Two weeks ago, the White House announced that the United States would open its doors to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. To many observers, this was the very least the U.S. could do to protect civilians from a war characterized by displacement, atrocity and siege, and on which the West has largely decided to sit it out. But there are several enormous problems with Biden’s refugee relief plan.
The first is that there is no actual plan. The announcement was made in a fact-sheet that has not yet been backed by an Executive Order. In fact, the homepage of the U.S. Embassy in Hungary has not updated its information for Ukrainians since March 10. It currently refers them to information on seeking asylum in Hungary—a move that, if followed, would foreclose them from ever seeking asylum elsewhere—but provides no pathway for them to seek asylum in the U.S.
To ask for asylum in the U.S., the current policy is that a refugee must first get to U.S. territory. But the U.S. continues to prohibit Ukrainians from entering the country without a visa, which entails an extended application process. The U.S. has a visa waiver program for individuals fleeing some war-torn countries, but, incredibly, it has not yet added Ukraine to that list.