The U.S. has committed to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees
President Biden announced last Thursday that the U.S. will welcome up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. While this number will include refugees through the formal resettlement program, the administration will also look at other options such as humanitarian parole and family-based immigration visas to reunite Ukrainians with relatives already living in the U.S.
Earlier this month, DHS extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians present in the U.S. as of March 1st, but this protection does not apply to anyone arriving after that date. Therefore, plans such as those announced to help welcome Ukrainians through refugee resettlement, family reunification, and other means will be essential to protect those still looking for refuge in the United States.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused the largest refugee movement in Europe since World War II. As of 3/27, over 3.8 million refugees have reportedly fled Ukraine, and approximately 6.5 million are internally displaced within the country. Most of those who have fled Ukraine have found refuge in neighboring countries, but as the numbers continue to grow it will become imperative for other countries such as the U.S. to step up to provide additional support.
Ukrainians have faced difficulties obtaining visas to come to the United States in recent weeks, and it is not yet clear how the Biden administration plans to expedite processes that have been historically slow. CBS News reported last week that only a dozen Ukrainians have been admitted as refugees so far this month. The typical path for the refugee resettlement program takes several years to complete, and the pipeline has grown even more backlogged in recent years due to COVID restrictions and cuts to program funding. Five months into the 2022 fiscal year, we have only resettled 6,494 refugees.
The U.S. has also committed to help Ukraine through financial and practical assistance, such as $1 billion in humanitarian assistance, $320 million in funding to support democracy and human rights in Ukraine and neighboring countries, an $11 billion commitment over the next 5 years to combat food security threats and malnutrition across the globe, and support for organizations on the ground protecting children and other vulnerable populations.
Title 42 expanded to include expulsion flights to Colombia
CBS News reported that the United States has launched a new operation to expel Colombian migrants by plane using the Title 42 policy. The operation, which was first reported last week, began on March 4th and has led to the expulsion of 600 Colombians this month.
The Title 42 policy is a public health law that has been used over the last 2 years to carry out 1.7 million expulsions to prevent the “introduction” of COVID-19. Interestingly, those expelled on these flights to Colombia were all tested and screened for COVID-19, and according to ICE they all tested negative for the virus before being placed on the expulsion flights.
New procedures announced for asylum processing
Last week the Biden administration also announced a rule to overhaul asylum processing. The new rule would allow a credible fear interview to be treated as an asylum application and enable asylum officers to hear asylum claims rather than having all claims go before an immigration judge. This rule is meant to streamline the asylum process to a timeline of six months, and reduce the significant backlogs in immigration courts. Immigration advocates have raised concerns that the expedited timeline for these new types of hearings would make it more difficult for asylum seekers to obtain legal counsel and could hinder due process. The rule will go into effect within 60 days.