Washington — The U.S. will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians who have fled the violence and attacks on their home country by Russian forces in the weeks since it invaded, the White House said Thursday.
News of the Biden administration's plans to welcome the Ukrainians into the U.S. came asas part of broader efforts with NATO and European Union partners to continue its coordinated response to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.
More than 3.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in late February, and more than half of the country's children have been displaced, according to United Nations refugee and children's agencies. More than 2.1 million people have flooded into Poland seeking to escape the bombardment by Russian forces, while another more than 500,000 left for Romania.
The war has prompted the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
To bolster its humanitarian efforts, the U.S. will also contribute another $1 billion in aid to assist displaced Ukrainians, according to the White House, and commit $11 billion over the next five years to address global food security concerns due to the war's potential impacts on agricultural production.
The U.S. is also imposing new sanctions on the more than 300 members of Russia's State Duma, its parliament, and over 40 Russian defense companies, the White House said. The latest economic penalties from the Biden administration will align with sanctions from Group of Seven nations to maximize their effect, according to a senior administration official.
The Biden administration had previously imposed sweeping penalties on Russian oligarchs, financial institutions and political leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, in an effort to cut Russia's access to the global financial system. But Putin has continued his bombardment in Ukraine, and on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. assessed Russian troops.
U.S. efforts to receive displaced Ukrainians will focus on activists, journalists, members of the LGBTQ community, political dissidents, those seeking medical treatment and others with family in the U.S., administration officials said.
The displaced Ukrainians could arrive in the U.S. through different immigration pathways, the officials said, including the refugee program, which allows selected immigrants fleeing war and violence to obtain permanent U.S. residence. This process typically takes years to complete due to vetting, medical checks and interviews.
Another pathway is a process known as parole, which allows U.S. immigration officials to admit immigrants without visas on humanitarian grounds. Parole allows beneficiaries to enter the U.S. much more quickly than the refugee process, but it does not place them on a pathway to permanent residency.
Since the start of the Russian invasion, the U.S. has received 168 humanitarian parole requests from Ukrainians, and has approved a few applications from children seeking urgent medical treatment, according to internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data obtained by CBS News.
The Biden administration set an ambitious goal of receiving up to 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2022, which ends in September. However, the U.S. has resettled only 6,500 refugees, including roughly 700 Ukrainians, as of the end of February, State Department figures shows.
The refugee program, which was suspended early in the coronavirus pandemic, is still recovering from dramatic cuts under the Trump administration, when officials set the refugee cap at record lows.
Biden officials said other Ukrainians could also come to the U.S. with immigrant visas, which are for those with U.S.-based family members and employers willing to sponsor them, or nonimmigrant visas, which include those for tourists and other short-term travelers.
So far, Ukrainian Americans haveto bring their displaced relatives to the U.S. since many lack visas, which are currently required to enter the country and typically take months to process because of the massive backlog of applications at American consulates.
In addition to the new round of sanctions on Russian politicians, the U.S. and G7 nations will also work to prohibit any transaction from Russia involving gold, which makes up roughly 20% of Russia's central bank reserves, one of the administration officials said.
"Our purpose now is to fully disarm its war chest by making sure its foreign reserves serve no purpose in propping up the Russian currency," the official said.
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