Biden administration extends eligibility of Ukrainians for “temporary protected status”

Biden administration extends eligibility of Ukrainians for “temporary protected status”
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

An announcement was made Monday that the Biden administration is expanding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) eligibility for Ukrainians living in the U.S. An extension has been granted for an additional six weeks, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Last month I wrote about the decision by the Biden administration to designate Ukrainians for TPS in order to protect those already here from deportation. The Ukrainians were eligible to remain in the United States for 18 months and those eligible would be allowed to apply for work permits. Most of these Ukrainians are here on student visas or were business travelers or tourists. In other words, they are in the United States legally. At that time, only Ukrainians in the U.S. as of March 1 would qualify for TPS. That date has now been extended to April 11. In order to be eligible for TPS, they will have to meet other eligibility rules and pass background checks. An estimated 59,600 Ukrainians may apply for TPS when the applications are opened on Tuesday.

The date extension was made to allow thousands of Ukrainians who have reached the United States since Putin’s invasion, including those who have entered through the Mexican border on humanitarian grounds, eligible for TPS.

Ukrainian immigrants are eligible under a 1990 law that allows DHS to offer TPS to immigrants from countries experiencing armed conflict and other extraordinary emergencies that prevent their safe return. Ukrainians can’t be expected to return to a war zone after Putin’s invasion.

In his notice Monday, Mayorkas said the war in Ukraine “poses a serious danger” to Ukrainians who return there, citing Russia’s sustained bombardment of Ukrainian cities, alleged human rights abuses committed by Russian forces, the mass displacement of civilians and the conflict’s impact on critical services.

“Extraordinary and temporary conditions, including destroyed infrastructure, scarce resources, and lack of access to healthcare, prevent Ukrainian nationals from returning to their homeland in safety,” Mayorkas said.

Biden pledged to allow up to 100,000 Ukrainians into the United States yet when he made the promise last month, it was another example of a sweeping declaration without a plan in place. Bumbling Biden has a habit of making big announcements that lack any kind of details or a plan in place to accomplish the pledge. As of now there is still not any program or policy change to accomplish Biden’s pledge.

Ukrainians need visas to enter the United States directly so they are making the trip from Europe to Mexico to reach the southern border. Officials have been instructed to exempt Ukrainians from pandemic-era entry restrictions and admit them on humanitarian grounds. From February 1 to April 6, CBP officials processed 10,000 Ukrainians without prior permission to enter the U.S. This is an unprecedented number of Ukrainian immigrants. During this same period, 41,000 Ukrainians entered the U.S. with visas. Ukrainians are mostly entering the U.S. in traditional, legal ways. In other words, most are going through the visa process and not simply showing up at the border to claim refugee status. For example, in March, only about a dozen Ukrainians entered through the traditional refugee process.

If such attention was paid to all those showing up at the southern border, there would be no Biden border crisis. The Biden administration is under pressure from lawmakers in both parties to provide humanitarian support to Ukrainians fleeing their country to escape the war zone. Most of the millions of displaced Ukrainians, though, choose to remain in Europe, mostly in neighboring countries who are generously taking them in, because they hope to be able to return to their country after the war. They just want to be able to go home. Most of those coming to the U.S. have family living here.

Earlier this month, 65 members of Congress, most of them Democrats and a few Republicans, urged the Biden administration to change the eligibility date for the Ukraine TPS designation, waive immigration applications fees for Ukrainians and cut burecratic red tape to allow Ukrainians to reunite with family in the U.S. sooner.

“It’s great to get this prompt, positive response to our call for action to help Ukrainians seeking refuge to safely live, learn, work, and participate in American society as their home country is devastated by Putin’s terror,” Democratic Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who spearheaded the bipartisan letter, said in a statement Monday.

DHS better have a plan in place to deal with the increase in Ukrainian immigrants showing up at the southern border, as the number is only increasing as the war goes on. The Washington Post reports that the number is rapidly increasing which adds to the chaos already at the border from the massive flow of migrants looking to take advantage of the Biden border crisis. WaPo reports that immigration officials have detained more than 5,000 Ukrainians “at the nation’s land, sea and air borders in March.” That is a significant increase.

The tally — up from fewer than 1,150 the month before — marks the first official accounting of Ukrainians seeking refuge at the ports and borders since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24. They are part of a larger group of more than 220,000 detentions on the Southwest border in March, the highest monthly total since 2000.

Many, if not most, Ukrainians have been released into the United States via humanitarian parole, which allows people to stay temporarily, and they continued arriving this month, though updated figures were not available. The Biden administration responded to the influx Monday by announcing that it would extend the eligibility of Ukrainians for “temporary protected status,” allowing them to stay here for 18 months and apply for work permits, if they arrived by April 11.

Clarification on the process is needed for Ukrainians to legally complete the process of applying for TPS. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admits that the administration is still working on completing a process, even after Biden announced 100,000 Ukrainians would be welcomed. Many are going to the southern border because it may be the fastest way to get in and remain through humanitarian parole.

Michael Levitis, 45, a Moscow-born radio host in New York whose father is from Ukraine, said people are rushing to the border because the Biden administration has not specified how they should enter the United States and it has become one of the faster ways to get in.

“The biggest reason is just confusion,” Levitis said in an interview. “There are no clear instructions for Ukrainian displaced people of how they should arrive in the U.S. So, out of desperation they’re going to Mexico because Mexico allows people with Ukrainian passports to arrive there.”

The incompetence shown by the Biden administration in dealing with border security is staggering. Biden has deliberately created his own border crisis and has no intention of doing anything differently. It’s a dereliction of duty.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023