The Biden administration has launched a new program that will allow US citizens to privately sponsor refugees from all over the world. Called the Welcome Corps, the program is intended to deepen the connections between local communities and incoming refugees, as well as taking some of the cost of resettlement off the shoulders of the government.
According to the Welcome Corps website, sponsors will form groups of at least five members. These groups will set to work raising funds (a minimum of $2,275 per assigned refugee), preparing initial housing, greeting refugee newcomers at the airport, enrolling children in schools, and helping adults find employment. Reuters notes that sponsors must pass a background check before they can join the Welcome Corps.
Once the groups are formed, sponsors will take part in a training program before they receive certification, which will also ensure that they have raised enough funds to properly go about their work. Once certified, sponsor groups will be matched with a refugee individual or family of any nationality who has completed all application and vetting steps required by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
In their announcement, the State Department stated that they are seeking 10,000 Americans to step forward as private sponsors for an estimated 5,000 refugees. The goal has been set to place all 5,000 refugees with sponsors by the end of the 2023 fiscal year. The State Department wrote:
“The Welcome Corps will build on the extraordinary response of the American people over the past year in welcoming our Afghan allies, Ukrainians displaced by war, Venezuelans, and others fleeing violence and oppression. In the face of unprecedented global displacement, the United States will continue to lead the international community in humanitarian response, including refugee resettlement.”
The Biden administration has suggested that the program may be expanded based on its efficacy. In the future, it may be possible for private sponsors to identify specific refugee cases in referrals to the USRAP. This expansion, as well as the Welcome Corps initiative as a whole, are part of the government’s efforts to streamline admissions of refugees to the US.
The State Department reported historically low rates of refugee admissions in the years since the pandemic began. In the first three months of FY 2023, only 6,750 refugees have been resettled towards a target of 125,000
In a press release, the Welcome Corps was hailed by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of LIRS wrote:
“We commend the Biden administration on this forward-thinking approach to leveraging the generosity of the American spirit. The Welcome Corps complements the refugee resettlement system and boasts potential to strengthen ties between refugees and the communities they will come to call home. We are hopeful that this pilot will be thoughtfully implemented to make certain that sponsors are sufficiently equipped with the necessary resources and know-how to ensure the best possible outcomes for refugee families in their care.”