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Hetfield in Washington Post: Bring Ukrainian Refugees to U.S. the Right Way

Mar 21, 2022

Blog Post

Mark Hetfield - President and CEO

In a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield argues the U.S. should bring Ukrainians into the country as refugees.

I embrace the call in the March 17 editorial “Open U.S. doors to Ukrainians” for the United States to welcome Ukrainian refugees. This should not, however, be through the recommended reenactment of humanitarian parole as used for the Afghans.

The Afghans paroled here are now essentially without status. They have work authorization, but can’t apply for lawful permanent residence and have no right to reunite with their spouse or children. And even accessing basic refugee assistance programs required an act of Congress, but Congress has yet to pass legislation to establish a pathway to lawful permanent residence and family reunification.

Absent congressional leadership, the only option for Afghans is to navigate our broken and backlogged asylum system.

There is a better way. In 1999, the Clinton administration evacuated nearly 20,000 Kosovar refugees out of Macedonia to the United States. Unlike the recent evacuation of Afghans, the parole of Kosovars was followed by adjudicating them as refugees under U.S. law, allowing them access to assistance, lawful residence and family reunification.

Yes, the United States must share responsibility with Europe for Ukrainian refugees, but let’s do it the right way this time.