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New York immigration coalition calls for U.S. to welcome Ukrainian refugees amid conflict with Russia

The New York Immigration Coalition is among the groups urging the U.S. to take in as many Ukrainian refugees as possible, as Ukraine faces an ongoing invasion by Russia.

New York has roughly 150,000 Ukrainian residents, the largest population in the nation. Gov. Kathy Hochul has said New York is prepared to coordinate with the Biden administration to accept refugees fleeing the conflict.

Nicole Cata, director of immigrant rights policy for the New York Immigration Coalition, said she hopes to see resources directed to beefing up the refugee program.

“It’s been an absolutely devastating week for Ukrainians both at home and abroad,” said Cata. “And our strongest message is that the NYIC will always stand with those seeking a safe haven from violence and war. And we’re urging the United States to take as many refugees in as possible.”

Cata said the U.S. needs to strengthen and rebuild its refugee program, after the former Trump administration gutted it. The former president halted the program multiple times, and set the ceiling for admitting refugees lower than ever.

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More than 100 recipients of DACA, the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, and more than 1,700 international students are from Ukraine. Cata said she hopes the Biden administration will put measures into place protecting them from deportation.

“We’re calling for an immediate designation of temporary protected status,” said Cata, “or deferred enforced departure or special student relief for the tens of thousands of Ukrainians who are in the United States already, and without a permanent status in the U.S.”

Special student relief refers to a Homeland Security program that removes visa restrictions for students – such as duration of stay and ability to work off-campus – when “emergent” circumstances occur, such as war or military conflict.