Uniting for Ukraine: A New Pathway for Displaced Ukrainians
A new program that will likely expedite the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees
On March 24, one month after a detachment of the Russian military initiated an unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a sweeping package of benefits for Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens. There were many components to the aid package, including global political support for Ukrainian democracy, help in prosecuting potential war crimes committed against Ukrainian civilians, and even support in fighting the spread of COVID-19 during the chaos of war and refugee evacuation.
However, the two primary benefits of the aid package are a pledge to provide $1 billion to assist Ukraine and a second pledge to accept up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine.
Regarding the economic aid, a fact sheet published by the White House states: “Today, the United States is announcing that we are prepared to provide more than $1 billion in new funding towards humanitarian assistance for those affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine and its severe impacts around the world, including a marked rise in food insecurity, over the coming months. This funding will provide food, shelter, clean water, medical supplies, and other forms of assistance.”
With regard to the refugee acceptance, the fact sheet states: “While we expect many Ukrainians will choose to remain in Europe close to family and their homes in Ukraine, today, the United States is announcing plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression through the full range of legal pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”
Since that time, there have been no major developments or announcements arising from these initiatives, and refugee admittance to the United States has been slow, hampered largely by the vagaries of enforcing the public-health code Title 42 at the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, on April 21, 2022, President Biden announced a new program that will likely expedite the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees to the United States.
The program is called “Uniting for Ukraine.” It is described as a “new streamlined process to provide Ukrainian citizens who have fled Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression opportunities to come to the United States. This represents a key step toward fulfilling the President’s commitment to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Uniting for Ukraine involves two major participants–(1) the Ukrainian individual seeking refuge in the United States and (2) a U.S.-based financial supporter.
The Ukrainian individual must complete an application for parole (a temporary stay) in the United States. The application would be reviewed and the individual would be required to undergo a security and health check (which would include vaccine requirements). Once accepted, however, the individual would be authorized to travel directly to the United States as an ordinary international traveler (as opposed to traveling to a country neighboring the United States, then attempting to cross the border as a refugee). The individual would then be eligible to work in the United States while their application for parole is evaluated. Once granted parole, the individual would be permitted to stay in the United States for up to 2 years.
The U.S.-based financial supporter must likewise apply to participate in the program. In this case, the application is a Declaration of Financial Support. Supporters may be private citizens or members of non-governmental organizations, such as a refugee-assistance nonprofit organization or a faith-based group. Upon completion of the application, a background screening would occur, as well as vetting of the supporter’s financial means.
There are no reports yet of large numbers of Ukrainians taking advantage of the program, but the initiative is less than one week old, and the applications will probably take some time to process. However, the United States is encouraging all Ukrainian citizens who wish to take refuge in the United States to not attempt to enter the country via Mexico, and all Ukrainians arriving in the United States without valid visas (as potential refugees) are being invited to apply for Uniting for Ukraine instead.