Biden administration will extend immigration relief to Ukrainians in the US

The Department of Homeland Security will allow Ukrainians who are in the United States to remain in country under a form of humanitarian relief, according to three sources familiar with the decision.

By Priscilla Alvarez and Lauren Fox, CNN

(CNN) -- The Department of Homeland Security will allow Ukrainians who are in the United States to remain in the country under a form of humanitarian relief.

The relief -- known as Temporary Protected Status -- applies to people who would face extreme hardship if forced to return to homelands devastated by armed conflict or natural disasters, therefore the protections are limited to people already in the United States. The DHS secretary has discretion to designate a country for TPS.

"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," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the move. "In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States."

CNN previously reported on the expected announcement.

About 75,100 people are estimated to be eligible to file applications for TPS under the designation of Ukraine, according to a DHS spokesperson, which is more than double previous estimates. Individuals must have continuously resided in the US since March 1 to be eligible, and the TPS designation will be in place for 18 months.

The Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, had forecast that some 30,000 Ukrainians on visas could benefit from this protected status. Visas are issued on a temporary basis, and extending TPS to Ukrainians on visas would shield them from deportation when those visas expire.

The Biden administration has been under pressure from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, along with immigrant advocates, to provide protections to Ukrainians in the US who can't return to war-torn Ukraine.

In a letter to President Joe Biden this week, a bipartisan group of senators urged the administration to extend the relief, writing: "Forcing Ukrainian nationals to return to Ukraine in the midst of a war would be inconsistent with America's values and our national security interests."

Ukraine joins a list of 12 countries, like South Sudan and Venezuela, that have also been designated for TPS.

Earlier Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it paused deportation flights to Ukraine, citing the "ongoing humanitarian crisis."

"Amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis occurring in Ukraine, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has paused repatriation flights to Ukraine. ICE will continue to monitor the ongoing situation and make operational changes as necessary," said an agency spokesperson.

ICE often pauses enforcement activity in the event of a conflict or natural disaster.

This story has been updated with a statement from DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

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