Kelly A. Gauger, deputy director in the Office of Refugee Admissions at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and Kit Taintor, vice president of policy and practice at Welcome.US and former refugee coordinator for the state of Colorado, discuss the Uniting for Ukraine program, humanitarian parole, and best practices for welcoming and supporting refugees in communities across the country.
FASKIANOS: Thank you, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations State and Local Officials Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. We’re delighted to have participants from forty-seven states and territories to discuss “Ukraine, Humanitarian Parole, and Refugee Resettlement.” Our discussion is on the record.
CFR is an independent and nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, publisher, and educational institution focusing on U.S. foreign policy. CFR is also the publisher of Foreign Affairs magazine, and CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Through our State and Local Officials Initiative, CFR serves as a resource on international issues affecting the priorities and agendas of state and local governments by providing analysis on a wide range of policy topics.
So we are so delighted to have Kelly Gauger and Kit Taintor with us today. We’ve shared their bios with you so I will give you a few highlights.
Kelly Gauger is the deputy director in the Office of Refugee Admissions at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Her work includes oversight of the administration’s annual report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions, development of the bureau’s budget for the Refugee Admissions Program, and managing oversight of its seven resettlement support centers worldwide. She also helps manage the bureau’s relationship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and Refugee Resettlement colleagues, and governments around the world.
Kit Taintor is vice president of policy and practice at Welcome.US, a national nonprofit initiative designed to empower Americans from across the country to welcome and support those seeking refuge in the United States. She previously served as refugee coordinator for the state of Colorado and specialized in efforts related to refugee and community integration such as employment, social and emotional wellness, and community empowerment. She also served as the senior advisor for New American Integration in the office of Colorado Governor Jared Polis. So thank you both for being with us today.
Kelly, I thought we could begin with you. We saw on March 24 President Biden’s announcement welcoming a hundred thousand Ukrainians to the U.S. Maybe you could begin by telling us how we are doing with that commitment and talk about the different pathways that Ukrainians can make their way to the U.S., given the war in their country.
GAUGER: Thank you, Irina, and good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us.
Sure. So let me talk about that announcement from President Biden. That number, which, by the way, is not a set limit—we may end up welcoming more than a hundred thousand Ukrainians. It may be less, depending on how many are interested.
There are two primary pathways for Ukrainians to seek protection, either temporary or permanent, in the United States. Following that announcement on March 24, on April 21 the president and, more importantly, the Department of Homeland Security announced a program called Uniting for Ukraine that allows individuals in the United States—and it’s a broad range of individuals; it’s not actually even just citizens but people who are lawfully present in the United States—can file an affidavit of support for a Ukrainian overseas who is outside of Ukraine and has fled the Russian war of aggression.
And then once—this is a brand new program that the Department of Homeland Security stood up in record time, as far as I’m aware, and then allows—once the sponsors or the supporters in the United States are vetted in terms of their ability to support Ukrainians for some period of time in the United States and there is a bit of a background check as well to protect against trafficking and other such issues, then the Ukrainian overseas is able to complete their part of the application—it’s all online—and then receive, eventually, permission to travel to the United States and it gives them permission to board an airplane to the United States. DHS has relationships with airlines that, you know, facilitates this permission. The person arrives at port of entry and Customs and Border Protection makes the final decision to parole the individuals into the United States.
I was on a call yesterday with DHS and they reported out some interesting statistics. So far, about thirty-seven thousand U for U supporters in the United States have filed applications indicating their interest to support a Ukrainian. As of yesterday, a little over twenty thousand Ukrainians had been given authorization to travel and, again, as of yesterday three thousand two hundred and twelve Ukrainian parolees had arrived and been given humanitarian parole at port of entry by CBP.
So I think some people are a little surprised that although there are twenty thousand authorizations only three thousand have arrived. That actually mirrors what both Canada and the U.K. have seen, who have announced similar programs. They actually announced similar programs before we did. We’re a little bit behind Canada and the U.K., but they also have a relatively lagging uptake in travel authorizations when you look at actual travel, and a lot of people think that that’s because a lot of Ukrainians are applying for these permissions to travel to our three countries but not necessarily intending to travel right away but to kind of have it in their back pocket as—you know, if things drag on in Ukraine and/or get worse that they can take advantage of the travel authorization. So we’ll see how long that delta of the twenty thousand authorizations and the three thousand actual arrivals persists.
OK. That’s Uniting for Ukraine. That’s a Department of Homeland Security program. I’m with the Department of State and we operate the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. We have been admitting Ukrainians and other nationalities of the former Soviet Union to the United States for many decades through a program called the Lautenberg Program, which is based on a piece of legislation that was passed by Congress in 1989 called the Lautenberg Amendment that lowered the evidentiary standards for religious minorities from the former Soviet Union seeking resettlement in the United States.
So they don’t have to show a well-founded fear of persecution. They have to show that they’re a member of the protected group, and it’s a much lower evidentiary standard. It leads to a much higher approval rate, close to 100 percent, actually. So when that program was established in 1989 it was, largely, used by Russian Jews to get to the United States. These days, it is more commonly used by Ukrainian evangelical Christians and others.
So we have long had this program that we’ve operated. It used to be based in Moscow until about five or six years ago when it became difficult for our partner, the International Organization for Migration, to operate in Moscow. So we moved the base of our operations to Kyiv about—I think it was about six or seven years ago, something like that. And so it’s one of our in-country programs. We have a clause in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that allows us to do in-country processing when authorized by the president, and the president has every year authorized in-country processing throughout the former Soviet Union. So this was an in-country program.
When the war began we had about eighteen thousand Ukrainians in our Lautenberg pipeline, meaning anyone ranging from people who had just had an application submitted on their behalf the day before to about to get on an airplane. So a wide range of people throughout the Lautenberg pipeline. I should mention Lautenbergs also have to have a relative in the United States to file an application for them to come through the Lautenberg Program.
So we—now that program has grown and we now have about twenty-four thousand Ukrainians in the pipeline. Some of those applications are so new we haven’t even really entered them and looked at them yet. But we only currently know the location of about twenty-five hundred of those twenty-four thousand people. We believe many of them are still in Ukraine where we actually can’t process them, but a number of them have come out and have notified us of their location.
So we had to temporarily shut down our office in Kyiv. We’ve relocated to Chișinău, Moldova, and we are also about to open another office in Warsaw—in Poland—because the largest number of Lautenbergs for whom we know their location outside of Kyiv are based in Poland and there are a little over a thousand of them in Poland.
So we are continuing to operate this program albeit with limited staff because none of the male Ukrainian staff of our resettlement support center have been permitted to leave Kyiv. So it’s only been the female staff who have been allowed to leave and move to Moldova and Poland. We’re hiring new staff to help them out. This resettlement support center is also processing all of our Afghan P-1 and P-2 referrals throughout Europe and Central Asia. So they have a big workload.
But the bottom line is there is this universe of about twenty-four thousand Ukrainians who could make their way to the United States as refugees over the course of the next, let’s say, year or two depending on their location and where they are in the process.
I don’t rule out that at some point we may be able to restart processing in Kyiv, maybe more likely in Lviv, which is a little bit further to the west and a little bit safer. But so there could be a time at which we are—we will be processing in Moldova, in Warsaw, and in Kyiv. We’re also capturing cases that based out of—based from our operations base in Moldova bases in Moldova and Poland will also be traveling to process cases that are located in other countries in the region such as Hungary, Romania, even Germany. So they’re mobile. They traveled.
I think I might end there just to, again, say so largest number of Ukrainians coming to the U.S. will come through Uniting for Ukraine. They won’t be coming with refugee status. They’ll have parole status. A smaller number, up to twenty-four thousand—although I think that’s really the high-water point of refugees over the next couple of years. And together I have no doubt, actually, that—I have little doubt that we will reach a hundred thousand Ukrainians who will arrive in the United States through one of these mechanisms.
And I’m going to turn it back to Irina, and I’ll be happy to answer questions at the end.
FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you.
So, Kit, we’re going to go to you now to talk about the work that you’re doing at Welcome.US and how are Ukrainians welcomed into your communities, and can you talk about the community partnerships that are being formed?
TAINTOR: Sure. Thank you, Irina, and thank you, Kelly, so much. Great to be here with all of you. I’m coming to you live from Colorado. So great to see so many of my state and local partners here on the call.
So, as Kelly said, the primary pathway that Ukrainians that are seeking refuge from the war will come here is through Uniting for Ukraine. Again, it’s a new program but it does use kind of an old tool, if you will, that old tool being the pathway of humanitarian parole, which requires somebody—a named sponsor—to sign what’s called a declaration of financial support. So it’s really like the affidavit of support that Kelly talked about before but it’s a little bit lighter touch, if you will. The responsibilities of the sponsors aren’t necessarily exactly the same. So I wanted to make sure as we use a bunch of information and acronyms that we’re on the same page about the technical details behind that work.
So, as Kelly mentioned, you know, this is one of the pathways and it’s really different than what we’ve seen before in the ways that we welcome newcomers, and what I mean by that it’s really different is because it does offer opportunities for everyday Americans like you and me to lean a bit more directly in to the welcoming process as sponsors, to sort of meet people at the airports, to help them find housing, and then to make sure that they have the documents that they need to have in order to restart their lives here.
And so we find it to be really exciting. We have engaged with, you know, thousands and thousands of people and organizations who have raised their hand and said, you know what, we’ve seen all those pictures that we’ve all seen in the news about Ukraine and Ukrainians. We know that there’s a crisis in Europe of 7 million folks. We know that there’s countries like Poland and Moldova that are stepping in to offer refuge for Ukrainians and we want to be part of this, and it’s been really great to sort of see everyday Americans step in and really say, you know, we see our role here. We see our role as global citizens and we really want to take a part of this program.
As Kelly said, you know, that you do have to have a sponsor and a beneficiary, so an individual will need to know somebody or find somebody in order to sponsor, and once that relationship is—and once that relationship is found people can begin to start the sponsorship process.
So I know that there’s some questions in the chat around sort of how do you start that sponsorship process, and so there’s two ways. One, I’m going to invite you all to visit Welcome.US’s Ukraine hub. We’ve partnered with USCIS at the Department of Homeland Security to offer a little bit of, like, plain language, if you will, that helps people understand the sponsorship process and begins to point towards the actual sponsorship application, which is actually on USCIS’ website.
A couple of quick notes that, I think, are really great about their website is that, one, this is an online application. So if any of you have worked with folks to fill in humanitarian parole applications before you’ll be very excited that this is no longer paper but it is an online application and there is no backlog.
So Kelly mentioned the numbers of folks that have been approved and so what that’s telling me was in the past five or six weeks that this program has been running is that it’s been running pretty smoothly and things are getting approved pretty quickly, which is a testament, definitely, to our friends at the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS that do sort of recognize that that process is relatively easy when we’re thinking about government processes. It’s not like filing taxes, to tell you the truth. It’s a lot easier to move through that process.
Another thing that I really like about the USCIS website is you’re able to create an account and you’re able to create an account in a way that you can see the full application, understand the different types of materials that you might need to show in order to move through that process.
You know, when you sign the declaration of financial support you’re, basically, saying that you can help make sure that person gets on their feet and stabilizes here in the United States. And so you can look through and see what sort of material you need to show that, maybe a bank statement, maybe the fact that you have a job, sort of a note from your employer, what assets you plan to use to support somebody with their housing expenses—along those sorts of lines. So just note that. You know, and things that are scary in government, this I-134 United for Ukraine application is not one of those and that’s really great to see.
You know, after that happens, again, you know, folks will get approved pretty quickly and you’ll begin to prep for arrival. People can arrive wherever in the United States. In the resettlement world there are sort of hubs of resettlement. So these tend to be larger cities where there are resettlement agencies. There doesn’t need to be a resettlement agency in the city where somebody arrives, so just sort of noting that key difference. But what we are seeing are patterns of arrival that really closely mirror where there are existing Ukrainian-American populations.
So you guys are active in your states and local communities so you probably know whether or not you have a large Ukrainian-American community but I’ll sort of call out those cities that come into focus for me, and those are New York, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Sacramento. So you’ll note that—again, that those are communities that have welcomed refugees before. They did just welcome Afghans and now that they are seeing Ukrainians, so just noting that that’s a pattern to be proud of because that recognizes that there are strong immigrant communities already in that space and then, again, that these are communities that are welcoming to newcomers.
You know, after someone arrives people are expected to help that newcomer kind of find their footing here in the United States and begin that pathway. Note that it is really important to recognize that humanitarian parole does not confer automatic work authorization. So you do have to apply for work authorization once you arrive.
If you check the USCIS website they do have a kind of tracker about how long work authorization applications are taking, depending on where you are in the United States. But I think that a pretty good marker and what we’ve seen for Afghans is around six months from date of arrival to people getting work authorization.
I do want to take a time out and note that our friends at the Department of Homeland Security made some recent changes that allowed for automatic worker extensions for other populations. So people who already had work authorization here in the United States no longer have to enter, for the lack of a better word, that queue. They are able to get that sort of automatic. And so we’re still hopeful—I think everybody in this process is hopeful that that’s going to clear out that backlog and so we might not be actually looking at six months. But that’s sort of what it looks like right now.
You know, once people get here, again, that sponsor is sort of supposed to help people find housing, connect with healthcare. One of the things that beneficiaries have to do soon after they arrive, for instance, is to get a TB test. So the sponsor would be really helping the beneficiary by helping them navigate that process.
But I want to take a time out here and celebrate something that happened over the weekend, and the thing that happened over the weekend is President Biden signed a(n) additional law that allows people who are coming in underneath Uniting Ukraine expanded access to some really, really key benefits that everyone on this call is excited about.
Those include, like, federal public benefits—Medicaid, SNAP, childcare assistance, TANF—all of those things that people might need to lean upon for a short amount of time before they’re able to have earned income in their families and to be able to provide that support. So really exciting, more than likely in your states. And I know in Colorado, for instance, people are figuring out, like, do they need to run emergency rules, what updates to their eligibility systems might they need to be doing. So note that that work is probably ongoing in your city to make sure that people when they apply with their humanitarian paperwork underneath Uniting for Ukraine that it is moving through that process.
But, again, one of my favorite things about Medicaid, in particular, is the ability to backdate Medicaid for ninety days. So I know that health insurance is a big concern for beneficiaries and for sponsors alike so just, really, always like to call that out that that’s a function of most states’ federal Medicaid eligibility rules.
The other thing that people became eligible for is services funded under the Office of Refugee Resettlement. So really exciting because that is the tool that works alongside other refugee populations to really make sure that people have connections to case management, employment, mental health services, legal services, all sorts of things.
It’s important for you guys to recognize that as federal funding flows from the Office of Refugee Resettlement it flows in two distinct ways, if I can oversimplify things. One is it might flow directly to refugee resettlement agencies in your local community to offer some of those case management or employment supports.
But there’s other money that comes straight to states, and so we do expect for money to come in to state refugee coordinator offices, which could be within state government or outside state government, depending on where you are, that allows the state sort of from a state perspective to figure out where the gaps that this money needs to fill, based on what they’re seeing in local communities that Ukrainian beneficiaries need.
You know, I think the mantra of me and my counterparts that come out of states is, really, that immigration policy is federal. Immigration integration is local. So a lot of the work that’s going to happen over the next couple of days, weeks, and months is really going to be a lot of that integration work that is more than likely already happening in many of the communities that you represent and happening in a good portion, in part, by community organizations.
One thing, Irina, that we’re really tracking is that refugee resettlement agencies are going to be able to avail themselves of some federal dollars. But there’s some other really key organizations over the past couple of weeks and months that have leaned into this space, most especially our organizations that are Ukrainian-American led, and it’s been really, really great to see them pivot from being primarily, you know, like, cultural or education institutions. Maybe they held Ukrainian classes after school or celebrated big holidays. But they have really stepped up and stepped in.
So one of my recommendations to state and local partners is to really make sure that you’re pulling in that Ukrainian-American community and, potentially, the community that serves different types of immigrant populations to help wrap their arms around the refugee resettlement infrastructure, knowing that the refugee resettlement infrastructure just went through an overwhelming number of Afghans coming into your cities and to your locations. And so if I were them I would be exhausted. I would be appreciative of the help. So just noting that as you go forth and plan for Ukrainians coming in that I would really invite you to figure out, like, who else in the community can make—has the skills and the expertise that might be able to help a state out or a local community out or a nonprofit ecosystem out with a lot of that work.
And, again, Irina, we’ve been super grateful and excited to see the number of Americans, American institutions, American agencies, really standing up and wanting to be part of it, you know, as sort of an historic event on top of, you know, another historic event and really allows us to showcase as Americans what we mean by welcoming and knowing that, again, you know, we’re a nation of immigrants. We were, you know, always meant to be a place where people could find refuge, and these two opportunities—the arrival of Afghans and the arrivals of Ukrainians underneath Uniting for Ukraine—really allow us to step in in ways that, I think, are key.
We’ve got a lot of stuff on our website that I want to sort of forecast, but I want to note that the team of the Council for Foreign Relations is going to send this out for you. So don’t feel like you need to scribble it down. We’ve got a Ukraine hub. A couple of really great things on the Ukraine hub right now are links to resources for sponsors.
So, for instance, if a sponsor is thinking, huh, I wonder how much money I need to make sure that I have three or four months of support for this Ukrainian family that I want to bring into my community we have a budget template. It’s super simple but it does help you thinking about how you do that. We really encourage that people use that template to work with friends. It can be a lot to sponsor a newcomer and so do it in community. Do it with the church. Do it with your bridge group. Do it alongside an organization. Do it alongside an employer. There are lots of great—different great opportunities where you don’t have to do it alone.
Other things that we’ve got on our website, hot off the presses an hour ago is, like, a guide for filling out the I-134 United for Ukraine humanitarian parole application. So kind of like the tips and tricks that we’re seeing, you know, about that, common questions that have been coming up, and, really, wanting to drill down on more specificity to folks.
We’ve got an explainer on our website that will be updated tomorrow—so just forecasting that for you guys as well—with a little bit more detail. For instance, one of the questions that we’re getting is, can I bring a pet if I’m coming in underneath Uniting for Ukraine as a beneficiary. So those types of questions will be answered there.
Next week we’ll have a little bit kind of more in depth of a(n) engagement module. That’ll be—a Sponsorship 101 is up there now but I’m calling it, like, a Sponsorship 401. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a 201. It’s really a 401. Takes you all the way through making sure that sponsors understand power dynamics that might exist in relationships between sponsor and beneficiaries, all the way to how do I find out who a federally qualified health care center in my area might be that I need to connect to—my beneficiary to.
So a lot of really great resources. We’re so excited to partner with USCIS at the Department of Homeland Security to do this. We’ve also been partnering with the Office of Refugee Resettlement at Health and Human Services and also partnering with Offices of New Americans and state refugee offices across the United States.
So a lot of good work. I hope that this saves everybody time, to tell you the truth, that we put all the information up there, and you can just point folks to our website as you get interest, whether someone wants to be a sponsor or just wants to understand a little bit more about Uniting for Ukraine.
So thanks, Irina.
FASKIANOS: That was great. Thank you both for the international view and the local view, and, as Kit said, we will send out links to the URLs through the websites and other links that were mentioned so, again, you don’t have to worry about that.
I’m going to take—we are now going to your questions so you can either raise your hands. We would love to hear your voice—(laughs)—and we already have two raised hands. Great. Or you can put your question—write it in the Q&A box and I will try to get to those as well.
So the first raised hand comes from Matt Joseph. Please unmute yourself and identify yourself so we know what state you’re coming from and what your—give us the context.
Q: Hello. This is Matt Joseph. I’m a Dayton city commissioner here in Dayton, Ohio.
We are proud to be a welcoming city, and the question I have is actually a practical one. We have a very large concentration of Ahiska Turks here and they have many relatives in Ukraine. So they’re—a number of the groups have asked me about how to get the relatives here. So we were thrilled when this program came out.
But the difficulty we’re having is a practical one and that is how do we get them here. Have you seen any models of how it works? Are sponsors paying individually for folks to come? I assume that’s probably the overriding one. In our case, a lot of people who would be sponsors that would be a pretty big burden on them.
So I’m actually trying to organize now and trying to figure out how to get folks here and any suggestions you have would be welcome. Thank you.
GAUGER: Kit, I’m going to defer to you to start that answer, at least. I think you might have a better, more fulsome answer than I might.
TAINTOR: Yeah. I think—so I think one of the things is, is that this is—this is an issue—so I want to recognize that this is an issue in Dayton and it’s an issue for other communities, as well, that that we recognize. Right now, after that travel authorization is granted, the onus is on the sponsor or the beneficiary to find flights. We are trying to work with partners, such as Miles for Migrants or other groups like that, to make sure that some of the things that have been set up for other populations seeking refuge are also available to other folks.
I just want to sort of note that with all of Kelly’s great—the numbers we are still about six weeks—five or six weeks into a relatively new program. So thanks for kind of compassion and patience there while we also understand the urgency.
So I’ll note on that particular piece there’s also a lot of conversations around how we make sure that we backstop families with funds for sponsors and things like that. So I would really invite an offline conversation, Matt, that we can have to make sure that your community is sort of tied in as those things become more available.
FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to Ryann Woods, who is, I think, from—it’s a written question of—policy analyst from—in the Housing Community Development and Veterans Office about what is the difference between refugee and parolee status, and I think it would be good just to give that definition so that people are clear on that.
GAUGER: Sure. Sorry that we didn’t do that at the beginning. Refugee status—if you arrive via the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program you arrive immediately work authorized, although, I guess, you’d still have to complete a form for an EAD. But you’re work authorized. You are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence in one year and citizenship in five. So it is a path to citizenship.
Parole is a—it’s a status or a route of—that DHS allows someone to travel to the United States for people who don’t have another pathway to the United States. So people are actually not supposed to be paroled in if they have a refugee pathway to the United States.
Various administrations have used it in different ways. The Trump administration severely, severely restricted the use of parole. The Biden administration is using it very expansively. So it’s, basically, a status that allows you to be lawfully present in the United States and to apply for work authorization but it does not lead to any permanent status. For the most part, if someone comes here on parole and wants to stay, they most likely will have to apply for asylum with the Department of Homeland Security.
TAINTOR: I’ll note that that’s also a high bar. Asylum is a pretty high bar, Kelly, as you note, and so just noting that people can apply but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s something that’s going to be approved. And a lot of folks coming in through the Uniting for Ukraine program might not actually have kind of viable asylum applications, so just noting that while we’re so excited about the urgency—we were able to get here people so quickly and that is such a win—there is sort of the flipside of that is this is a temporary status and it doesn’t confer a path to permanency, and it can be a pretty high bar to move for permanency for a lot of these folks.
GAUGER: Yeah, that is very true. We actually were just speaking with USCIS this afternoon about that, that although Lautenberg Ukrainians don’t have to show a well-founded fear of persecution, other Ukrainians would. And it is unclear right now how strong many persecution claims or many asylum claims from Ukrainians might be.
FASKIANOS: Thank you.
I’m going to go next to Montana Senator Shannon O’Brien., who has raised her hand.
Q: There we go. Hi there. Thanks so much. Really appreciate you being here or sharing.
I just wanted to, I guess, invite or ask if—the National Conference of State Legislatures has a summit that’s in Denver—Kit, I see you’re in Colorado—the 1st of August, and I’ll put that in the chat. But I’m in Missoula. We have soft landing, which has been great. Folks are coming. And I think increased awareness would be really helpful. Our legislature has not been really excited to invite people to Montana, and so I think just some increased awareness would be real helpful. So it would be great to have you there. Thank you.
TAINTOR: I would love it. As you said, I mean, I think that there’s a lot of opportunities for communication and making sure everyone’s on the same page. I think, you know, I feel very overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in the news. I’m sure everybody feels overwhelmed with all of what’s happening. And so we would definitely invite in additional opportunities to make sure people feel informed about this opportunity and also kind of the opportunity that it presents to everyday Americans to welcome folks.
FASKIANOS: Great. That’s a great suggestion, Senator, and we’re in touch with NCSL. So we’ll make that connection, too.
All right. So let’s go to the next question. I’m going to take a written question from Julia Spiegel, who’s in the office of the California governor, deputy legal affairs secretary: Do you have recommendations for what kinds of immigration relief may be available for Ukrainians who are already here, for example those who are on J-1 visas?
TAINTOR: So, Kelly, I can take a stab at this if you’d like. So I want to remind folks about the temporary protected status that happened. And, Kelly, please correct me if my data’s wrong, but I believe that you had to be in the United States on April 11th. Does that feel right?
GAUGER: So I know that there was an initial date established and then another date was established later. Was April 11th the second date?
TAINTOR: I think so. It’s either April 1st or April 11th, but maybe I’ll google it, Irina, and we can send it out as a follow up.
TAINTOR: But just noting that if you were in the United States on that day, you now have the opportunity to apply for temporary protected status. And so note temporary protected status is temporary, but then I’d also like to reflect that we’ve had Salvadorans on temporary protected status since the 1990s. And so there are all—you know, all sorts of different, you know, ways that that has been implemented, and temporary protected status, like the J-1 visa, allows for employment and allows for a certain set of benefits—not as robust as a status like refugee status would allow you to, but some really great benefits, especially of course in California with your very robust and inclusive public policies. So just noting that I think a lot of it is individualized.
And in these cases, you know, we are also hearing about Ukrainians who arrived on B-1/B-2 sort of tourist visas as well, so just noting that each case is going to be slightly different. I know immigration lawyers and law firms and legal services providers are overwhelmed, but I think it is a—is an opportunity to check in with them and figure out what those available pathways might be kind of if that’s—if that’s the situation that you’re seeing.
GAUGER: And I might just add I’m looking at a DHS dashboard that as of yesterday they had received 10,489 TPS applications from Ukrainians since April 19th, so a pretty significant number of Ukrainians. I don’t know how that compares to the number of Ukrainians who are present in the United States, but a pretty significant number have applied for TPS.
I’m going to go next to Idaho Representative Lance Clow. And if you can unmute yourself. There you go.
Q: OK. Yeah, I am a representative. My question kind of comes—our extended family, my daughter and my son-in-law who’s sitting with me right now, are sponsoring a Ukrainian gal that’s coming to the United States. She arrives in June. We already got tickets and all that.
So a couple of questions. You’ve answered about work, but she’s actually a student at one of the universities in Ukraine, so—and she’s been living—she got out of the country. She went to Spain and she’s on her way to the United States. Will she be able to enroll in universities and colleges in Idaho? Because that may be a requirement for her to continue her online education with her Ukrainian university. Is there some kind of rule like that?
And then I have another question, quickly.
TAINTOR: I’ll answer that quickly. Yeah, she should be able to enroll, Representative. I think one of the questions is whether or not she would be eligible for in-state tuition. There have been a couple of states, Colorado included, that have passed laws that allow in-state tuition upon arrival for refugees and other folks, but I don’t think that that’s common. I anticipate that probably in-state tuition is reserved for people who have resided in Idaho for, let’s say, a year. So just sort of flagging that it’s a yes, but then also she’s probably going to be classified for out-of-state tuition.
My other question. You referenced asylum—you know, this parole visa is two years, and then after that they can apply for asylum. What is the significance of eventually applying for asylum? I’ve got the impression you can’t return to the country.
GAUGER: Well, if you—yeah. If you apply for asylum, it provides permanent status in the United States. And, yes, a DHS asylum officer would probably look critically at somebody who had since returned—you know, if they had come to the United States and then returned to Ukraine and then came home or came back to the United States.
Getting asylum in the United States does not mean that you can never return home. Actually, many people who get asylum or refugee status in the United States at some point return home. Maybe I shouldn’t say many, but a lot. I know a lot of people that have arrived through the Lautenberg program over the years have eventually gone home.
And also, I just wanted to say I have heard—and Kit, you can correct me if you’ve heard differently—I have heard from DHS that at the end of the two years you can also apply for an additional two years. I don’t know what the likelihood is that an additional two years will be granted, but there is—the DHS has held up the possibility that at the end of two years someone could apply for another two years.
TAINTOR: Yeah. Representative, one thing I would point out is that I think people have different comfort levels in traveling when they’re on sort of a legal permanent residence or a green-card status and when they travel once they’re a citizen. So just noting Kelly mentioned before that the distance between getting legal permanent residence, which is a pathway for asylum, and then getting citizenship is about—you know, about five years total if not a little bit more. And so what we find with a lot of folks is they find more comfort in leaving once they’re a citizen because they’re a naturalized citizen and so, you know, returning home isn’t as big of a deal as might be if your asylum case is still continuous or if your situation is a green card. So just want to throw that out that, you know, once you become a citizen, then you have the same rights as every other citizen in the United States and people feel a lot more comfortable traveling at that time.
Q: Thank you very much.
FASKIANOS: Thank you.
I’m going to go next to Steve Bloess—I’m probably not pronouncing that correctly—who’s written a question but also raised his hand. So if you could identify yourself—unmute and identify yourself. And I this is probably for you, Kelly.
Q: I’m Steve Bloess. I’m just a poor, poor councilman in Sedalia, Missouri.
We’ve got a lot of Ukrainian residents in Pettis County, about five thousand, which is the surrounding county. We’re the county seat. We’ve done a lot with them raising funds, but some of the funds have been—have gone to—and thank you guys for everything you’ve done. I know you’ve been catching them faster than you can string them for months. But they have a lot of relatives or did have a lot of relatives in the last couple weeks, last time I talked to them, they are—that they’re taking things to at the Mexican border, and they want to get them in as quickly as they can. So can—would this—would you guys point me in the right direction? Will the Lautenberg situation help them? Would someone contact me maybe later with my email address and help me untangle the process for them so that they can help their family members south of us?
GAUGER: Sure. Kit, I’m going to start and then I’ll have—ask you to come in behind me.
So a large number of Ukrainians successfully approached the southern border and were paroled into the United States. However, once Uniting for Ukraine was announced on that day in April, which I think was April 21st, the Department of Homeland Security, it’s my understanding, stopped paroling people in at the southern border and instead have directed people to Uniting for Ukraine. And so anyone—any Ukrainian who is present in Mexico right now needs to go through the Uniting for Ukraine process that Kit and I have spoken about.
The online application that Kit describes as being relatively user-friendly and—I don’t want to say simple, but you know, especially if you go to Welcome.US and look at their Ukraine information. So people are not being—from my understanding, people are not being paroled in at the southern border. So they need to get online, do the application, have someone in the United States do the I-134 affidavit of support, and then get approved, and then request the permission for travel, and then travel to the United States and request humanitarian parole with CBP when they arrive.
FASKIANOS: OK. We’ll go on.
I’m going to go next to Mayor Jennifer Talley, if you can unmute yourself.
Q: Hi. Jennifer Talley, mayor of Graham, North Carolina.
I have hosted thirteen exchange students through the years, and all of my exchange students when they left and went through this process always went back to their wonderful families. But I have a daughter that was in Venezuela, and everyone knows what’s happened kind of in Venezuela, but eventually, basically, like fifteen of her family members came here to America and sought asylum. And I know like for the first six months they can’t work. They have to basically have someone to kind of sponsor them, give them a place to live, all of that sort of thing. And now they’re just thriving. I mean, they’re just doing so well.
My question is, is under this program are they—like, is our goal really to be trying to find families that will support them for a period of time until they can work? Or what is that time period? Like, what do we—what do we need to be asking people to do? Because, obviously, I have a lot of connections in the—in the exchange student program, people with extra rooms in their houses and that sort of thing that would be most likely very willing to help. So I’m not really sure from this program what we’re supposed to be looking for in our communities to be able to assist. So that’s what I’m looking for, some direction today.
GAUGER: Kit, I’m going to turn that to you.
TAINTOR: Thanks, Kelly.
And, Mayor, so happy to hear about the folks from Venezuela. That’s often what we see, is that given an opportunity, given a door to walk through, people do thrive in the United States. So really great to hear about that story.
You know, folks coming in is going to be really dependent on their individual situation. I want to, you know, remark that we have seen a fair number of Ukrainian beneficiaries who already worked remote, let’s say, and will be able to work remote here. Those folks might not need a ton of support. Other folks might be starting from scratch. Their assets might have been wiped out, they might not have any income, and that they’ll need sort of that path forward. So before I sort of answer the question specifically, I just want to acknowledge the fact that every single person is going to be different and sort of have different pathways to stability and economic security here in the United States.
What we recommend are two things. One is to encourage sponsors or sponsor groups or, you know, sponsors alongside organizations or businesses or other folks that can help them raise the money. Would be about $3,000 per newcomer, and that’s just sort of based on what lived experience looks like, adding into account, you know, sort of the path forward for folks. But we also do have that budget template I talked about, Mayor, that also lines out sort of what cost might somebody need to cover, and I really recommend going through that. That can help you visualize, you know, if you are—you know, for instance, if the beneficiary is staying in your basement apartment, you don’t need to think about housing, and so that might change the amount of money that you need to raise for that particular family. If you’re sponsoring a family of seven and they’ve got, you know, kids and dogs and all that sort of stuff, maybe they’re not going to fit into your basement apartment and you are going to need to help them find an apartment in North Carolina to make sure that they feel safe and secure. So just note we recommend about $3,000 per beneficiary, but that is just an average and, you know, might be different dependent on the case of the beneficiary, the cost of living where you live, whether or not you’re going be able to offer them housing, and the other things that you might be able to either fundraise or fund and support.
The other thing we do have on our website, to just make note of this, Mayor, is a fundraising tool. So, for instance, if people are really concerned about raising that money, we do really recommend that people ask neighbors to lean in. We’ve heard a lot from people who say I can’t sponsor but I want to help. I think you’ll find that in Graham, North Carolina, too. So, you know, that’s also sort of a recommended tool that we’ve got there to help people visualize, A, what they’re going to need, and then work towards being able to plan for it.
I’m going to go next to Cody Allen, who’s with the Southern Legislative Conference in Georgia: What resources are there for states looking to ease access to occupational licenses for refugees? In Georgia, we have a lot of refugees who are underemployed.
TAINTOR: Well, I personally love this question because it’s one that we get a lot. And it’s not, you know, just refugees, but it’s immigrants, it’s humanitarian parolees, it is all folks. And one of the things I want to make clear is that most of occupational licensing is at the state level, not the federal level.
So noting that there’s a lot of that, what folks can do on the ground, I know NCSL has had a lot of work in this space as well as other—as other local partners. It’s a known issue. It’s a challenging issue. But really, the power to change this is at the state and local level, and so I encourage folks to get in contact with their department of—regulatory agencies or whatever wherever occupational license is overseen to see what they’re working on in this particular space.
Go next to Frederick Sneesby, who has his hand raised.
Q: Yeah, hi.
FASKIANOS: There you go.
Q: In Rhode—I’m in Rhode Island.
And when the Afghans came, most everyone came as humanitarian parolees and they came through the resettlement agencies. And so when I’m looking at the Ukrainians coming as parolees, and you had mentioned either through Uniting for Ukraine or Lautenberg, but will there be another portal, if you will, established through the resettlement agencies? And the reason I ask is that thinking ahead that—of numerous sponsors bringing people into the state sort of invites chaos in terms of finding housing, accessing medical care, getting into schools, employment, education, and so forth—meeting basic needs. When people are flowing through the resettlement agencies, there’s a better chance of coordination and collaboration among a bunch of social-service agencies.
So I’m just wondering—two questions, I guess. Is there going to be another portal, for lack of a better word, flowing through the resettlement agency system? And is there a way to find out who the sponsors are in Rhode Island if people are coming through Uniting for Ukraine just so we can begin to organize a little bit better?
GAUGER: I’m going to start and say I’m really glad that you asked this question because I asked my colleague Holly Herrera, who is in charge of our domestic resettlement team, the very same question this morning. I said, this is great that we—that Ukrainians are now eligible because of recent legislation that the president signed over the weekend, but how do they know? Because these Ukrainians are not coming through our traditional program. And she—Kit, her answer was that she thought that the Office of Refugee Resettlement was going to use their Preferred Communities funding to kind of spread the word about this.
But I wonder if you—oh, there’s Holly. I wonder if either of you have any further information about that, because I agree it would be great to make sure that Ukrainians coming through United for—Uniting for Ukraine are aware that they can access these programs through resettlement agencies.
TAINTOR: Yeah, one thing that I’ll just sort of dive in in—and Frederick, I know—I know that you know this well—is that there are other populations that are eligible—other immigrant populations that are eligible for Office of Refugee Resettlement services that do not come through the United States Refugee Admissions Program. So good examples of this would be people that have been granted asylum, so asylees become eligible for our benefits. You know, Cuban/Haitian entrants are often eligible for benefits. So it’s not something that we haven’t faced before, but does necessarily—does, to your point, need a different toolkit, if you will.
And so one of the reasons that I’d really bring up working with United—Ukrainian-American organizations or other organizations that have stepped forward in this space to provide support for sponsors, as those are natural nexuses to get this sort of information out. That is really different than what we rely on.
I am always reminded about the fact that refugee resettlement agencies don’t necessarily have to go out and find their clients; their clients come to them as part of the USRAP program, and this is a little bit different. And so I think that ORR is thinking about this through the Preferred Communities and also invite in state and local governments to also think about, as money begins to flow from the federal government, how might infrastructures need to look a little bit different to make sure that the word gets out. Simply because, you know, for instance, we know that people aren’t going to just, you know, kind of be assigned a case manager at a resettlement agency; that they’re really going to have to learn about that resettlement agency, find that resettlement agency, and ultimately advocate for their services at that particular agency.
So, Holly, I don’t know if you want to add anything. Yeah.
GAUGER: Holly, do you want to add?
HERRERA: Yes. I think you—I think you both covered it very well. The only thing I wanted to mention, too, is that with this population, you know, they do have supporters that they are going to be helping them in the United States.
So when you talk about services that the resettlement agencies typically provide for refugees and for the Afghan parolees such as enrolling in school and so on and getting connected to services, those same resettlement agencies and partners will also likely be receiving funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to serve Ukrainians. And so they will help when needed to do some of the things like connecting them to schools and other services, and then certainly providing a lot of the funded services that ORR is going to be providing.
FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you.
I’m going to go next to Christina Bruce-Bennion. Christina, do you want to just ask your question? Or I can read it. Let me give you the opportunity to—putting her on the spot.
OK. I do not see her coming on, so I will just ask is. So Christina is with the Idaho Office for Refugees. And—
Q: I’m sorry. I think it might have just let me unmute. Can you hear me?
FASKIANOS: Oh, there we go. Yes. Great. Thank you.
Q: I didn’t see the way to unmute for a minute. Thanks for taking my question and thanks for the information.
This is a little bit of a follow-on, I guess, to the previous question. But in our office we’ve been thinking a lot about sort of the equity as people are landing, in some cases where there is resettlement and some cases where there is not. And in a state like Idaho where they are—you know, it’s really big distances between certain communities, and if they’re eligible for things like RCA—which is great; we’re super happy to see that addition to the landscape. You know, there are just a lot of things on the—like, the implementation level, right, that are really—I mean, you know, Kit could probably roll her eyes when she thinks about data or, you know, things like that. But you know, there’s—there is just a lot of stuff on the—you know, just thinking, again, about this, like, access.
And so I guess I’m curious, maybe Kelly, one from PRM’s perspective—even though I know a lot of this is running through DHS and not PRM—but, like, what are the—sort the equity questions or the equity—you know, in terms of, like, what if someone doesn’t access services and doesn’t get them and that? You know, like, you know, who’s—I guess the onus is on whom for that? You know, like, is it really up to the client to, like, seek out, are the agencies really trying to track down?
And then, from a data perspective and just kind of, again, sort of this equity piece, like, if we don’t know that people are coming in or a sponsorship circle, like, never reaches out or isn’t in a resettlement community, I don’t know, I guess it’s—yeah. So we’re all still learning and I think the infrastructure thing definitely has to improve on our end for sure. But just those are a lot of the questions we’ve been thinking about because they’re—from our perspective, the immigration status doesn’t change what they’ve been through and the kind of support that they will need. And so, yeah, I guess that’s—if you have any thoughts on that. Thank you.
GAUGER: Christina, good to hear from you. It’s been a long time.
Holly, I’m going to turn that over to you if you have thoughts about that. It’s, frankly, not—it’s not an issue that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. Maybe I should, now that you’ve answered—asked the question. But—and maybe the following assumption is incorrect, but I actually have been operating under the assumption that there are going to be quite a number of Ukrainians who will be coming here to join family members who won’t seek benefits out at all and won’t need them, and that their family members are applying for them to come for a certain amount of time knowing that, you know, they’ll be providing a place for them to stay and so on. I, frankly, don’t even know how many Ukrainians will be seeking work here.
So it’s not—it’s admittedly not an issue that I have thought a lot about. But, Holly or Kit, I wonder, maybe starting with Holly, is this something that you’ve thought about?
HERRERA: Yes. What I would say is that—so it is the Office of Refugee Resettlement and Health and Human Services who has received the supplemental appropriation to serve Ukrainians, and they are currently working on just this question: What is the best way to ensure access given, as Kelly says, that the need for services may not be the same as with other populations?
But in terms of ensuring that those who do need services and assistance—whether it’s medical assistance or, you know, enrollment in particular programs, employment, so on—whether that’s available to them. And so while nothing has been finalized yet—and I’m sitting here in a room with my partners right now and conversing with them about just this topic—is that they are considering, first of all, two things, at least to this point that I know of, are working with the states, the state refugee coordinators. Some may be on this call. So the state refugee coordinators will have that overview of the entire state and the programs and systems that they need to stand up in order to ensure that services are accessible. And then, secondly, working with remote services. So Preferred Communities was mentioned earlier. I don’t think that’s set in stone yet. But the idea being that you could perhaps have a remote program like Preferred Communities be that access point for services for the Ukrainians.
And perhaps Kit has more to add.
FASKIANOS: Kit, over to you.
TAINTOR: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s so great, Christina, that you’re thinking about this, because I actually think that you have the most power—(laughs)—of this about—of any of us, because a lot of the money will be coming to you. And the Idaho Office of Refugees, you know, obviously, has large statutory authority to determine how to solve the very question that you’re asking. So just noting that I’m super excited that you’re thinking about it.
Some of Welcome.US’s recommendations that we’ve put in to our friends over at HHS really follow along some of these things. How do we make sure that, you know, states are given the sort of flexibility and adaptability that they need within the regulations to make sure that these sorts of new programs or innovations can be rolled out, especially as, you know—you know, we saw private sponsorship, let’s say, in the Afghans that you talked about, we’ll see it more of a program coming forward? And so how can this opportunity be used to sort of begin to change a little bit about the way that states structure their programs? So I think that’s one of our recommendations.
And then one of our other recommendations is to really think about how ORR in particular might be able to support some of the organizations that are already doing this work, noting that they’re already connected to beneficiaries, they’re already connected to sponsors. And so sort of we won’t be putting the pressure on resettlement agencies or the resettlement agency infrastructure that exists to do all of the outreach and engagement, but instead really partnering with organizations, again, that are already doing this work to allow them to provide equity through their lanes of services to make sure that we’re not necessarily reliant on a very narrow kind of path for people to get involved but we’re opening the door for more Americans, American institutions, and American agencies to be involved.
But super excited that you’re thinking about it. I’m always happy to brainstorm offline on what I think other states are looking at that potentially, you know, might be of relevance to your community.
GAUGER: Maybe, Irina, one last word from me. And I see it’s almost or it is 3:30, so we probably need to wrap up. But something that has occurred to me during this call, most particularly during Kit and Holly’s recent comments, but also a question that a gentleman asked—I’m sorry; I don’t remember he was from—asked about whether states can find out where sponsors are located. And, Kit, I wonder if you might be the most familiar with this. It would be interesting to know if anyone has asked the Department of Homeland Security if they could provide some more granular information to—I don’t know whom—to ORR, to the states about where exactly people are. I mean, I’m looking at, I think—I’m looking at the DHS dashboard that shows, you know, the top area—New York; Newark, New Jersey; Jersey City, 5,806 people—but that’s a—that’s a big territory, right? So would they be willing to provide like a state-by-state, maybe even a city-by-city report? Has that—do you know if anyone has asked DHS about that?
TAINTOR: Every Friday. (Laughs.)
GAUGER: You do?
TAINTOR: Yeah. So I think—I think you mentioned before that there are only, you know, three thousand or so people that arrived, so I just don’t think we’ve tipped into the place where that information can be both protective and public. So I do understand from our USCIS and DHS friends that they are working on what to display and how to display it for the very reasons, but I want to be, you know, really kind of clear that what USCIS has is they have where a sponsor applied.
GAUGER: Right, right.
TAINTOR: It’s not necessarily where the beneficiary is. And the, secondarily there’s probably not a world in which the sponsor is identified, but there is a world in which information is shared with states and local communities to allow you to know where to do outreach and engagement to make sure that sponsors step forward and identify themselves.
GAUGER: Yeah, true. That number I just gave, yes, I didn’t clarify. That was the number of supporters, not the number of Ukrainians in that area. So, yeah, no, point taken.
FASKIANOS: Great. Well, I’m sorry that this hour’s just disappeared, vanished. It was such—
TAINTOR: This was a great discussion.
FASKIANOS: Great discussion, great engagement from all of you, and thank you for the work you’re doing in your communities. There are so many more questions. Just to say it again, we will be sending out a link to the video and the transcript, as well as, you know, going through all the resources that were mentioned. But I will just leave you with the Ukrainian hub is Ukrainian.Welcome.US, right, Kit? That’s the correct URL? But again, we will put that in an email to all of you. Thank you for all that you’re doing and thank you, Kit Taintor and Kelly Gauger. We really appreciate all the work that you’re doing in your respective areas on this issue, which is so important to us and to humanity. So thank you very much.
So, again, you can follow us, CFR’s State and Local Officials Initiative, on Twitter at @CFR_local. And of course, always please come to CFR.org and ForeignAffairs.com for information on foreign policy, different expertise and analysis.
So, again, thank you, Kelly and Kit.
GAUGER: Thanks for all the great—
TAINTOR: Thank you.
GAUGER: Thanks for all the great questions, everybody. Take care.