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State Dept. Announces New Refugee Sponsor Program for Ordinary Americans

Refugees wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 7, 2022. AP
Refugees wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 7, 2022. AP

The United States State Department announced the launch of the Welcome Corps, a new private sponsorship program for refugee resettlement seeking to mobilize thousands of Americans as private sponsors for at least 5,000 refugees this year.

Officials said they hope this pilot program can help the administration come closer to meeting President Biden's refugee admission goal but acknowledge that it will not resolve the shortfalls by itself.

The Welcome Corps will allow Americans to form "private sponsor groups to support refugees and help them integrate into American society as thriving members of their local communities,” according to a January 19 teleconference transcript on the U.S. State Department website.

According to officials, these new sponsor groups will welcome, house, and greet refugee newcomers at the airport, enroll children in school, and help adults find employment in the U.S.

Under Welcome Corps, all refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program will undergo security vetting and health screening by federal government officials. Individuals that pass all criteria will be approved for settlement in America.

The Foreign Desk reached out to the State Department for further information on the program but was referred to last week's press briefing and teleconference.

During the teleconference, a senior state department official noted that the program is "intended to benefit refugees from all over the world." The official noted that while the administration expects many Ukrainians and Afghans to be the recipients, it anticipates "seeing people from the Democratic Republic of Congo or from Burma who would be the beneficiaries of this program."

While officials also stated that individuals from North Korea within the pipeline could "benefit from being received and resettled in the U.S. through private sponsorship," the official did not mention anything about refugees fleeing countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to the State Department's website, what is different about the Welcome Corps from other humanitarian parole programs established by the Department of Homeland Security is that they require sponsors to show that they could "support the parolees financially during a two-year parole period."

American citizens and permanent residents can create Private Sponsors Groups (PSGs) but require at least several members above 18 years old living in or close to the same community. The sponsors must raise at least $2,275 for each refugee for their basic needs while they find employment.

Asked whether there were any financial incentives for sponsors, officials said "no," explaining that sponsors do this "because they want to help people in need." Officials did say that there may be some instances because of the private-public partnership where "private philanthropy may step up to help private sponsors raise funds needed in order to meet the requirements of the refugees" but that none of the private sponsors would "benefit financially in any way from resettling refugees."

In later months, the Welcome Corps will expand to allow private sponsors to identify the refugees they want to sponsor and refer applicants to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). On top of the minimum financial promises, PSGs are committed to providing "welcoming services" to incoming refugees for the first 90 days, including housing, basic needs, healthcare access, education, and employment services.

This program, according to officials, will not "change the requirements for refugee settlement," and the requirements will " remain the same, whether they are coming through traditional resettlement routes or whether they are coming through private sponsorship."

Related Story: U.S. Asylum Backlog Reaches the Highest Number on Record

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