The U.S. Department of State has launched a new private sponsorship program that seeks to recruit 10,000 Americans to take in at least 5,000 refugees in the first year of the program. The new program, the Welcome Corps, will help refugees entering the country through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to integrate into their new communities.
The first refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, who have waited years for a long-term solution, should be arriving in April 2023 and many will be hosted by private sponsors in the first few months of the Welcome Corps program.
For the program to run as planned, the Welcome Corps will provide guidance for ordinary Americans to directly assist refugee resettlement through private sponsorship. Sponsors must collect at least US$2,275 in cash and in-kind contribution for each newly arrived refugee. This will cover housing costs and address the initial basic needs of the displaced person until s/he finds a job. The long-term goal is for refugees to become self-sufficient and autonomous as quickly as possible.
“The Welcome Corps is a new service opportunity for Americans to welcome refugees seeking freedom and safety and, in turn, make a difference in their own communities,” the program’s website says.
Who are the implementers?
To support Welcome Corps, the Department of State will fund a consortium of non-profit organizations that have knowledge of resettling and integrating refugees into U.S. communities. This consortium, together with a number of refugee assistance institutions, will offer counselling and assistance to those Americans who mobilize for the Welcome Corps.
“When Americans welcome, communities flourish. Newly arriving refugees have been forced to flee, leaving behind their communities and livelihoods, with some in search of a safe place to call home for years. Whether you are a business owner, teacher, stay-at-home parent, nurse, or store clerk, the Welcome Corps equips you with the resources you need to work together and share knowledge of your community with refugees as they adapt to life in America,” said Sarah Krause, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Community Sponsorship Hub.
Community organizations can also join the Welcome Corps as Private Sponsoring Organizations (PSOs) to recruit, assist and guide private sponsors. With support from private contributors and donors, the consortium will provide eligible PSOs with funds to support their actions.
Technicalities of the program
Groups of at least five individual U.S. citizens or permanent residents can apply to sponsor the resettlement and integration of refugees with private funds. These sponsors will be responsible for independently raising funds and addressing the essential needs of the refugees during their first 90 days in their new country. The direct assistance involves helping refugees to enrol children in school, find accommodation and jobs, apply for medical assistance and other benefits, refer refugees to the basic services in the community, etc. U.S. colleges and universities will also be eligible to sponsor refugee students on their campuses, providing the sponsored students with the necessary financial, academic, and integration support.
The Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, Julieta Valls Noyes, said that the program “is not about money”.
“It’s about commitment. It’s about the community. It’s about bringing people together and forming a group so that the refugees have more than one person that they can refer to and can work with,” she stated at a State Department press conference.
Refugees are accepted for resettlement when they cannot return to their home country and have no prospect of integrating locally in the country to which they fled. Before arriving in the United States, all refugees admitted through USRAP, including refugees approved through the Welcome Corps, undergo an extensive security and medical screening process by the U.S. government. Only those who pass this process which is undertaken by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are allowed to resettle in the United States.
Conclusion: Even though the Department of State has described the Welcome Corps as “the boldest innovation in refugee settlement in four decades”, many developing countries are hosting far more refugees than the United States. Thus, 36% of world refugees and other people in need of international protection are hosted in five countries: Turkey accommodates the largest number of refugees with 3.7 million people, Colombia is second with over 2.5 million, Germany hosts more than 2.2 million and Uganda and Pakistan host over 1.5 million refugees each. In total, at least 103 million people are currently forcibly displaced, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Over the past year, the American people have welcomed and supported the resettlement and assimilation into the United States of refugees from Afghanistan and Venezuela, war-displaced Ukrainians, and others running away from violence, injustice and oppression. Although the number of refugees allowed to be admitted during the fiscal year 2023 was increased to 125,000, the Biden administration resettled a total of just 25,465 refugees in the previous fiscal year, according to State Department data.
See also: U.S. keeps the 125,000 ceiling on refugee admissions for fiscal year 2023