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HIAS Calls on the Biden Administration to Keep Ukrainian Families Together

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Two weeks into the invasion of Ukraine, it has become clear that the world will be responding to the massive displacement of millions of Ukrainians for a long time. 

HIAS welcomes the Biden administration’s decision to grant Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians already in the United States. This will allow Ukrainians to legally live and work in the U.S. while it remains unsafe for them to return home. The European Commission has also provided temporary protection to people fleeing from Ukraine into E.U. countries. 

While most Ukrainian refugees will remain in Europe, the U.S. should allow Ukrainians with family members in the United States to join their families. Melanie Nezer, HIAS Senior Vice President for Global Public Affairs, said: “Keeping families together should be a cornerstone of U.S. refugee and immigration policy. There’s no reason to keep families apart when we can bring them together.” 

There are two actions the Biden administration should take immediately to reunite Ukrainian families: allow Ukrainians with pending and newly filed refugee applications under the Lautenberg program to travel to the U.S. to complete processing here rather than waiting abroad; and admit Ukrainians with pending immigrant visa petitions as refugees, as has been done in the past for Iraqis and Haitians during crises in their countries. 

We urge President Biden, as we have since the first days of his administration, to provide fair and meaningful access to the U.S. asylum system for all people seeking safety at our southern border and repeal Title 42. Ukrainians currently in the United States with work, tourist, and other temporary visas are now applying for asylum and the U.S. should ensure the asylum system has sufficient resources and staff to process applications in months, not years. Nobody should have to wait for years for a decision on their case – years that they cannot bring over their parents, spouse, or children who may also be at risk.

“While this refugee crisis feels overwhelming in so many ways, the U.S. can take steps immediately to help,” Nezer said. “Ukrainians with family in the U.S. should be allowed to be safe here during the war. And U.S. citizens and residents should not be denied the chance to welcome and support their loved ones during this time of crisis.”

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