The Biden administration will allow Ukrainians who entered the United States last year at the Mexico border to renew their humanitarian status, giving them continued access to government benefits like health insurance and food stamps.
The extension is a victory for advocates who have urged the Biden administration to expand legal pathways for thousands of migrants from a select group of countries who have been allowed to enter the country in recent years on a temporary emergency basis.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Monday that about 25,000 Ukrainians who fled the conflict in Ukraine and sought refuge in the United States via Mexico in early 2022 can now extend their stay beyond the one-year permit they were initially granted. Many showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border because they had few other avenues to reach the United States.
In April of last year, under pressure to accept more refugees, Biden launched the “Uniting for Ukraine” program to allow the entry of Ukrainians with U.S. sponsors via air and discourage border crossings. More than 118,000 Ukrainians have come to the United States through that program with two-year grants of “humanitarian parole” that will not expire until 2024 or later, according to DHS.
Immigrant advocates hope to secure a similar extension for an estimated 77,000 Afghans who arrived in the United States in 2021 as part of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many Afghans could see their humanitarian parole expire later this year.
Meredith Owen, director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service, a refugee resettlement group, called for Afghans to receive a similar extension, calling it “long past due.”