Dear President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas, and Secretary Blinken,
We write to express our concern that the Russian military invasion in Ukraine, an ongoing armed conflict, makes it impossible for Ukrainian nationals in the United States to return to the country. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that roughly 30,000 Ukrainians in the United States would be potential beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure, as they do not have U.S. citizenship or permanent status. We urge you to immediately designate for 18-months TPS and Special Student Relief (SSR) for Ukrainians, launch a public information campaign to notify those eligible of the available relief and any actions they must take, and provide at least a 180-day registration period in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On February 23, 2022, shortly after Russia launched its invasion, President Biden stated that the war "will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering." Senior Biden administration officials, briefing lawmakers on February 3, 2022, warned that a full invasion could result in potential deaths of 25,000 to 50,000 civilians, 5,000 to 25,000 members of the Ukrainian military, and 3,000 to 10,000 members of the Russian army. Officials also estimate that the conflict could produce one million to five million refugees. The UNHCR has stated, "the humanitarian consequences on civilian populations will be devastating."
The human costs of armed conflict are clear and will contribute to current humanitarian crises in the country. Almost 1.5 million internally displaced people live in Ukraine, mostly from the disputed Donbas region and the Crimean peninsula. Last year, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 3.4 million people living in Ukraine need humanitarian assistance. The Ukraine Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) called for $168 million to assist 1.9 million people in 2021. However, in August 2021, the Ukraine HRP was only 27 percent funded, demonstrating a level of unmet need even before the current military invasion.
Given the already unmet humanitarian need in the country and the effects of the armed conflict with Russia, the Ukrainian government is in no state to receive TPS and SSR eligible Ukrainians. Returning these Ukrainians to an at-war country would further destabilize the country by inundating them with a large number of deportees. Their return would also put these Ukrainian individuals in great personal danger. A widespread conflict and refugee crisis like that unfolding in Ukraine is exactly what the TPS and SSR designations were designed for. TPS and SSR for Ukrainians support U.S. foreign policy goals by alleviating pressure on the Ukrainian government during the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
We request that you designate TPS and SSR for 18-months for Ukraine, and launch a culturally competent public information campaign to notify the impacted community of the decision and any actions that they must take. We thank you for your attention and request urgent action on this matter.