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HIAS: Uniting for Ukraine Program “Not a Panacea”

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Since the start of the war in Ukraine, HIAS has advocated for the Biden administration to make family reunification possible for Ukrainians with loved ones in the United States. Today’s announcement from the administration about the new Uniting for Ukraine program, beginning on April 25th, is one step to helping Ukrainian families and friends reunite in the U.S. This initiative will provide streamlined processing through humanitarian parole for Ukrainians who were residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022.

“Uniting for Ukraine will be an important mechanism to allow Ukrainians to reunite with their loved ones in the United States, but it is not a panacea,” said Melanie Nezer, HIAS’ senior vice president for global public affairs. “This announcement is against a backdrop of 11 million Ukrainians displaced and entire cities and towns destroyed. Like most refugees, Ukrainians may want to go home quickly, but unfortunately that may not be possible for a long time. Humanitarian parole creates yet another group of people who are forced to live in limbo, without any sense of permanency. HIAS will continue to urge the administration to rely on the U.S. refugee resettlement program to respond to refugee emergencies rather than using parole, a system that is wholly insufficient in ensuring that new arrivals have access to the support and a sense of choice and control over their futures offered through resettlement.”

HIAS is pleased to see that today’s announcement includes plans for use of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, including through the Lautenberg program for historically persecuted religious minorities. But the announcement is largely devoid of details about how the resettlement program will be used for Ukrainians and other vulnerable people who were in Ukraine, including asylum seekers and refugees from other countries. 

HIAS notes with concern that the program includes a focus on urging Ukrainians to not seek protection at the U.S.-Mexico border. “The administration must respect the legal right to seek asylum,” Nezer said. “We also urge the administration to equitably extend protections to refugees fleeing violence and persecution around the world.”

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