WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the country into the United States, a senior administration official said Thursday.
The administration will allow their entry through a range of pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and other means. There will also be a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the U.S. Additional details are expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
U.S. officials think that most Ukrainians will choose to remain in Europe, close to family and their homes in Ukraine.
The administration has been under scrutiny because many refugees, including those coming from Ukraine, have been prevented from entering the U.S. – and in some cases detained — at the Southern Border. This is partially due to restrictions that were implemented during the early days of the Covid pandemic.
NBC reported Tuesday that it was unclear what authority President Joe Biden would use to expedite the entry of Ukrainians, sources said. The White House was considering both humanitarian parole, a presidential authority that does not guarantee permanent legal status, and the Priority-2 designation program, which has been used for Afghans and others escaping war zones, they said.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden “will announce further American contributions to a coordinated humanitarian response to ease the suffering of the civilians inside Ukraine and to respond to the growing flow of refugees.”
Some refugee resettlement agencies and human rights groups greeted the news of the plan by challenging the administration to move quickly to admit Ukrainians and to make the same pledge to bring in other nationalities stuck in desperate circumstances.
“100,000 is certainly attainable," said Krish Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a refugee resettlement agency, "but the figure should be seen as a target as opposed to a ceiling. The United States currently has an annual refugee admissions cap of 125,000, but five months into the fiscal year, less than 7,000 refugees have been admitted. The most pressing question is what the administration will do to quickly welcome Ukrainian refugees."
Noah Gottschalk, global policy lead for Oxfam America, said, "This pledge is a good first step toward protecting Ukrainians in need, but given the administration’s inexplicably slow progress at resettling other refugees who in many cases have been waiting years to find safety, the U.S. must now move swiftly to uphold this commitment by welcoming Ukrainians and everyone seeking safety in our country.”
The refugees plan comes as Biden attended an emergency meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels Thursday as part of a series of high-stakes meetings to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Friday, Biden is scheduled to travel to Poland, a country to Ukraine's west that has welcomed millions of refugees who have fled their homes.