Over 48,000 Americans have now signed up to help Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion, taking part in the Biden administration's new community-based sponsorship program unveiled on April 25.

That’s according to data from the Department of Homeland Security shared with the Deseret News on Monday, which suggests Uniting for Ukraine will likely become the largest private sponsorship program for refugees in U.S. history.

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The numbers: The largest sponsorship program in recent years was a Reagan-era effort that resettled about 16,000 refugees. Uniting for Ukraine is on track to surpass that program in just a few months.

Consider this data from DHS:

  • Over 6,500 Ukrainians have arrived in the U.S. under the program.
  • U.S. immigration officials have approved travel plans for about 27,000 Ukrainians who have been matched with sponsors.
  • About 22,000 Ukrainians who had initially traveled to Mexico to ask for asylum before President Joe Biden announced the program have been admitted.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created one of the largest humanitarian crises since World War II, with an estimated 7 million Ukrainians having fled home since the war started on Feb. 24. Here’s the latest from the U.N.’s refugee agency:

  • There are 4.7 million individual Ukrainian refugees across Europe.
  • There are 2.9 million refugees registered for temporary protection, or a similar immigration status, in Europe.
  • There have been 6.9 million border crossings out of Ukraine since the start of the war.
  • There have been 2.1 million border crossings into Ukraine since the start of the war.

The sponsors: According to CBS, 15% of the American sponsors — roughly 7,500 — live in the greater New York City area.

The other cities with the most prospective sponsors are Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, Sacramento, Portland and Cleveland. 

The program was designed to unite Ukrainians fleeing war with family and friends in the U.S., but there’s nothing stopping strangers from sponsoring strangers.

Organizations like Welcome U.S. have created online portals to connect sponsors with refugees — meanwhile thousands have turned to Facebook where a grassroots resettlement effort is taking shape.

The social media platform is a hub for sponsors connecting with refugees, with Facebook pages like North America for Ukraine ballooning to thousands of members from Ukraine, the U.S. and Canada, looking to match with each other.

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“I don’t think it would be possible without social media,” said Melanie Williamson, of Salt Lake City, who is sponsoring a Ukrainian family.

Closing in on 100,000: In the coming months, roughly 55,000 Ukrainians will call the U.S. home — that includes refugees that came across the U.S.-Mexico border, combined with those waiting or already resettled to the U.S. under Uniting for Ukraine.

That’s over half of Biden’s stated cap of 100,000 Ukrainians.

Still, most of the refugees will elect to stay in Europe, according to officials from the U.N. — over 3.6 million have crossed into Poland, and 1.1 million are registered for temporary residency.

How the program works: The U.S. typically delegates resettlement efforts to nine refugee agencies. In Utah, the responsibility mainly falls to the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services.

However Uniting for Ukraine takes a new approach, instead relying on people already in the U.S., who will be financially responsible for the refugees.

Anyone residing legally in the U.S. can apply to be a financial sponsor for Ukrainian refugees, including other immigrants and green card holders. The application can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s portal.

  • The first step is to find an eligible Ukrainian family. That includes families who fled the country after Feb. 11 or anyone still in Ukraine.
  • Next, sponsors fill out an I-134 form, declaring their own income as well as the income of the refugee families they are advocating for.
  • Sponsors will then be vetted, and may be required to interview or provide supplementary evidence for their I-134 form.
  • Once approved, Ukrainian families will be directed to confirm personal information, provide proof of vaccination for measles, polio and COVID-19, pass background checks and medical screening.
  • If they pass, Ukrainians are responsible for their own travel arrangements that will put them in the U.S. within 90 days. They will be granted humanitarian parole, which lasts for two years and creates a pathway to work authorization.