The Biden administration is facing mounting pressure from lawmakers and advocates to allow thousands of Ukrainians who are temporarily working or studying in the United States to remain, rather than force them to return to their war-torn country.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, has called on the administration to offer Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians who are on short-term visas or have no documentation. The protection would not confer permanent residence but would enable them to remain in the United States without fear of deportation.
“We have a letter going out to the president this evening asking for Temporary Protected Status for all of them,” Mr. Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Monday. “They include tourists and students and people working here on visas and that sort of thing. So that is something we could and should do immediately.”
He said that he expected other lawmakers, including Republicans, to sign on.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association and several nonprofits have also supported offering Ukrainians protection because of the humanitarian emergency in Ukraine.
“Extending T.P.S. sends a direct and clear foreign policy message to the world that Ukrainian civilians must be protected everywhere,” said Lisa Parisio, director of advocacy at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
The Migration Policy Institute, an independent think tank, estimates that about 30,000 Ukrainians who are currently on business or student visas, or who have overstayed their visas, would be eligible.
The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the authority to extend Temporary Protected Status to citizens of countries where armed conflict, natural disaster or other extraordinary circumstances prevent their safe return home.
More than 400,000 people are currently under such protections, including immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. The protection is granted for six to 18 months, and the Homeland Security Department must extend a country’s designation on a recurring basis. Each time a country is recertified, recipients must reapply and pass a background check.
Groups that favor limiting immigration have criticized the program, in effect since 1990, for essentially allowing people to remain permanently in the United States.