Homeland Security announced plans Thursday to let Americans pledge to sponsor up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees for speedy admission to the U.S.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said individuals or “entities” can act as sponsors, pledging to financially support Ukrainians once they are here. Ukrainians would have to pass checks of their criminal histories.
Mr. Mayorkas said they’ll be admitted under his “parole” powers, which grants a short-term temporary legal status, with the hope of a more permanent status to come later. It’s the same method that was used for the 77,000 Afghans airlifted from Kabul to the U.S. last year.
“We are proud to deliver on President Biden’s commitment to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russian aggression to the United States,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country over the two months since Russia’s attack, the U.N. said this week.
Most have ended up in Europe, but some have flown to Mexico where they are attempting to enter across the southern border. Customs and Border Protection recorded nearly 3,300 attempted entries by Ukrainians from Mexico in March, and nearly 2,000 more at airports.
So far, people coming across from Mexico have been admitted despite their illegal entry. But Homeland Security said once the parole policy goes into effect April 25, border jumpers will be “denied” and told to apply for admission through the Uniting for Ukraine program instead.
Mr. Mayorkas had initially predicted most Ukrainians are expected to stay closer to their home country, with hopes of returning after Russia’s war on their country is concluded.
But the surge of people heading to the U.S. in March suggests there are still large numbers seeking to reach here, and Mr. Biden says the country must play a role in helping take pressure off European nations.
The U.S. went through an earlier iteration of this last year, with the 77,000 Afghans evacuated directly from their country amid Mr. Biden’s troop withdrawal.
The chaos of that evacuation is still being felt, and the Biden administration has yet to reveal key details of the operation, but has acknowledged people were brought to the U.S. without the full panoply of security checks that would have been done on other arrivals.
An inspector general found dozens of Afghans with security flags were released into the U.S., where the government lost track of them.
In the case of Ukrainians, Homeland Security says they will have to pass a health screening and a records and security check. The announcement made no mention of an in-person interview.
Those seeking to sponsor Ukrainians will also have to pass background checks to prevent situations of abuse or exploitation.
The U.K. has launched a similar sponsorship program, which has already seen some embarrassing hiccups. The U.N. had to plead with the U.K. to stop matching single Ukrainian women with single British men sponsors.