Expect more refugees
The United States has now met President Biden’s goal, announced in March, to legally admit “up to” 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Vladimir Putin’s blood-soaked invasion. That admirable achievement shouldn’t mark the end of this country’s commitment to sharing the burden of the ongoing humanitarian nightmare in Europe. The administration has the means and programs in place to retain an open door for Ukrainians forced from their homes. It should prepare for another 100,000.
That target might seem ambitious. In fact, many of the United States’ closest allies have shouldered a greater refugee burden since the war started in February, either in absolute numbers or, in even more instances, on a per capita basis. Britain, Canada, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands have all welcomed large populations of Ukrainian migrants. Even the smallest NATO members — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, each with a population of fewer than 3 million — have accepted tens of thousands.
The flood of Ukrainians seeking refuge is a calamity inflicted on the world by Mr. Putin. He regards them not as suffering individuals but as leverage to force the West to cry uncle and urge Ukraine to sue for peace. To the Kremlin’s strongman, the refugees are of a piece with the flow of Russian gas and oil, which he seems likely to impede as a way to break Europe’s unity and resolve. Democracies, he thinks, are fundamentally weak.
That’s why Mr. Biden’s leadership on Ukrainian migrants is critical. Continuing to admit Ukrainian refugees is important not only to reaffirm the historic U.S. role as a beacon to the world’s most desperate people. It also offers another means, along with military and economic assistance, of showing Mr. Putin that democracies can face down authoritarian brutality.
The challenge of sustaining that commitment should not be underestimated. As of early July, the United Nations estimated that more than 5.6 million Ukrainian refugees had been recorded across Europe. Millions more are displaced inside Ukraine, a devastating toll. Depending on the course of the war — unpredictable but still likely to last many more months, at a minimum — the migrant outflow may continue or accelerate. As Ukrainian cities are captured or rendered uninhabitable by Russian attacks, more migrants could seek refuge farther afield, in Britain, Canada and the United States.
As in this country, Canada and Britain have established sponsorship programs, among other methods of entry, under which Ukrainians are resettled in homes. Under the U.S. version of that arrangement, called Uniting for Ukraine, roughly 30,000 migrants have been resettled, and another 30,000 or so have been approved for travel. Applications from would-be sponsors continue to roll in at a brisk pace; many are Ukrainian Americans around New York and Chicago. In Britain and Canada, too, tens of thousands more migrants are expected in the coming months.
U.S. resolve must continue unabated, and it should also grow to include refugees who lack sponsors. How the Biden administration meets this test will be an ongoing barometer of its commitment to American values and traditions.
* Guest editorial by The Washington Post.