By ELLIOT SPAGAT
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration on Friday announced a major expansion of temporary legal status for Ukrainians already living in the United States, granting a reprieve for those who fled Russia’s invasion.
The move is expected to make 166,700 Ukrainians eligible for Temporary Protected Status, up from about 26,000 currently, the Homeland Security Department said. To qualify, Ukrainians must have been in the United States by Aug. 16, two days before the announcement. They are eligible for work authorization.
The temporary status was originally scheduled to expire on Oct. 19, 2023 but is being extended 18 months to April 19, 2025.
“Russia’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis requires that the United States continue to offer safety and protection to Ukrainians who may not be able to return to their country,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Also Friday, Homeland Security expanded Temporary Protected Status for Sudanese who were in the United States by Aug. 16, saying violent clashes in April have fueled instability. It estimated an additional 2,750 Sudanese would be eligible, bringing the total to 3,950. The new expiration date of April 19, 2025 marks the 16th extension since temporary status was first granted to Sudanese in 1997.
“Since the military takeover of its government and the recent violent clashes, Sudan has experienced political instability and ongoing conflict that has resulted in a humanitarian crisis,” Mayorkas said.
The expansions come as the administration extends Temporary Protected Status to people from a growing number of countries, including Cameroon, Haiti and Venezuela, as part of a carrot-and-stick approach to immigration that combines more legal entries on humanitarian grounds with more punitive measures against anyone who enters the country illegally.
A 1990 law allows the Homeland Security secretary to grant status in increments of up to 18 months to people already in the United States whose countries are struck by civil strife or natural disaster and are considered unsafe for return.
Ukrainians first got Temporary Protected Status immediately after Russia’s invasion. The administration added humanitarian parole for those not in the United States, a move that it considered so successful that it later did the same for people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Friday’s announcement gives additional time to Ukrainians whose two-year parole was due to expire early next year.
Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans face more uncertainty.
Texas and other Republican-led states are challenging parole for up to 30,000 people a month from those four countries but is not contesting status for Ukrainians. A trial is scheduled next week in Victoria, Texas.
Ukrainian immigrants are dispersed widely across the United States, with the largest concentrations in the New York, Chicago, Seattle and Sacramento, California, metropolitan areas.