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The Biden administration unveiled a new program Thursday that will allow citizen groups to sponsor refugees from around the world to live in the United States.
The program, called "Welcome Corps," was hailed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as "the boldest innovation in refugee resettlement in four decades."
Under the program, groups of at least five people can apply to sponsor refugees and help them acclimate to life in the US, with the help of a consortium of nonprofit resettlement organizations.
Sponsoring groups must raise a minimum of $2,275 per refugee, but will not be required to provide ongoing financial support to the refugees they sponsor.
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That initial amount goes to “provide initial support for refugees during their first three months in the country,” a senior State Department official said Thursday, noting that the money goes toward things like apartment security deposits. , clothing and furniture.
“The goal is for the refugees to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible,” the official said.
Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), said that the program requires groups of at least five people, instead of one person who can gather the minimum amount, because the work to help sponsored refugees is "far more than the average American can do" alone.
"It's not about money. It's about commitment. It's about community. It's about bringing people together and forming a group so that refugees have more than one person they can refer to and work with." he said at a State Department briefing on Thursday.
“It's a lot of work to sponsor a refugee: find schools, help them find affordable housing, enroll their children in school, help them find a job, show them where the pharmacy is, which bus to take.
It's so much more than the average American can do.
So we think that providing a group of five or more Americans is more likely to be successful,” Valls Noyes said.
She said the groups could be "from all walks of life, including community volunteers, civic and religious groups, veterans, diaspora communities, businesses, colleges, universities."
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The senior State Department official noted that “all refugees who receive support from private sponsors will be approved through the same exhaustive security vetting required for all refugees admitted to the United States.”
Sponsors will be vetted, vetted, and approved through the nonprofit consortium, which receives funding from the Department of State.
Sponsors will need to provide a detailed "welcome plan" outlining how they plan to welcome refugees and connect them with homes, jobs and schools.
“The consortium will also provide training to sponsors before they start their sponsorship” and will “communicate regularly” with sponsors and refugees, the official said.
“There are many, many checkpoints, many, many fail-safes, vetting, everything that is part of this program to prevent any abuse.
With that being said, I think we're very excited about the show;
We believe it will be very successful," they said.
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Refugee admissions to the US have plummeted in recent years after former President Donald Trump cut the refugee limit to record lows.
Although the Biden administration has raised the cap to 125,000 over the last two fiscal years, admissions last year and so far this year have been well below that.
“In the first year of the program, our goal is to mobilize at least 10,000 Americans to step up as private sponsors and offer a welcoming hand to at least 5,000 refugees from around the world,” Blinken said in a statement Thursday. .
The Welcome Corps program is different from other programs introduced by the Biden administration's Department of Homeland Security to allow people to sponsor refugees from Ukraine and Venezuela.
“In those programs, sponsors must demonstrate that they can financially support refugees during a two-year period of supervised release.
Welcome Corps, on the other hand, will allow private sponsors to support refugees of all nationalities who are being permanently resettled in the United States...and who ultimately can, and in many cases I am confident, will become United States citizens." said the senior State Department official.