McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Ukrainian refugees have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that allows them to remain in the United States but there are conditions that apply, and that does not include those who are trying to cross the border now.
The Biden administration last week announced TPS designation for Ukrainian nationals from the war-torn country that has been invaded by Russia, but that is only for Ukrainians who were already in the United States prior to March 1.
And it is only for a period of 18 months unless the United States extends the humanitarian waiver, legal analysts tell Border Report.
“In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on March 3 in announcing the status.
Ukrainian individuals who attempt to travel to the United States after March 1, 2022, will not be eligible for TPS, the Department of Homeland Security said.
The support is opposite from the humanitarian support that European countries are offering Ukrainian refugees.
The European Commission is granting Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) to Ukrainian refugees that will allow them to stay in European countries and to work without immigration papers but they must not have fled Ukraine prior to Feb. 24 in order to qualify for the humanitarian status in Europe.
“Anyone who was in Ukraine on Feb. 24 is included. This includes Ukrainian nations and other refugees in Ukraine and their family members as well as third-country nationals residing in Ukraine on basis of a permanent residence permit and who cannot return,” Esther Pozo-Vera, head of the asylum unit and Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs for the European Commission said Tuesday.
Refugees will be allowed to stay in European countries and work for one year until March 4, 2023, under this designation, Pozo-Vera said during an international webinar hosted by the Migration Policy Institute.
Ukrainian refugees seeking to live in European countries are not required to apply for temporary protective status but simply must ask for a residence permit.
Pozo-Vera said the European Commission is strongly encouraging European member countries to allow Ukrainians to stay and work even if they left Ukraine in the days leading up to the Feb. 24 invasion by Russian forces.
They also suggest European countries grant TPD to Ukrainians who might have been vacationing and out of Ukraine when the invasion occurred.
“They are excluded from the scope of the decision but we are encouraging member states to also cover these people and allow Temporary Protection to these people,” she said.
“It’s been truly a momentous crisis of the past few days,” Sophie Magennis, head of policy and legal support for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation for European Union Affairs said Tuesday. “The reaction from people in all European states, particularly those bordering Ukraine, is that our hearts and homes have been opened to people from Ukraine.”
The European Commission is disbursing $500 million to European countries that provide protection and shelter to Ukrainian refugees, she said.
“We are figuring out how this funding can trickle down to people and small organizations on the ground,” she said.
Since Feb. 24, over 2 million people have crossed the border from Ukraine, including 1.2 million into neighboring Poland, according to UNHCR.
Half of the 190,000 refugees who crossed the border Friday were children, Jasmijn Slootjes, senior policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute of Europe said.
An estimated 6.5 million people could be displaced from Ukraine, Pozo-Vera said.
And the European Commission hopes they do not all try to apply for asylum immediately, which would overwhelm European countries and is not necessary under their TP status, she said.
“We hope these people will not ask for asylum immediately because they are already protected,” she said.
Ukrainians not allowed to cross into U.S. …
When the United States designates TPS to countries refugees are allowed to stay without fear of deportation unless they pose a national security concern or have a criminal past that renders them inadmissible for humanitarian help, Valeria Gomez, a visiting law professor at the University of Connecticut, told Border Report on Tuesday.
Most importantly, they must prove they were in the United States prior to a certain date. In the case of Ukrainians, that is March 1.
“Once they have TPS status they are not removable,” said Gomez, who specializes in asylum law. “They are relatively protected from immigration detention and are able to work lawfully during this time.”
TPS does not provide an avenue for lawfully entering the United States and will not be available to those who enter the country after that March 1 cut-off date.
… or are they?
Since March 2020, when the Trump administration implemented Title 42, more than 1.6 million times migrants have been expelled at the Mexican border without the chance to seek humanitarian protections, according to the Associated Press.
Title 42 is a public health law that prevents migrants from seeking asylum at the border due to the potential spread of COVID-19.
However, Reuters reports that Russians and Ukrainians encountered on the Southwest border with Mexico largely are allowed to state in the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on the Southwest border encountered 6,400 Russians and 1,000 Ukrainians from October 2021 through January, according to Reuters.
CBP told Border Report that the overall percentage of Russian and Ukrainian migrants encountered is relatively low when compared to other countries of origin. From the fiscal years 2019-22, both Russians and Ukrainians made up about 1% of migrant encounters.
Border Report asked CBP for the number of Ukrainians encountered on the Southwest border since Feb. 24, but we were told that those figures will be released at a later date.
CBP said the vast majority of migrant encounters at the southern border involve people from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Some Ukrainians are getting old-model vehicles in Mexico and driving them across the border into the United States to seek asylum, mostly from Tijuana, Mexico, into San Diego, California.
In South Texas, organizations that assist refugees report they have not seen an increase in Ukrainian asylum seekers coming to their facilities.
This includes the Humanitarian Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, in McAllen, Texas, as well as the La Posada Providencia shelter in San Benito, Texas.
“We have not,” Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Humanitarian Respite Center told Border Report.
Austin Kocher, a researcher with the nonprofit organization Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, said the international community is watching to see how Ukrainian refugees will be treated at the Southwest border, especially since so many asylum seekers of color, from Central and South America and Haiti have been expelled and deported under Title 42.
Currently, there are 4,000 Ukrainian asylum-seekers in removal proceedings by DHS, according to TRAC reports.
“So the benefit to those in removal proceedings is they won’t be deported to Ukraine although they could be deported to other countries,” Kocher said.
Kocher said an immigration lawyer told him they had a Ukrainian client who entered the United States on the Mexican border.
“It will be very interesting to see how the administration will handle this given that they have now flown many Haitian refugees back to Haiti on deportation flights over the last several months that has been so controversial for turning those refugees back,” Kocher said. “The U.S. will now have to contend with some of the refugee-receiving issues that countries in Europe have had to contend with, which is wait why are you letting these refugees come across as legitimate refugees when you are deporting others? … In Europe, it was North African and Syrian migrants, many of whom were turned back. In the United States it’s been often Black and LatinX refugees who have been turned back.”
“It will be interesting to see what happens at the southern border and if people from Ukraine do receive a different type of treatment than maybe somebody from Central America or Haiti,” Gomez said.