One week after Russia attacked Ukraine, the U.S. announced a new Temporary Protected Status designation for undocumented Ukrainians in America, sheltering them from deportation to their war-torn homeland.
“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in an announcement providing TPS to Ukrainians for 18 months. The designation allows them to work legally in the U.S.
“In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States,” Mayorkas said.
There are about 28,000 Ukrainians eligible for the protected status in the U.S., according to the Center for Migration Studies.
An estimated 1 million people have fled Ukraine in search of safety since the start of the Russian invasion.
In response to the TPS designation for Ukraine, immigrant rights groups applauded the news but also called out a racist double standard on which immigrants the U.S. will swiftly offer such protections to.
“I am so glad that Ukrainians now have 18 months of Temporary Protective Status,” Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for immigrant rights group RAICES, said in a tweet. “It’s also painful to see how fast that was compared to Cameroon, Mauritania, other African and Central American countries that have had conflict for years and have gotten nothing.”
Immigrant rights groups have long been calling for the U.S. to provide TPS protections to people who came here to escape crisis conditions in their countries, including from Cameroon, Afghanistan, Guatemala and other Central American nations.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. currently grants TPS protections for people from Venezuela, Syria, Myanmar, Yemen, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan and South Sudan.
DHS did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Before the announcement, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) posted on Twitter her call for the U.S. to designate Ukraine for TPS and provide “these same protections to refugees from Africa, Middle East, Latin America, Asia.”
Immigrant rights group CLINIC noted that there have previously been calls for the U.S. to provide TPS protections to Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mauritania, Afghanistan and other countries.
“The backlog of TPS designations for Black-majority countries here in the U.S. mirrors the anti-Blackness we’re seeing as African students and others in Ukraine are denied access to escape the conflict,” CLINIC’s director of advocacy, Lisa Parisio, said in a statement.