National Security

ICE pauses deportations to Russia, Ukraine amid invasion

Associated Press/Vadim Ghirda

U.S. deportation flights to Russia, Ukraine and seven other European countries have been paused by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two people familiar told CBS News.

One person briefed on the matter told CBS News that, in addition to Russia and Ukraine, deportations to Belarus, Georgia, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia had been suspended, and that the congressional officials have been informed. 

Only the pause in deportation flights to Ukraine was confirmed by an ICE spokesperson to The Hill in a statement on Thursday.

“Amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis occurring in Ukraine, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has paused repatriation flights to Ukraine. ICE will continue to monitor the ongoing situation and make operational changes as necessary,” the spokesperson said. 

Later on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the Biden administration would be granting temporary protected status (TPS) to Ukrainians within the United States for 18 months following a push from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

DHS said that the TPS was being granted to Ukrainians using two of the three statutory bases for designation, ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions.

“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States.”

Earlier this week, a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans wrote a letter to President Biden urging for his administration to grant the status.

“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” TPS, the lawmakers wrote.

“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,” the senators added.

More than a million refugees from Ukraine have fled the country in the last week, according to data from the U.N. refugee agency

—Updated at 6:40 p.m.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas deportations ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement Joe Biden Russia Ukraine Ukraine invasion

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