The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it is changing the cutoff date for Ukrainian Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a welcomed decision that stands to greatly increase the number of immigrants eligible for relief.
The Biden administration initially announced that Ukrainian immigrants who are already in the U.S. as of March 1 would be eligible to apply. But this week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced a new eligibility date of April 11.
“The cut-off date change could make thousands of additional Ukrainians who have managed to reach the U.S. following the Russian invasion, including those who have been allowed to enter the U.S. through the Mexican border on humanitarian grounds, eligible for TPS,” CBS News reported. The first Ukrainian families to flee for the U.S. through Mexico began arriving in early March.
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Mayorkas said this week that “extraordinary and temporary conditions, including destroyed infrastructure, scarce resources, and lack of access to healthcare, prevent Ukrainian nationals from returning to their homeland in safety.” This announcement could come to the relief of Volodymyr Bobko and his family in Massachusetts. He said his mother-in-law missed the initial March 1 cutoff deadline by just two days.
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The new eligibility criteria comes as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) opened the application period for Ukraine and Sudan on Tuesday. “USCIS estimates 3,090 individuals may be eligible for TPS under the designation of Sudan,” the agency said.
However, the Biden administration did not similarly adjust Sudan’s March 1 cutoff date, which “[s]hows once again how differently Ukrainians are being treated,” tweeted American Immigration Council Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. As noted earlier this week following the designation of Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status, Black-led groups, organizers, and affected individuals spent years fighting for this relief. But for comparison, Ukraine’s designation for Temporary Protected Status came within 10 days of Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
Additionally, Mayorkas last month reminded U.S. border officials that they have authority to make “case-by-case” decisions to exempt Ukrainians from Stephen Miller’s anti-asylum Title 42 policy. But when it comes to Haitian asylum-seekers, only about 14% of their humanitarian requests have been approved, VICE reported.
Black-led organizations and advocates welcomed the recent news of Cameroon’s designation and urged relief for other Black immigrants facing imminent risk. “The current conditions in Cameroon made it a textbook case for TPS designation,” the UndocuBlack Network said. “Other majority-Black countries, with very similar conditions, must also receive TPS designation immediately. We hope Mauritania with the widespread practice of enslaving its Black population and Ethiopia with the armed conflict and humanitarian crisis in its Tigray region will also receive TPS designation soon.”
“While I applaud the Department’s decision to designate TPS for Cameroon—which many of us have been imploring DHS to do for over a year—the agency must do more,” House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship co-chair Joe Neguse said this week. “As made clear in our letter last September, both Mauritania and Ethiopia plainly qualify under the statute.”
The Biden administration’s expansion of relief for Ukrainian immigrants already here comes as U.N. data indicates more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since the end of February. The vast majority, more than 2.8 million, have fled to Poland. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said last month that Russia’s brutal invasion was sparking the most rapidly growing refugee crisis in roughly 80 years. “President Biden last month pledged to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by the war, but the U.S. has yet to announce any programs or policy changes to accomplish the ambitious objective,” CBS News reported.
20-year-old Harvard University student Nika Rudenko told the Associated Press last month that she’s looking at her TPS options. She’s missed class in recent days, incredibly distraught over Russia’s invasion. But that could risk her student visa. Her family is currently in hiding.
“My mental state is not very stable and it’s just very difficult to keep up with work and at the same time to try to do something for my country,” she said in the report. “It feels very weird to understand that everyone else’s lives just carry on, but my life has completely changed. People just cannot feel what you’re going through, and it hurts.”
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