Biden Administration Grants Ukrainians in US Temporary Protected Status, ICE Pauses Deportation Flights

Biden Administration Grants Ukrainians in US Temporary Protected Status, ICE Pauses Deportation Flights

President Joe Biden’s administration will grant Ukrainians already in the United States a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, allowing them to stay in the country without the risk of deportation for 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Thursday.

“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States.”

Countries are designated for TPS when they are the victim of ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Currently, there are 12 countries with TPS designations, including Haiti, Myanmar, Syria, and Sudan.

Ukraine’s designation will benefit an estimated 30,000 Ukrainians currently in the United States on temporary visas or who do not have legal status, according to calculations by the Migration Policy Institute.

“Ensuring approximately 30,000 Ukrainians in the United States can receive the protection they deserve and have the opportunity to work and live in the United States without fear of returning to a country under siege, is absolutely the right and moral thing to do,” Menendez said in a separate statement.

“Temporary Protected Status was created by Congress for exactly this purpose—to protect people whose home countries have experienced armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or extraordinary conditions that prevent people from safely returning home.”

While the TPS will be granted to Ukrainians who were already continuously residing in the United States since March 1, according to DHS, it will not apply to those who try to travel to the United States after March 1.

More than one million people have fled Ukraine to seek refuge in neighboring countries since Russia invaded last week, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Additionally, TPS will also offer eligible Ukrainians work permits.

“The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). TPS applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and undergo security and background checks,” DHS said.

A woman comforts her baby at a temporary shelter set up in a market hall for displaced persons fleeing Ukraine, in Przemysl, Poland, March 3, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Czarek Sokolowski)
Epoch Times Photo
A family fleeing the conflict in Ukraine walks after crossing the Moldova-Ukraine border checkpoint near the town of Palanca, Moldova on March 2, 2022. (Nikolay Doychinov/AFP via Getty Images)

Chairman Menendez was joined by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) earlier this week in sending a letter (pdf) to Biden urging the administration to grant TPS to Ukrainians in the United States in the wake of Moscow’s military invasion.

The letter was signed by 39 senators. who wrote that “Ukraine clearly meets the standard for TPS as it is obviously too dangerous for Ukrainian nationals to return to Ukraine due to the ongoing armed conflict.”

Advocates have hailed the move for creating a “safe haven” for Ukrainians who are at risk of facing oppression while urging the Biden administration to do even more to help refugees of the former Soviet nation.

“As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensifies, the world has watched in horror as cities are attacked and civilians are forced to leave everything behind and seek safety elsewhere. President Biden’s decision to grant TPS to Ukrainians currently in the U.S. is an important move that speaks to our history as a safe haven for those facing oppression,” said Ali Noorani, the head of the National Immigration Forum, in a statement.

“Our government’s policies and actions must reflect a commitment to protecting the most vulnerable, regardless of nationality. In addition to granting TPS for Ukrainians, the Biden administration should prioritize rebuilding our refugee resettlement infrastructure and capacity to continue our legacy as a welcoming beacon of democracy.”

However, critics fear that the program could lead to thousands of people staying in the United States permanently at a time when the country is already facing an illegal immigration crisis.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it has paused deportation flights to Ukraine, citing the “ongoing humanitarian crisis.”

“Amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis occurring in Ukraine, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has paused repatriation flights to Ukraine,” an agency spokesperson told CBS News. “ICE will continue to monitor the ongoing situation and make operational changes as necessary.”

Roughly 44 million people lived in Ukraine prior to Russia’s invasion and the vast majority of nationals who have fled are women and children because men aged 18 to 60 are restricted from leaving the country until further notice.

The Epoch Times has contacted ICE for comment.

Katabella Roberts

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Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.

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