Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine has created 5 million refugees, according to the latest reports. Refugees are living primarily in Europe. The United States has accepted Ukrainians who applied for humanitarian parole with U.S. sponsors. Military experts expect the Russian military to continue its attempt to take and control Ukrainian territory. The U.S. government and other authorities should look to long-term resettlement options for Ukrainians unlikely to be able to return to their country for years.
Staggering Numbers: “As of today, UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] estimates there are at least 4.8 million refugees present across Europe, and over 3.2 million refugees from Ukraine have registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe,” according to a June 10, 2022, UNHCR report. Poland has been particularly welcoming to Ukrainian refugees.
The Biden administration has developed a U.S. initiative for Ukrainians seeking protection. “On April 21, 2022, the United States announced a key step toward fulfilling President Biden’s commitment to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the United States and stay temporarily in a two-year period of parole. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States.”
The latest figures received from USCIS (as of June 9, 2022) are:
· Approximately 51,000 U4U [Uniting for Ukraine] supporter applications have been received.
· 31,000 valid travel authorizations currently issued by USCIS. (Note: The total number of travel authorizations issued since the start of the Uniting for Ukraine program is approximately 40,000, which means existing travel authorizations plus U4U arrivals.)
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· Approximately 9,000 U4U parolees have arrived in the United States.
The Biden administration has also designated Ukrainians eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Attempted Russian Genocide In Ukraine: As the war has progressed, Russian government actions and statements have made it clear Russia is attempting to destroy Ukraine as an independent entity and eliminate its culture and leading political and other figures in Ukrainian society.
“Russia is responsible for inciting genocide and perpetrating atrocities that show an ‘intent to destroy’ the Ukrainian people, a new legal analysis signed by more than 30 independent experts concluded,” according to the Washington Post (May 27, 2022). “The report, published by the Washington-based New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, also concludes that there is ‘serious risk of genocide in Ukraine,’ and that states have a legal obligation to prevent genocide from occurring.”
Evidence has mounted of Russian atrocities and attempts to control as much of Ukraine as feasible through military conquest. Vladimir Putin has now compared his efforts in Ukraine to those of Peter the Great, who “returned” land to Russia. Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul notes the earlier argument Putin made that Russia needed to invade Ukraine primarily because NATO had accepted more members over the past two decades has been exposed as a talking point, or propaganda meant to divide Western opinion. He explains that Putin admits the goal has always been to seize land and destroy Ukrainian sovereignty. McFaul points out that if Putin feared that NATO planned to attack Russia, he would not be weakening the country’s defenses by losing military equipment and tens of thousands of troops in the eastern part of Ukraine.
“Russia has taken a number of other measures to exert administrative and cultural control over the Ukrainian regions it has occupied,” report Dan Lamothe and Claire Parker of the Washington Post. “Russian officials are reportedly planning to train teachers in eastern Ukraine using Russian curriculums, according to the pro-Moscow Ukrainian news site Strana. And occupation authorities in Mariupol, the southern port city Russian forces captured last month, have begun introducing Russian textbooks into schools.”
The Russian invasion has torn apart many lives. “Misha Rohozhyn, a Ukrainian teenager with Down syndrome, escaped besieged Mariupol as his mother wove a motivational fantasy that his pro-wrestler hero John Cena lay at the end of their dangerous journey out of Ukraine,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “After arriving in the Netherlands last month, Misha, a 19-year-old who is unable to speak, stayed in his bedroom, disoriented by his new surroundings and getting angry with his mother that they hadn’t found Mr. Cena. As Mr. Cena stepped out of a car on Saturday, wearing his World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. outfit, Ms. Rohozhyna began to cry.” (See here for a video.)
Long-Term U.S. Policy Toward Refugees: Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), has been working in Lviv, Ukraine, to help refugees. He applauds the use of private sponsors but wishes Ukrainians were admitted as refugees rather than parolees due to their different treatment under U.S. immigration law.
“Private and community sponsorship is great, something which is happening in the context of the Afghan and Ukraine parole efforts,” said Hetfield. He advocates also using community sponsorships through the refugee program. “By using parole, we are bringing refugees here without the pathway to lawful permanent residence and citizenship that refugees are provided by the Refugee Act.”
Hetfield recommends using the standard of the Lautenberg amendment to interview Ukrainians inside and outside the United States for refugee status. “Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox religious adherents identified in the Lautenberg Amendment . . . with close family in the United States . . . are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution,” according to the State Department.
“Lautenberg refugees, unlike Uniting for Ukraine parolees, are entitled to resettlement agency assistance immediately upon arrival in the United States, as well as applying for a green card after one year and citizenship four years after that,” said Hetfield. “By definition, virtually everyone eligible to apply for refugee status under Lautenberg is also eligible for the U4U program. Uniting for Ukraine is much faster but offers no pathway to a green card or citizenship.
“While refugee applications have nearly always been adjudicated overseas and not in the United States (except for thousands of Kosovars brought here by the United States government in 1999, who completed refugee processing on US soil), there is nothing in the law to prevent refugee status from being granted inside the United States for someone who arrives here under humanitarian parole.”
Where to Donate: For those looking to donate to relief efforts for Ukrainian refugees, organizations on the ground in Ukraine and helping refugees seeking protection inside and outside of the country include HIAS, Catholic Relief Services, International Rescue Committee, World Central Kitchen and Acted.
Looking Ahead: With no evidence that Russia will end its invasion soon, analysts expect a long war. Ukrainian officials and citizens have said if Russia stops fighting, the war will end. But if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine will end. Returning to Ukraine is unlikely to be a viable option for many families displaced by the war. It is time to plan for the long-term resettlement of refugees, including those admitted under parole authority.