The Biden administration is set to launch a new pilot program on Thursday that will ostensibly allow groups of Americans to directly sponsor refugees from across the globe through the State Department program called the Welcome Corps.
The program permits groups of private American citizens to sponsor individuals through the Refugee Resettlement Program if they can cough up enough money to do so, pass background checks, and devise a plan on how to support them, according to Fox News Digital. It is similar to a model used in Canada.
The program was first reported by Reuters. Groups of at least five people will be required to raise a minimum of $2,275 per refugee. Then refugees can begin the process of going through background checks.
The program’s goal is to find sponsors for 5,000 refugees before the end of the current fiscal year in September. An announcement is expected on Thursday from the Biden administration.
The State Department initiative, which will be called Welcome Corps, could pave the way for a seismic shift in U.S. refugee policy, as most refugees brought to the U.S. for the past decades have been resettled by nine nonprofit organizations that receive federal funding.
— Camilo Montoya-Galvez (@camiloreports) January 18, 2023
The program was presented to Congress last year by the State Department which announced it was planning to launch it in late 2022. That plan was delayed but now it is resurfacing.
“The purpose of the program is to increase and deepen the involvement of local communities in effective refugee resettlement, recognizing the significant and impactful role that local community actors have long played in supporting the welcome and integration of refugees admitted to the United States through the [US Refugee Admissions Program.]” the agency put forth in a report. “The program is intended to complement the Reception and Placement Program by creating new, additional opportunities for individuals and organizations nationwide to be directly engaged in supporting refugee resettlement.”
“The department said it is being launched as a pilot to allow the agency to test and evaluate various components of the program, ‘and identify the successful elements of the pilot that will form the basis of an effective, sustainable private sponsorship that becomes a foundational part of US refugee resettlement,'” Fox News reported.
The limits on refugee resettlement that were implemented by the Trump administration have been drastically upended under President Biden. Former President Trump reduced the yearly cap on refugees to 15,000. Under Biden, they have increased to 125,000. So far, refugee resettlements have not reached that level but they are working on it.
Welcome refugees to your home. WASHINGTON (AP) — Everyday Americans will be able to help refugees adjust to life in the U.S. in a program being launched by the State Department as a way to give private citizens a role in resettling the thousands of refugees who arrive every year. pic.twitter.com/EjSPBQodOx
— いぶき (@ibuki53010508) January 19, 2023
The Biden administration has also facilitated those who seek to sponsor evacuees from both Afghanistan and Ukraine, as part of an effort to create pathways for migrants and refugees who are ostensibly fleeing harm. The government launched a program last year to bring in 100,000 Ukrainians via a program using humanitarian parole authority after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The program reportedly does not contribute to the refugee cap.
Biden has also announced an expansion of the humanitarian parole program that allows up to 30,000 Venezuelan, Cuban, Haitian, and Nicaraguan migrants to fly into the country if they have a US-based sponsor. The move is purportedly in response to a surge in illegal immigrants at the border.
Sasha Chanoff, who is the founder of RefugePoint which identifies people in need of resettlement, claims the sponsorships could be one of the most significant developments for the US refugee program since it began in 1980.
“It invites Americans to get involved in new ways,” he declared, according to Reuters.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, who is the president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the primary US resettlement groups, praised the private sponsorship program for relying on a “forward-thinking approach to leveraging the generosity of the American spirit.” She urged the Biden administration to also prioritize speeding up refugee processing and increasing admissions.
“At a time of unprecedented global displacement, there are far too many vulnerable children and families depending on the full restoration of our nation’s humanitarian leadership,” Vignarajah proclaimed, according to CBS News.
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