According to data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), more than 45,000 Americans submitted applications to the United States to resettle Ukrainians who have been displaced by war in Ukraine in less than a month. This is part of the largest U.S. private sponsor program for refugees in decades.
According to DHS statistics, Wednesday saw just over 6,500 Ukrainians arrive in the U.S. as part of the Uniting for Ukraine program. This program began April 25th. American sponsors have authorized 27,000 more Ukrainians to travel through the U.S. Immigration officials.
The Uniting for Ukraine program is expected to surpass the U.S.'s last program, which allowed U.S. organizations to finance the resettlement and funding of 16,000 refugees in six years.
Matthew La Corte from the Niskanen Center is an immigration policy analyst. He said that this case is a great example of what can be done when the United States gives individuals and communities the opportunity to resettle refugees directly.
Along with the 22,000 Ukrainians admitted to the southern border, the 6,500 and 27,000 anticipated arrivals under United for Ukraine programs could enable the U.S.A to receive more than half the 100,000 Ukrainian refugees that President Biden promised to accept, all in the next three months.
Nine resettlement agencies receive funding from the federal governments to assist refugees fleeing violence and war.
The U.S. government has created the Uniting for Ukraine program to bypass the traditional refugee system and enlist everyday Americans and groups to finance the resettlement for the Ukrainians who have been displaced by the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The United States has not yet accepted private sponsorship of refugees, unlike Canada and other European countries. A spokesperson for the State Department told CBS News that the Biden administration has reversed the Trump administration's drastic cuts to the refugee program. They plan to create a pilot program in private sponsorship for all refugees by 2022.
The spokesperson said that this will be built on the lessons from the U.S. government’s efforts to create tailored sponsorship programs to allow Americans to play an important role in welcoming new Afghans and Ukrainians.
According to DHS statistics, approximately 7,300 Americans have filed requests for sponsorship of Ukrainians. This is 15%. Other regions that have the highest number of potential sponsors include Chicago, Seattle and Philadelphia, Los Angeles (or 15%), Miami, Washington, Sacramento or Portland, as well as Cleveland.
Contrary to most U.S. A senior DHS official said that Uniting for Ukraine requests are being processed in weeks, or even days.
The DHS official stated that the program is electronic from end to end. He requested anonymity to discuss the matter. We're not talking here about mailing paperwork. "We're not talking to mailing a file to someone for review. All of it is done electronically.
The DHS official stated that approximately 300 USCIS employees were trained to adjudicate Ukrainian sponsorship cases. He also noted that about 50 USCIS employees are currently reviewing applications at any one time.
Prospective sponsors must submit an online application. The USCIS assesses the income of applicants to determine whether they can sponsor Ukrainian refugees.
Sponsors must pass background checks before sponsoring the Ukrainians. If USCIS approves the sponsorship bid, they can upload their information to the agency's website, including their vaccination records. The Ukrainians can travel to the U.S. if they pass their background checks.
Legally, Ukrainians who have been approved for Uniting for Ukraine will not be allowed to enter the U.S. as refugees. This status allows them to pursue permanent residency. Instead, U.S. immigration officers will process them according to a humanitarian policy called parole. This allows them to stay and work in the U.S.A for two years.
U.S. officials claim they use the parole authority partly because they believe that many Ukrainians seek temporary refuge and not permanent resettlement. However, immigration policy experts believe that many Ukrainians could decide to stay, particularly if the conflict in Ukraine continues.
Meredith Owen, policy director of Church World Service which resettles refugees, stated that many Ukrainian refugees have relatives and loved ones in America. "But, beyond their familial links and their fear of returning home to a country that has been devastated by war," Owen said.
Last year, the Biden administration used the parole authority to resettle more that 70,000 Afghan evacuees. This included those who had assisted the U.S military after the Taliban took control of Kabul.
After being processed at U.S. military bases, the vast majority were resettled by traditional refugee resettlement organisations. However, a few were assisted by private U.S. citizens who created "sponsor circle" under a pilot program that the Biden administration launched last fall.
Olena Kopchak and Albert Kodua, along with their 8-year old daughter Yana, fled Mykolaiv (Ukraine) on March 5, one week after the Russian military offensive. The family arrived in Warsaw, Poland, after a four-day journey on foot, bus, and by bus across Romania, Hungary, Moldova, and Hungary.
Millions of Ukrainians fled Ukraine after Russian forces invaded it. Nearly 5 million people are still displaced across Europe since then, according to United Nations.
Kopchak and her family decided not to travel to the U.S. border with Mexico to try to get in. This was a journey that 23,000 Ukrainians made in March and April. They waited in Poland in hopes that Svitlana Rogers (Kopchak's sister) could assist them in getting to the U.S.
Rogers, a U.S citizen, left Ukraine in 2011. She said that she applied to sponsor her sister-in-law, brother-in law, and niece just a few days after Uniting for Ukraine began accepting online applications.
Rogers stated that she needed to submit documents to prove she could financially support her family members. She also had to locate records relating to her sister's assets, residence, and vaccinations in Ukraine.
Rogers stated that she is ready to host her family at her Pennington, New Jersey home. Although her sister and niece have been approved, Rogers said that her brother-in law, a Georgian citizen has not yet received authorization to travel to America.
They are excited to move to the USA. They're eager to begin their lives here, even if it means starting from scratch. They need stability. Rogers stated that they need some reassurance. She was translating comments made by her brother-in law and sister-in-law in a recent interview.
Kopchak is Rogers' sister. She said that she and her husband check their email every morning in hopes of receiving news on Kodua's situation.
Kopchak, Kodua and a third person were asked if they would only travel to the U.S. together.