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US Revives Refugee-, Migrant-Support Task Force

FILE - Refugees attend English class at Della Lamb Community Services in Kansas City, Mo., on June 13, 2016.
FILE - Refugees attend English class at Della Lamb Community Services in Kansas City, Mo., on June 13, 2016.

The U.S. government is bringing back a commission aimed at helping immigrants integrate in the U.S. through language learning, workforce training and financial education programs.

The effort will assist newcomers under legal status in the United States, according to Brandon Prelogar, special adviser for humanitarian protection and refugees at the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), in a Monday interview with VOA.

"The focus is, of course, on any and all legal immigrants and refugees. We are talking about newcomers who are here in a lawful status and likely to remain," Prelogar said.

The task force on New Americans is coordinated by the White House through the DPC, with the support of 20 other federal agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations, the official said.

President Joe Biden announced the request to restore it through a February 2021 executive order.

"Took a little longer than we would have liked" to see it reconstituted, said Prelogar, adding that the purpose is to ensure the "best possible welcome."

The task force was originally launched in 2014 during the Obama administration, but it was discontinued by former President Donald Trump.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is facing a record increase in migrants arriving irregularly at the U.S.-Mexico border, but Prelogar said the new program "is not about the border," but rather part of an effort to "ensure that legal immigrants are welcome in our communities and that they receive the support they need to lead successful lives in the country and that they contribute fully."

Republican governors and lawmakers have blamed Biden for what they see as an unprecedented humanitarian crisis on the southern border; some of them have requested to extend the legality of the Title 42 guideline — a public health policy first implemented under the previous administration to expel people seeking asylum.

There were nearly 2.4 million migrant arrests in fiscal year 2022, but not every arrest is a unique migrant encounter as the total number includes those who made repeated attempts during the same fiscal year.

Working together with other federal agencies and nonprofits, the working group is focused on examining current immigrant integration policies and identifying areas with deficiencies.

Other efforts

Also on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken participated in a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony with the Tent Partnership for Refugees — a nonprofit that urges the business community to hire refugees all over the world.

Blinken said the partnership seeks to mobilize U.S. and international businesses to offer refugees work opportunities, often an important step in the long-term economic and social resettlement for refugees and the communities that welcome them.

"One of the things that we all know is that the journey isn't over, even when they arrive at the destination: finding a home, learning the language, seeking a job, getting kids into school, building a community; all of these steps are essential for refugees to build new lives in new lands," Blinken said.

Founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, the Tent Partnership for Refugees is a coalition made up of 250 multinational companies committed to supporting refugees through hiring, training and mentorship.

"The most important moment for a refugee is the moment they get a job, and that is the moment they stop being a refugee," Ulukaya said.