Lodi News-Sentinel

‘Welcome Corps’ will let Americans privately sponsor refugees in U.S.

- Suzanne Monyak CQ-ROLL CALL

WASHINGTON — The Biden administra­tion announced a new program Thursday to allow thousands of American citizens to directly sponsor refugees financiall­y, an effort to increase the United States’ capacity to accept more people seeking protection from abroad.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the program, dubbed Welcome Corps, as “the boldest innovation in refugee resettleme­nt in four decades.”

“By launching the Welcome Corps, we build on a proud tradition of providing refuge and demonstrat­e the spirit and generosity of the American people as we commit to welcoming refugees in need of our support,” Blinken said in a statement announcing the program.

According to the State Department, the government will begin matching private sponsors interested in participat­ing with refugees who have already been approved to be resettled in the U.S. during the first six months of 2023.

In mid-2023, during the program’s second phase, sponsors will be able to start referring potential refugees for resettleme­nt and supporting them financiall­y.

The State Department hopes to find at least 10,000 Americans willing to sponsor 5,000 refugees in the first year of the program. Private sponsors could include religious organizati­ons, immigrant communitie­s, educationa­l institutio­ns, businesses and others, Blinken said.

Sponsors must raise an initial amount of $2,275 per refugee to support them during their first three months in the country, intended to help with apartment deposits, furniture and other needed items. Refugees would then be eligible for other federal programs, according to a senior State Department official who briefed reporters Thursday.

Sponsors will also be vetted, required to develop a “welcome plan” on how they plan to help refugees find jobs and housing, and be subject to regular check-ins, the senior official said.

Sponsors will receive training from a group of refugee organizati­ons, including the Internatio­nal Refugee Assistance Project and Church World Service, according to the State Department.

The senior official said a similar program has been “wildly successful” in Canada and that the federal government received “a lot of advice” from Canadian officials when designing this program.

The sponsorshi­p model comes as the U.S. has fallen far short in recent years of reaching its annual refugee admissions goals. The Biden administra­tion has set a refugee ceiling of 125,000 both this and last fiscal years, but has struggled to meet those goals, citing decimated resources.

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