More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since the Russian invasion on February 24, according to the United Nations, but the U.S. has only accepted hundreds of Ukrainian refugees so far, and some critics have questioned U.S. government policy.
Why has the US not taken in more Ukrainian refugees?
US President Joe Biden and his top officials have said the US is ready to accept refugees if needed, but the administration has repeatedly stated that Europe should be the main destination for Ukrainians.
“We will welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms, in fact, if they get here,” Biden said on March 11 at a meeting of Democratic members in Philadelphia.
Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blink and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki have made similar comments. Psaki said on March 10 that the administration believes the “large majority” of refugees want to stay in neighboring countries, where many have family, friends and former employers.
The U.S. State Department has said it will work with the United Nations to bring refugees back to the United States if Ukrainian refugees do not have protection in Europe, “bearing in mind that relocation to the United States is not a quick process.”
The resettlement of refugees could take years, although the Biden administration accelerated the Afghan process after the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan last August. Lessons learned from the experience could help speed up the resettlement of other refugees, three U.S. officials told Reuters.
Who is asking for more refugee acceptance?
A group of more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers called on Biden in a March 11 letter to increase refugee admissions and allow Ukrainians with family members in the U.S. to gain access more quickly through a temporary mechanism called the “humanitarian condition.”
Representative Raul Ruiz, a doctor trained in emergency medicine and wrote a letter to the president of the Hispanic Caucasus in Congress, went to the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this month as part of a delegation of Democrats and Republicans.
“The crisis may overwhelm the countries that are currently hosting many Ukrainian refugees, and the United States must lead its efforts to help the weak war fleeing those countries,” Bideniri wrote in a letter.
Representative Victoria Spartz, an Indian Republican and an immigrant from Ukraine, was on the delegation and told Fox News that the humanitarian response could not be “the only problem” in neighboring Poland.
Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stressed the urgency of the crisis, and told ABC News that she was calling on American women to help Ukrainian women and children seeking refuge.
A coalition of more than two dozen Jewish-American organizations also pressed last week to increase acceptance of Ukrainian Biden refugees, saying “our community is too hurt to know what happens when America closes its doors to refugees.”
Can the US accept more Ukrainian refugees?
No data are yet publicly available for March, although the U.S. admitted only 514 Ukrainian refugees in January and February when Russia began its war, according to U.S. State Department data.
Biden set the refugee ceiling at 125,000 this year after his former Republican Donald Trump cut tickets to a record 15,000, which thwarted the program and led to delays in processing that had already made the COVID-19 pandemic worse.
Biden has set aside 10,000 of the 125,000 refugee camps for people in Europe and Central Asia, including Ukraine, but this provision can be expanded if necessary, and is accelerating some cases.
What about Ukrainians trying to enter the United States from Mexico?
Thousands of Ukrainians and Russians have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum, a trend that could be exacerbated as the humanitarian crisis worsens, Reuters reported this month.
In the first five months of the event, which began last October, U.S. authorities encountered about 1,300 Ukrainians on the southwestern border, mostly at ports of entry, compared to about 680 last year.
Most Ukrainians have been able to enter the United States to pursue their immigration cases, unlike a pandemic-era order known as 42 titles unlike migrants from other countries who are deported to Mexico or other countries.
However, few Ukrainians who have reached the southwestern border in recent days and anecdotal reports have been denied entry.
If the US does not accept many Ukrainian refugees, what is it doing?
The US government is providing significant financial support to help European countries receiving refugees.
Biden on Tuesday signed a $ 13.6 billion spending bill to help Ukraine and its European allies to help people flee about $ 4 billion.
The U.S. government also announced earlier this month that it would issue a Temporary Protected Statute (TPS) to about 75,000 Ukrainians already in the United States.
This situation will provide them with an 18-month expulsion order and work permits, which can be renewed at the end of this period, but will not apply to persons arriving after March 1.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a union feed.)