The Biden administration offered humanitarian relief to Ukrainians in the United States on Thursday, which could protect thousands from being deported to their war-torn homeland.
Ukrainians can remain in the country for up to 18 months under the federal program known as Temporary Protected Status. In order to be eligible for the protection, individuals would have to have been in the US since at least Tuesday.
The administration said the decision was made because of the Russian invasion into Ukraine, which marks the largest conventional military action in Europe since the second world war. The invasion has caused a humanitarian crisis that has caused more than 1 million people to flee.
“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence” that has forced Ukrainians “to seek refuge in other countries,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, the US homeland security secretary.
As many as 30,000 Ukrainians in the United States may benefit, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan thinktank.
Pressure had been mounting on the Biden administration from lawmakers from both parties, including the Senate’s top Democrat, to grant the status to Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion of their country.
Bob Menendez, the Democratic senator of New Jersey and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “after a week of Vladimir Putin’s illegal and ruthless war against the people of Ukraine” it was the right thing to do.
He said he was heartened that “President Biden is once again making clear the United States will not relent in its support for the people of Ukraine in this dark moment in history.”
Refugee advocates also applauded the move. More than 177 organizations signed a letter sent to the administration last week requesting Ukrainians be offered the relief.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, called it “a concrete show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Protecting Ukrainian families from deportation is the least we can do amid a Russian onslaught that has targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
Citizens from a dozen countries are in the United States under the program designated for people fleeing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions.