U.S. Will Accept Up To 100,000 Ukrainians Fleeing the War

The United States will accept up to 100,000 refugees from Russia's war in Ukraine, a senior Biden administration official said Thursday, the biggest commitment yet by the U.S. to aid European countries bearing the brunt of the growing refugee crisis.

"To meet this commitment we are considering the full range of legal pathways to the United States" for refugees fleeing the invasion, the official said, speaking on background to announce details of the initiative.

The U.S. is considering accepting Ukrainian refugees through its refugee admissions program, or by offering humanitarian parole or visas that would allow refugees to enter the country, the official said.

The Biden administration will "expand and develop new programs" to help with the effort, with a focus on aiding refugees who have family members living in the United States, the official said.

Biden at NATO Summit
U.S. President Joe Biden looks on as he attends a North Atlantic Council meeting during a NATO summit at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022. Evelyn Hockstein/AFP via Getty Images

The official said the administration is also going to focus on vulnerable refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, in particular "LGBTQI plus individuals, those with medical needs, third country nationals" and journalists, among others.

Last October, President Joe Biden raised the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. to 125,000 in the 2022 fiscal year. That figure was a significant increase from the annual refugee cap of 15,000 set by former President Donald Trump.

The official said the administration still has "significant capacity" to accept refugees under the current cap, and is not expecting that the number of Ukrainians seeking to enter the country will push the U.S. beyond the limits for the fiscal year ending in September.

"We still expect most displaced Ukrainian citizens will want to stay in neighboring countries or elsewhere in" Europe, the official said.

The announcement came amid a busy day of diplomacy for President Joe Biden, who is meeting with NATO and European Union officials in Brussels to discuss their coordinated response to the war in Ukraine.

After the summits in Brussels, Biden is heading Friday to Poland, the country taking in the largest number of Ukrainian refugees. Earlier this month Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited a Polish border town accepting Ukrainian refugees on a tour of Eastern Europe.

The UN refugee agency said Monday that nearly 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country one month ago. The number includes 1.5 million children, UNICEF said last week.

Several million other Ukrainians have been displaced internally within the country as fighting between Russia and Ukraine continues into a second month.

In addition to Poland, many refugees of the war have also wound up in Romania, Slovakia, the Republic of Moldova and other countries in Europe.

A growing number of Ukrainians have also sought refuge in the U.S., but up until now most have faced challenges entering the country because of a pandemic-response rule limiting asylum-seekers.

Newsweek reported last week that some Ukrainian refugees who were able to cross the border were placed in detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after Biden had promised to welcome Ukrainian refugees "with open arms."

The senior administration official Thursday did not say when the U.S. would start implementing new programs, saying new details would be announced "in the days and weeks to come."