As the world responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by taking in refugees affected by the conflict, two former US immigration officials have urged the Biden administration to grant TPS to Ukrainian nationals forced to flee their homeland.
Emilio T. González and Leon Rodriguez, both from Miami, have asked Biden to extend Temporary Protect Status (TPS) to eligible Ukrainians. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are approximately 30,000 Ukrainians currently in the US on non-immigrant visas or lack legal status entirely, and would benefit from TPS.
González and Rodriguez both headed up United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under former US President George W. Bush, and former US President Barack Obama, respectively.
TPS was created for this
González said: “This is exactly what TPS was created for,” while Rodriguez echoed González’s comments, saying: “This is a humanitarian act that is deserved and the law allows it. We have a moral duty to help this way.”
In a one-page letter to Biden, González and Rodriguez – who are both Cuban American - wrote: “As former Directors of [Citizenship and Immigration Services] we know well the extreme circumstances that go into declaring TPS for foreign nationals from deserving countries.”
TPS allows people from countries in turmoil to temporarily live and work in the United States, while protecting them from deportation. Since Biden took office, nationals of Venezuela and Haiti have benefitted from inclusion in the program after becoming eligible in the spring of last year.
Meanwhile, citizens of Myanmar, Yemen and Somalia, have also benefitted from TPS designations and extensions since Biden became President.
While the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security currently designates who is eligible for TPS, it is USCIS that reviews and accepts applications.
González has called offering TPS to Ukrainians an ‘apolitical and necessary idea’.
The letter sent to Biden by González and Rodriguez said: “Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of the Ukraine has created untold turmoil, death, and destruction for the Ukrainian people. The current unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is a classic example of the type that led Congress to legislate TPS.”
According to US Census Bureau data, there are approximately 355,000 Ukraine-born people living in the US. Since the conflict started, several US immigration advocates and services groups have urged the Biden administration to make TPS available to Ukrainian nationals, plus other forms of US immigration relief.
One such group is the National TPS Alliance - a group led by beneficiaries of TPS – who said: “The White House has a responsibility to all migrants fleeing from political conflict.”
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, called for TPS as well as Deferred Enforced Departure and Special Student Relief - other types of US immigration assistance.
The group said: “The humanitarian implications of the aggression against the Ukrainian people should be the main priority in the response by the United States and the international community.”
In South Florida, which has a large Ukrainian and Russian population, protestors took to the streets in support of Ukraine. Both Russians and Ukrainians dressed in colors resembling the Ukrainian flag and carried placards saying: ‘Putin Back Off’ and ‘Stop Putin, Stop War.’
Rodriguez expressed his ‘horror and outrage’ over what is happening in Ukraine. He said that the conflict brought up painful memories among Cubans in the US.
Rodriguez said: “As Cuban-Americans, we certainly are a community that has experienced aggression and oppression coming from now the former Soviet Union.”
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