WASHINGTON - The Biden administration will allow Ukrainians who entered the United States last year at the Mexico border to renew their humanitarian status, giving them continued access to government benefits like health insurance and food stamps.
The extension is a victory for advocates who have urged the administration of US President Joe Biden to expand legal pathways for thousands of migrants from a select group of countries who have been allowed to enter the country in recent years on a temporary emergency basis.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Monday that about 25,000 Ukrainians who fled the conflict in Ukraine and sought refuge in the US via Mexico in early 2022 can now extend their stay beyond the one-year permit they were initially granted.
Many showed up at the US-Mexico border because they had few other avenues to reach the US.
Last April, under pressure to accept more refugees, Mr Biden launched the “Uniting for Ukraine” programme to allow the entry of Ukrainians with US sponsors via air and discourage border crossings.
More than 118,000 Ukrainians have come to the US through that programme with two-year grants of “humanitarian parole” that will not expire until 2024 or later, according to DHS.
Immigrant advocates hope to secure a similar extension for an estimated 77,000 Afghans who arrived in the United States in 2021 as part of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Many Afghans could see their humanitarian parole expire later this year.
Ms Meredith Owen, director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service, a refugee resettlement group, called for Afghans to receive a similar extension, calling it “long past due”. REUTERS