Ukrainian TPS and other humanitarian relief

I have received many inquiries about asylum for Ukrainian citizens this past week so thought that I would explain the terminology relating to available U.S. humanitarian relief. I hope that this provides information that will allow my readers to understand what is happening at this time.

Refugee

A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their home country due to persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group (e.g., members of the LGBTQ community). The persecution that refugees experience may include harassment, threats, abduction, or torture. A refugee is often afforded some sort of legal protection, either by their host country’s government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), or both. In the United States, refugees are hand-selected by the U.S. government and are screened in advance. They are subject to background checks and security screenings by multiple U.S. agencies. Only after everything is approved are they brought to the U.S. to reside permanently.

The President of the US has the sole authority to decide how many refugees will be accepted each year. For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022, President Biden has authorized (on Oct 9, 2021, before the Ukrainian crisis) up to 125,000. The regional allocations were:

Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . …………….. 40,000
East Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . …………….. 15,000
Europe and Central Asia . . . . . . . . . . 10,000
Latin America/Caribbean . . . . . . . . .. 15,000
Near East/South Asia . . . . . . . . . . . … 35,000
Unallocated Reserve . . . . . . . . . . . . 10,000

The 10,000 unallocated reserves can be allocated to the other regional ceilings “as needed.”

Given that an estimated 4 million Ukrainian refugees are expected to flee in the coming weeks, it is likely that more than 10,000 Ukrainians may want refuge in the U.S. . It is my hope that the unallocated reserve may be used for Ukrainians – and more allocated by the President if necessary.

Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled persecution in their home country and is seeking safe haven in a different country but has not yet received any legal recognition or status. In several countries, including the U.S., asylum seekers are sometimes detained while waiting for their case to be heard.

Internally displaced person

An internally displaced person, or IDP, is a person who fled their home but has not crossed an international border to find sanctuary. Even if they fled for reasons similar to those driving refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight.

Migrant

A migrant is a person who chooses to move from their home for any variety of reasons but not necessarily because of a direct threat of persecution or death. Migrant is an umbrella category that can include refugees but can also include people moving to improve their lives by finding work or education, those seeking family reunion, and others.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

The president can authorize DED to provide protection from removal (previously known as deportation) and work authorization. DED was authorized for Liberia by President Bush in 2007 and so far, has been extended through June 30, 2022. Venezuelans were granted DED from Jan 20, 2021, through July 20, 2022, by President Trump and Hong Kong was designated by President Biden from August 5, 2021, through Feb 5, 2023. All of these include a provision that you must have been present in the U.S. when this was designated. Venezuelans may also be granted TPS, but TPS has not been designated for Liberia or Hong Kong Nationals.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

TPS is a status that can be granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely. Those who are found to be preliminarily eligible are not removable from the U.S., can obtain work authorization, and may be granted travel authorization. TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent residence status, but it does not prevent one from applying for nonimmigrant status, filing for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition, or applying for any other immigration benefit or protection for which one may be eligible. While this is granted for an initial period of 18 months, it is often extended many times. I have clients who have had TPS so long that they have married and now have adult (over 21 years) children who are U.S. citizens having been born in the U.S. In some circumstances, these adult children can petition for permanent residence for their parents.

TPS was recently granted to citizens of Ukraine who were physically present in the US as of March 1, 2022. This will be issued for an initial period of 18 months. Yesterday USCIS announced that they may expedite the work permission for Ukrainians in “appropriate circumstance.” I would hope that appropriate circumstances would include the need to start working to support themselves and their families.

What the Biden administration can do to make it easier for Ukrainians to come to the U.S. – Humanitarian Parole

While President Biden can and should increase the number of Ukrainians that are granted refugee status, that is a long-term process and people need help now. The Biden Administration could immediately give Ukrainians authorization to travel to the U.S. After arrival and screening they could be provided with humanitarian parole to allow them to stay temporarily and obtain work permissions. This would help those who are not eligible for TPS because they were not in the U.S. on March 1st, the cutoff date. Parole can be issued in days as opposed to the many months or years that it would take to process the refugee visas. This was what was used last year to allow thousands of Afghans to resettle in the U.S. and is something that we should now be using for Ukrainians.

Linda M Kaplan
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