Washington, DC – Refugee Council USA welcomed President Biden’s recent pledge to admit up to 100,000 displaced Ukrainians into the United States, and we look forward to the administration’s plan for following through on this commitment. According to a CNN report, the Biden administration will shortly announce a program to provide a temporary safe haven to displaced Ukrainians through the use of humanitarian parole.
RCUSA Executive Director John Slocum said, “The forthcoming parole program will reportedly allow individuals to sponsor incoming Ukrainians, thereby harnessing the goodwill and generosity of the American people. But in order to meet the needs of the Ukrainians it sets out to help, a parole program must come with access to necessary benefits, and assistance to sponsors to help them navigate the inevitable complications that come with welcoming and integrating newcomers. There must also be additional federal funding so that applications can be processed quickly and efficiently without drawing resources away from other populations.”
In addition to parole, RCUSA urges the administration to include the US Refugee Assistance Program (USRAP) in its plan to welcome vulnerable Ukrainians and third country nationals, such as African refugees, previously displaced in Ukraine. Unlike parole, USRAP can provide long-term legal status and guaranteed access to benefits. Moreso, it empowers those welcomed through the program the chance to make their own decisions about their long-term safety, as was the case for Kosovars evacuated by the US in 1999 and processed through USRAP.
RCUSA understands that most Ukrainians are eager to return home as soon as possible. But the future course of the war is unpredictable. An as-yet-unknowable number of those displaced from Ukraine will not be able to return safely. For these individuals, parole offers only a partial, temporary solution. For those with specific protection needs—religious minorities, disabled children and older adults, LGBTQIA+ persons, and stateless third-country nationals—or those without the resources to travel, the USRAP program must be available. For any Ukrainians who do wish to remain in the United States, USRAP provides stability, security, integration, and self-sufficiency.
Protection for Ukrainians cannot come at the expense of other forcibly displaced populations. The generosity of the American people is expansive enough to provide resettlement for those whose protection needs are clear—including those Afghans still awaiting admission, but also refugees from Eritrea, Syria, Myanmar and elsewhere, many of whom have been waiting for many years to access USRAP.
The administration’s offer of a parole program has been prompted in part by the growing number of Ukrainians presenting themselves at our southern border. Yet even as we admit Ukrainians we cannot continue to turn away so many other asylum seekers without a hearing, in violation of US and international law. Finally, RCUSA further calls on the administration to expand resettlement of at-risk Afghans who remain overseas, including in Afghanistan and other host countries, and urges Congress to immediately pass an Afghan Adjustment Act so that Afghan evacuees have an opportunity to apply to become lawful permanent residents.
We can—we must—welcome Ukrainians while continuing to rebuild our refugee resettlement program and offering refuge to those truly in need of protection, wherever they come from.
Media Contact: Sarah Seniuk, firstname.lastname@example.org
RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach common refugee-related issues identically.