White House allows Ukrainian nationals to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation

By: - March 4, 2022 1:14 pm

(Photo by Katie Godowski from Pexels)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is granting Temporary Protected Status that will shield Ukrainian nationals living in the United States from deportation, following pressure from members of Congress.

“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,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States.”

Ukrainians living in the U.S. as of March 1 of this year will be eligible for TPS designation of up to 18 months; it will not apply to Ukrainians arriving after March 1. The designation will allow those in the program to be protected from deportation, as well as apply for work permits.

The Center for Migration Studies in New York estimates that there are about 28,000 Ukrainians in the U.S. that would benefit from the program, mostly concentrated in Illinois, Michigan, the east coast, and California.

TPS does not grant permanent U.S. status and only applies to those already in the country, not those who are  fleeing. One million people have left Ukraine, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

U.S. House lawmakers are also pushing the Biden administration to immediately designate Student Special Relief for Ukrainians.

A letter, led by Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a California Democrat, and signed by 98 members urged the president to extend both TPS and the student program for 18 months because “given the already unmet humanitarian need in the country and the effects of the armed conflict with Russia, the Ukrainian government is in no state to receive TPS and SSR eligible Ukrainians.”

SSR would allow for the temporary suspension of certain requirements put in place by DHS for a foreign student studying in the U.S. “from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances.” Some of those requirements include “duration of status, full course of study and off-campus employment eligibility.”

The White House is also asking Congress to approve $10 billion in aid for Ukraine to help bolster soldiers in neighboring countries around Ukraine and to send military equipment to the country. The Biden administration has announced it would place sanctions on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the country as well.

Some legal groups agreed with the TPS designation, but criticized DHS for its backlog of TPS designation for Black-majority countries.

Lisa Parisio, the Director of Advocacy at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said in a statement that the Biden administration should also use TPS for “Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mauritania and other countries whose nationals face grave danger if they are forced to return.”

“The backlog of TPS designations for Black-majority countries here in the U.S. mirrors the anti-Blackness we’re seeing as African students and others in Ukraine are denied access to escape the conflict,” she said.

CLINIC, along with nearly 200 organizations, petitioned for the Biden administration to allow Ukrainians in the U.S. to use TPS.

In a letter to the White House, a bipartisan group of 42 senators, including  Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, advocated for the TPS designation, arguing that “it is obviously too dangerous for Ukrainian nationals to return to Ukraine due to the ongoing armed conflict.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.