In a welcome move last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the extension and re-designation of temporary protected status for Ukrainians, allowing those who’ve arrived as of Aug. 16 to remain in the country with work authorization and protection from deportation at least through April 19, 2025. The move was a no-brainer, providing some security for those fleeing a brutal invasion.
Still, it’s not the moment to call it a day. TPS is, as the suggests, structured to be temporary, though in practice it often isn’t. There are current TPS holders from countries including Somalia and El Salvador that have been living here in a sort of status limbo for decades, getting renewals but no fundamental security. That’s because Congress failed to build in a path to residency and eventual citizenship, apparently having not considered that it would never quite be safe for nationals of certain countries to return.
So we don’t have to speculate about the fate that will befall hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian TPS recipients, because it’s happened to many others before them. Without further congressional action, they’ll be stuck in a kind of semi-permanent status, building lives in the United States without any clear way to guarantee their place past the next re-designation cycle, and never able to naturalize.
That could be addressed by the passage of the Ukrainian Adjustment Act, a bill to provide a path to residency for Ukrainians paroled into the United States — which would cover most TPS holders along with those that have come in through parole programs and not received TPS — since the outbreak of hostilities with Russia in 2014.
This is an even bigger no-brainer for Congress, unless it’s interested in the diplomatic, public relations and ethical nightmare of having the fate of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees be subject to the continuing support and whims of the executive — who could very well be Donlad Trump.
Congress should also pass the Afghan and Venezuelan Adjustment Acts, bills that would provide paths to citizenship for hundreds of thousands more people who are busying themselves building lives here after fleeing the collapse of the Afghan government in the aftermath of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal, or the regime Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, one of the U.S.’s most vehement regional opponents.
In fact, why stop there? If Congress is already passing laws, why limit them to these patches without addressing the underlying issues? It should go back to the drawing board and totally reformulate our humanitarian immigration systems to prevent people from ending up in these limbos in the first place. That will entail a recommitment to an expansive global refugee system that can more quickly process people abroad and allow them to arrive in the U.S. with status in hand, as well as a return to policies to let people who’ve been in the country for years without incident apply for permanent residency regardless of their status, a consensus position in a bygone era of bipartisan understanding on immigration.