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US Seeking Americans to Sponsor Refugees

FILE - Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on August 27, 2021, in Dulles, Virginia.
FILE - Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on August 27, 2021, in Dulles, Virginia.

The U.S. State Department has launched a new program to recruit thousands of Americans to help refugees adjust to life in the United States. The program, called “Welcome Corps,” aims to pair vetted refugees with vetted Americans as part of a push to modernize and expand the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

Under the plan, U.S. citizens or permanent residents apply for the program. If approved, groups of at least five people will work to raise $2,275 to sponsor one refugee for the first three months after their arrival. The program is aimed at refugees who intend to settle permanently in the United States.

The State Department calls the plan the biggest change to U.S. refugee admissions in more than four decades, when the U.S. started working with private organizations to sponsor refugees in the 1980s.

Seeking 10,000 Americans

The goal of the program in the first year is to mobilize 10,000 Americans to sponsor 5,000 refugees. The department said officials are looking to recruit members of faith and civic groups, veterans, diaspora communities, businesses, colleges and universities, and other community groups to the program.

The sponsors will be trained how to serve as guides, neighbors, and friends for the refugees. Refugees from any country are eligible.

The program will have two phases, said Julieta Valls Noyes, the Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration.

"The first phase, groups of five or more Americans or legal permanent residents can apply to form a private sponsor group," she said. "When certified, they will be matched with a refugee who is already approved for resettlement in the United States."

In the second phase, expected to begin in the latter half of 2023, Americans who are members of the Welcome Corps will be able to recommend refugees living overseas for resettlement in the U.S. and then assist them once they arrive. The State Department said it will release details of that program later this year.

Hope to restore US as haven

U.S. refugee admission policies have come under criticism from refugee organizations and human rights groups, under both the Trump administration, which slashed the number of refugees admitted, and under the Biden administration.

The administration hopes the program will lead to more refugee admissions. Last year, more than 25,000 refugees were admitted to the United States, only a fifth of President Joe Biden’s stated goal to admit 125,000 refugees per year.

Biden has vowed to restore the U.S. as a haven for those around the world facing violence and persecution, while expanding legal immigration for refugees and migrants with family members or others in the U.S. willing to sponsor them.