Biden admin’s Uniting for Ukraine could soon become largest private sponsorship program in decades

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Among the Americans who have sponsored Ukrainian refugees is Svitlana Rogers, who is herself a Ukrainian immigrant. She applied to sponsor her sister and her family soon after the Biden administration announced the Uniting for Ukraine program. While Rogers’ sister and eight-year-old niece have been approved to travel to the U.S., they continue to wait for her brother-in-law’s approval. Rogers told CBS News that the family is excited, “even if they have to start this from zero. They want some stability. They want some reassurance.”

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U.S. applicants under the program must provide the federal government with income information and pass a background check. “Unlike most U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) programs, which require paper records and typically take months or years to process cases, Uniting for Ukraine requests are being adjudicated in a matter of weeks or even days, a senior DHS official told CBS News.”

Ukrainian refugees under the program arrive through humanitarian parole, which allows them to live in the U.S. for a period of time but does not confer permanent status. Like tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who were previously evacuated to the U.S. under Operation Allies Rescue, they need permanent relief, either through the backlogged asylum program, or congressional action.

The Biden administration in October announced a program allowing private individuals and community groups to sponsor Afghan refugees, though the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans has not had as large an impact as the Ukrainian program. U.S/global migration analyst Cris Ramón was among the voices that said the new policy could be a game-changer and it appears that’s what could be happening right now.

“Unlike Canada and some European countries, the U.S. had not, until now, embraced private sponsorship of refugees,” immigration reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez tweeted. “But the Biden administration is planning to create a private sponsorship pilot for all refugees by the end of 2022, a State Department spokesperson told CBS News.”

Lawmakers have previously urged the Biden administration to address the “stark inconsistencies” when it comes to the treatment of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees who are seeking safety in the United States. They noted that while nearly 6,000 Ukrainians have been granted humanitarian parole, just 270 Afghans have been approved, and under a much more complicated process demanding a much higher burden of proof.


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