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US protected status to encompass more than 75,000 Ukrainians

TPS would protect more Ukrainians than estimated Thursday

Supporters of Ukraine demonstrate outside of the White House to oppose the Russian invasion on Feb. 26, 2022.
Supporters of Ukraine demonstrate outside of the White House to oppose the Russian invasion on Feb. 26, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Biden administration said Friday that roughly 75,100 Ukrainians in the U.S. would be allowed to remain for up to 18 months under a temporary protected status designation offered after the Russian invasion of their country. 

The estimate of the number of people eligible is more than twice as high as advocates had predicted, with more details expected in a forthcoming Federal Register notice.

The estimate of Ukrainians benefiting follows a Thursday TPS designation that aims to protect Ukrainian nationals from deportation to a country in the throes of a Russian invasion, which has claimed hundreds of civilian lives and forced more than 1 million people to flee, according to latest estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

It would also allow eligible Ukrainians — primarily students, business travelers and tourists who are in the U.S. on temporary visas —  to apply for work permits.

“We’re grateful to see the Biden Administration heed our calls and take swift, just action to grant Ukrainian nationals in the United States with protection from deportation to a country currently under a brutal, unprovoked assault by Vladimir Putin,” Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., leaders of the Senate and House immigration panels, said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., also praised the administration for its “decisive action” to protect Ukrainian nationals in the U.S.

The administration had faced growing calls in recent weeks to use temporary protected status more widely as an administrative pathway to immigration relief. Democratic lawmakers and advocates have pressed for the administration to designate or redesignate TPS to additional countries, including Central American nations, in an effort to grant some form of legal status to undocumented immigrants.

“I will continue to urge the Administration utilize this statute to protect more populations who are unable to return home, including nationals from Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement lauding the Ukraine designation. 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in the announcement Thursday that “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.”

“In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States,” he said.

A dozen other countries are currently designated for TPS, including Haiti, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

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