

The Biden administration will deploy resources from the departments of Homeland Security and State as it seeks to fulfill its promise to bring in 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, the president announced on Thursday in detailing the initiative. 

The United States will primarily accept Ukrainians through humanitarian parole, a DHS-led program that will allow arrivals to stay for two years as they sort out options to remain long term or return to their home country. The administration launched Uniting for Ukraine to streamline the process for Ukrainian citizens to enter the United States, expediting the process for those who have a sponsor. That can include family members or individuals associated with a non-governmental organization. While parole will not create a pathway to permanent residence, it will allow the Ukrainians to be eligible for work authorization. 

DHS personnel will, in conjunction with State, determine individuals’ eligibility for parole, ensuring they were Ukrainian citizens as of Feb. 11; complete vaccination and other health requirements; and ensure that individuals pass “rigorous biometric and biographic screening” and other security checks. Those seeking to sponsor Ukrainians can apply to DHS beginning Monday. 

Humanitarian parole is typically administered by DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is in the midst of hiring thousands of employees. President Biden has proposed shifting the agency away from being almost entirely fee-funded, instead requesting it receive appropriations from Congress for its humanitarian mission. Congress already tripled USCIS’ funding in the fiscal 2022 omnibus compared to the previous year. While the agency takes on its new responsibilities, however, it is still dealing with existing crises. 

USCIS employees are often called upon to confront emergencies, and recently that has included upticks of migrants at the border and the influx of evacuees seeking entrance from Afghanistan. Earlier this month, according to an email obtained by Government Executive, USCIS solicited a new tranche of volunteers within the agency to work on requests for parole from Afghan evacuees and reunifying families separated during the Trump administration.

One USCIS employee said as of Thursday afternoon the agency has yet to provide any additional information on the new initiative not made available publicly. 

The initiative 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,” Biden said on Thursday. “This program will be fast.  It will be streamlined.  And it will ensure the United States honors its commitment to go to the Ukrainian people and need not go through our southern border.”

State will also increase access to the United States for Ukrainians by expanding refugee admission operations in Europe, particularly through the existing Lautenberg Program that allows expedited entry for members of persecuted religious groups in former Soviet states. The administration said it would boost resources for resettlement efforts in Europe and hasten referrals to the refugee program. State is working with the United Nations, European partners and NGOs to identify “particularly vulnerable Ukrainians,” such as women and girls, children, elderly people with special needs, members of ethnic and religious minority groups and others. 

State is also augmenting its capacity at European embassies and consulates to take more non-immigrant visa appointments and ensuring those eligible can receive priority access to humanitarian programs. The Biden administration said it has provided $300 billion in humanitarian assistance for displaced Ukrainians and plans to up that number to more than $1 billion. 

“We will help deliver on the president’s commitment to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian citizens and others forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, and our partnership with the Department of Homeland Security will help us fulfill that commitment,” State Secretary Antony Blinken said. 

This article was published first by GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site.

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