Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
At least 71,000 Ukrainians have entered the US since March, with Joe Biden’s pledge to welcome 100,000 people fleeing the Russian invasion on track to be met over the summer.
So far, more than 15,000 Ukrainians have entered the country after being approved for sponsorship through the Uniting for Ukraine program, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data reported by NBC. Another 23,000 people have been approved but not yet made the journey; travel arrangements are down to the Ukrainians or their sponsors.
Related: ‘I hope we’ll get through this’: the Ukrainian refugees arriving in Tijuana
Since the program launched in April, sponsors – including friends, relatives, NGOs and church groups – have applied online to support more than 60,000 Ukrainians seeking to enter the country. There are about 1,400 new online applications to sponsor individual Ukrainians, according to a breakdown of figures by the Washington Post.
The US has become an increasingly hostile environment for many migrants and refugees in recent years, but Ukrainians have been largely welcomed without controversy.
At least 12 million Ukrainians have so far been displaced, according to the UN. Of those almost 5.3 million have sought refuge in countries across Europe including 1.8 million in the Russian Federation, 1.2 million in Poland, 780,000 in Germany and 120,000 in Spain. About 7 million Ukrainians are believed to be internally displaced.
With such huge numbers of people fleeing and little sign of Putin’s war machine slowing down, the Biden administration will probably face pressure to lift the ceiling on Ukrainians permitted to enter the US.
While the number of Ukrainians arriving thanks to the citizen sponsorship scheme is rising, the majority who have made it into the US to date came using existing visas or by crossing the Mexico-US southern border.
At the southern border, almost 24,000 Ukrainians were fast-tracked into the US at land crossings like Tijuana from March through May, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.
Since then, Ukrainians have been subject to the same land border restrictions imposed on tens of thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans, who have been largely banned from seeking asylum due to the controversial Title 42 order which has been in place – and selectively used – since the start of the pandemic.