Republican and Democratic senators urged the Biden administration this week to grant protections from deportation to Ukrainians already in the country in response to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
More than 40 senators, led by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., wrote to President Biden calling for Ukrainian nationals already in the country to be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS.)
BIDEN ADMIN FACING CALLS TO GIVE UKRAINIANS IN US PROTECTIONS FROM DEPORTATION
TPS protects nationals of designated countries living in the U.S. from potential deportation if they are eligible, allows them to apply for work permits and gives them the freedom to travel.
TPS status is granted based on three grounds: armed ongoing conflict, environmental disasters or “extraordinary and temporary conditions.” The lawmakers argue that Ukraine “clearly meets the standard” for TPS given the invasion from Moscow.
“Granting TPS to the limited population of Ukrainians who are currently in the U.S. on a temporary basis will create a minimal disruption for our country, but forcing these individuals to return to a war zone would be unacceptable,” the senators wrote.
“Forcing Ukrainian nationals to return to Ukraine in the midst of a war would be inconsistent with America’s values and our national security interests,” they said. “As a nation, we must do our part to protect the safety of Ukrainians in the United States by designating Ukraine for TPS.”
The letter cites State Department figures that there were 29,510 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas issued to Ukrainians in FY 2020.
It is the latest call for the administration to use TPS for Ukrainian nationals. Some activists have also suggested that Biden could issue a similar Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) designation for Ukrainian nationals, which is issued at the president’s discretion.
More than 170 groups have already written to President Biden, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging them to designate Ukraine for TPS and DED and also grant students relief (SSR) — citing estimates that it would protect approximately 30,000 Ukrainians.
“Given the already unmet humanitarian need in the country and the effects of armed conflict with Russia, Ukraine is in no state to receive TPS/DED and SSR eligible Ukrainians,” the groups argued in a letter last week. “Returning these Ukrainians to an at-war country would further destabilize the precarious conditions.”
The TPS program has been criticized before by immigration hawks, who argue the designation often protects those here illegally and is extended well beyond the immediate time period of an initial emergency or crisis. Some hawks have argued that TPS is unnecessary and that the administration could just extend periods of stay instead.
A DHS spokesperson told Fox News last week that it continues to monitor conditions in various countries across the globe but had no announcements at that time.
On Wednesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that he was designating Sudan for TPS and re-designating South Sudan for another 18 months, citing political instability, unrest and armed conflict in South Sudan.