(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation – and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter yesterday to President Biden urging the administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians in the United States following the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. The letter was led by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Ukraine Caucus Co-chair U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).
“In light of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, we respectfully request that your Administration promptly take all necessary steps to ensure that Ukrainian nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to Ukraine, including the designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS),” wrote the Senators. “As you know, TPS can be granted to nationals of another country who are currently residing in the United States if returning to their country would pose a serious threat to their personal safety because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. TPS allows eligible nationals of designated countries to remain in the United States legally until the expiration of the TPS designation.”
On February 24, Ukraine declared a state of emergency and closed its airspace to commercial flights after Russia launched a series of unprovoked military strikes against major Ukrainian cities with forces attacking by land, sea and air. Russian forces have deployed hundreds of missiles against military and civilian targets across Ukraine in clear violation of international law, and troops continue to push to overtake major cities, including Kyiv. Ukrainian officials reported that at least 353 civilians have been killed so far since the Russian invasion began. The United States has closed its embassy in Kyiv.
Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions. The decision to deny, withdraw, or terminate TPS is in the sole discretion of the U.S. government.
The Senators’ letter continues, “Granting TPS to the limited population of Ukrainians who are currently in the U.S. on a temporary basis will create a minimal disruption for our country, but forcing these individuals to return to a war zone would be unacceptable. 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. As a nation, we must do our part to protect the safety of Ukrainians in the United States by designating Ukraine for TPS.”
According to the Department of State, 29,510 nonimmigrant visas were issued to Ukrainian nationals in Fiscal Year 2020.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
Full text of the letter is available here.
Earlier this month, Shaheen led a successful bipartisan effort with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to pass a resolution that conveys a renewed and overwhelmingly bipartisan message from the U.S. Senate in fierce support of the United States’ Ukrainian partners. Senator Shaheen has long led efforts in the Senate to hold Russia accountable for its malign activity against the U.S. and our allies. Because of her role as a negotiator on Russia sanctions legislation known as “CAATSA” and her successful efforts to ban Kaspersky Lab software from operating on U.S. systems, Shaheen was sanctioned by the Kremlin in 2017. A member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Shaheen recently co-led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Ukraine with Ukraine Caucus co-chair Senator Rob Portman to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s right to defend itself. Shaheen previously led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, last June. Yesterday, Shaheen issued a joint bipartisan statement with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) marking the fourth anniversary of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which they re-established together and currently serve as co-chairs.