The Biden administration will announce plans to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others affected by the Russian war on Ukraine, the Biden administration announced Thursday.
Not all will be admitted through the refugee program or during this fiscal year. A full range of pathways will be utilized, including humanitarian parole and immigrant or nonimmigrant visas.
The crisis in Ukraine has quickly unfolded as the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Over 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia began its invasion last month, according to the U.N.
The Biden administration also announced over $1 billion in new funding towards humanitarian assistance for Ukraine to be distributed in the coming months, along with an additional $320 million in “democracy and human rights funding to Ukraine and its neighbors,” according to a statement. Since Feb. 24, the U.S. has provided more than $123 million to bolster humanitarian efforts in nearby European countries that have welcomed displaced Ukrainians.
“We still expect most displaced Ukrainian citizens will want to be in neighboring countries or elsewhere in the EU where they may have family and where there are already large diaspora communities, in the hope they can return home soon,” a senior administration official told reporters Thursday. “But at the same time, we recognize that some may wish to come to the United States.”
The White House has prioritized Ukrainians seeking reunification with family in the U.S., along with LGBTQ people, journalists, dissidents and activists, three sources familiar with the conversations told POLITICO earlier this week. The administration official also mentioned those with medical needs and third country nationals who have already sought refuge outside of Ukraine in another country as candidates for expedited consideration. Journalists and others in these vulnerable groups have been targeted by Russian forces.
As of March 22, the U.S. has taken in 7,888 refugees for fiscal year 2022, according to the State Department. The annual refugee cap for FY 2022 is 125,000, a figure Biden raised after receiving backlash from Democrats. Ukrainian refugees will not count toward this figure unless they are admitted through the refugee program, and the Biden administration does not anticipate the need to adjust the 125,000 figure in conjunction with Ukrainian refugees.
“This commitment of 100,000 is not necessarily time-bound to that fiscal year,” the senior administration said. “It’s a broader commitment.”
Mark Hetfield, president of humanitarian aid nonprofit HIAS, applauded Thursday’s announcement, noting “the devil and the angel will be in the details.”
“As with the Kosovars evacuated from Macedonia in 1999, we urge that they be brought in with all the protections and benefits of refugee status, and be assisted with voluntarily returning home to Ukraine when it is safe to do so,” Hetfield said.
Biden is in Brussels Thursday for a NATO summit and a European Council meeting. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month that Biden would use his trans-Atlantic trip to discuss ways to “provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence.”