Soon, Ukrainians will need a sponsor to seek asylum in the United States. It's part of a new ‘Unite for Ukraine’ program that President Biden announced Thursday to expedite the refugee process.
Of the five million refugees fleeing fighting in Ukraine, officials say about 15,000 have arrived in the U.S, mostly through Mexico.
Starting Monday, that route is no longer an option except in extreme circumstances, officials said.
“I'm announcing a program, Unite for Ukraine, a new program to enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States,” President Biden said.
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Instead of going through the traditional refugee admissions process, under the program, Ukrainians seeking asylum will be able to enter under a humanitarian parole status, says Timothy Young with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
“It comes with pros and cons,” Young said.
Young said the program announced Thursday should get Ukrainians into the U.S. quicker but doesn't provide a path toward permanent resettlement.
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“This is a temporary program. It allows folks to stay for up to two years and apply for work authorization, but it doesn't actually confer the same benefits that refugees who come through the traditional program would receive,” he explained.
Those benefits include housing assistance, health care, employment searches and transportation.
Instead, asylum seekers will have to rely on sponsors like church congregations, volunteers and everyday Americans.
“We don't necessarily want to put that responsibility fully on the shoulders of individuals. This is a national commitment that we made,” Young said.
The U.S. says it expects to admit up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, whose journey to flee their country is just the beginning.
Of the roughly 15,000 Ukrainians who've entered the U.S. since Russia's invasion, the Dallas Morning News reports nearly all have come through crossings in Tijuana and San Diego, with a relative handful coming into Texas.