What can be done for Ukrainians during this horrific time?
Folks stuck in Ukraine face the same issue that faced many Afghanis not too long ago.
Here are three strategies U.S. leaders could consider:
A B1/B2 visa allows people to visit the U.S. on a temporary basis.
Firstly, anyone who has a valid B1/B2 visa should be allowed to enter the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers should be on notice that Ukrainians should be treated with deference. Unfortunately this is not available to the vast majority of Ukrainians as B1/B2 Visas are often quite difficult to obtain and maybe more important, the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine means that no one can apply for a visa from within the country. Anyone who has the opportunity and ability to apply for a B1/B2 visa at any neighboring country embassy could be given compassionate interviews. Some would argue that the U.S. Department of State should consider waiving those interviews and issue visas promptly. The issue that concerns all consulates in these circumstances would be a hundred fold, whether applicants intend to return to their home country. Under current circumstances many of the visa seekers would be hard pressed to see Ukraine as a place they’d want to live.
Temporary Protected Status:
Ukrainians already in the U.S., regardless of how they entered the country, may be allowed to remain here as long as is necessary. The law allows for such measures under the provisions of “temporary protected status” (TPS). TPS is a temporary immigration status is granted to individuals from certain countries experiencing disasters, catastrophes, or other problems that make it unsafe for their citizens to return home. TPS holders are permitted to work and live in the U.S. until TPS is discontinued.
There are several grounds under which countries can be designated TPS. One of them is an ongoing armed conflict, such as a civil war, that makes returning home dangerous for returning nationals. The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to make such a designation. The current Secretary Alexander Mayorkas and the current administration are very compassionate and well aware of the injustices being perpetrated by the Russian government on the people of Ukraine. The only dis-qualifier for folks from TPS desingated nationals is a criminal history.
Humanitarian Parole Program:
Humanitarian Parole is a very limited program for individuals who need compassionate treatment by the U.S. Immigration service. These are usually a rare and case by case application. This process was attempted by many fleeing from Afghanistan however it proved to be of little success under those circumstances. It is an indication that this individual application process is not the answer in a mass crisis.
Immigrant advocates are pressing the U.S. Government to implement a more generalized program for Afghanis and now Ukrainians.The emergency situation in Ukraine necessitates immediate action.
DHS has established special parole programs in the past. Examples include the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP) created in 2007 and the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRP) created in 2014.
Unfortunately the U.S. does not have the appetite to assist immigrants of late, event those facing dire conditions in their home countries. That said our country has always struggled, despite our stated pro immigration values, with welcoming the other into our midst. This is one of those moments in history when we need to connect with our better angels and make good decisions.