US citizens get chance to play role in resettling refugees

Jan 18, 2023, 4:59 AM | Updated: Jan 19, 2023, 8:22 pm
FILE - The State Department seal is seen on the briefing room lectern at the State Department in Wa...

FILE - The State Department seal is seen on the briefing room lectern at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 31, 2022. Everyday Americans will be able to help refugees adjust to life in the U.S. in a program being launched by the State Department. The goal is to give private citizens a role in resettling the thousands of refugees who come to America every year. The State Department is calling the new program the Welcome Corps.(Mandel Ngan, Pool via AP, File)

(Mandel Ngan, Pool via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government program launched Thursday is giving American citizens the chance to play a role in resettling the thousands of refugees who arrive every year in the United States.

During the first year of the Welcome Corps, the State Department aims to line up 10,000 Americans who can help 5,000 refugees adjust to life in the United States.

“By tapping into the goodwill of American communities, the Welcome Corps will expand our country’s capacity to provide a warm welcome to higher numbers of refugees,” the department said in announcing the effort.

When refugees from around the world arrive in the U.S., they face a dramatically different way of life. To ease that transition, the department traditionally has worked with nonprofit groups that specialize in refugee issues. Under the new program, five or more Americans could form a group and help fill this role, as well.

They would apply to privately sponsor refugees to resettle in the U.S. and would be responsible for raising their own money to help the refugees over the first 90 days. Assistance would include everything from greeting refugees at the airport to finding them place to live and getting kids enrolled in school.

A consortium of nonprofits with expertise in refugee resettlement will help oversee the vetting and certification of people and groups who want to be private sponsors. They also will offer training so private sponsors understand what’s needed to help refugees adjusting to life in America. The consortium will be responsible for monitoring the program.

The program will roll out in two phases. First, private sponsors will be matched with refugees already approved for resettlement under the U.S. Refugee Assistance Program. That will start during the first half of 2023.

Later, private sponsors could identify refugees abroad they would like to help and then refer those people to the Refugee Assistance Program and assist them once they arrive in the U.S.

The program is different from a recent initiative that allows 30,000 people into the country a month from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela. They also need a sponsor but are being admitted to the U.S. under a humanitarian parole designation that lasts two years and offers no path to becoming permanent residents or citizens.

Under the refugee program, people fleeing violence or persecution can come to the U.S. and stay permanently. Since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980 the U.S. has admitted a little over 3 million refugees.

The Welcome Corps program comes on the heels of a similar, smaller scale endeavor under which Americans were able to sponsor Afghans or Ukrainians. That program launched in October 2021 and has helped just over 800 people coming to America through a network of 230 certified sponsor circles that included a total of about 5,000 people.

Sasha Chanoff, founder and chief executive of Boston-based RefugePoint, which supports Afghan refugees, said Canada has long used a similar model to help resettle refugees. Chanoff said the sponsor circle program capitalizes on the huge amount of goodwill among Americans to sponsor refugees, something that crosses political divides.

“This represents perhaps a unique opportunity in our history — certainly in our recent history — to really open up space for Americans to protect lives by sponsoring a family,” he said. “We’ve seen the incredible interest among the American public — Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, veterans, so many others across the political spectrum.”

President Joe Biden pledged in a 2021 executive order to restore the U.S. as the world’s haven and he called for private sponsorship of refugees. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. had largely rolled back the refugee program.

But Thursday’s announcement comes as the U.S. is woefully off track if it hopes to meet Biden’s goal of 125,000 refugees admitted into the U.S. during the 2023 budget year. According to State Department data, the U.S. has admitted just 6,750 refugees to the country through December — three months into the fiscal year.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service commended the Biden administration’s “forward-thinking” program which has “potential to strengthen ties between refugees and the communities they will call home.” But Vignarajah also noted the low number of refugee admissions. The group is a national nonprofit that helps refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrants.

“The Biden administration must prioritize the streamlining of refugee admissions, which remain regrettably low this fiscal year. Without urgent action to increase efficiency, it risks letting the compassion of individual sponsors and the expertise of professional refugee resettlement organizations go to waste,” Vignarajah said in a statement.

Assistant Secretary of State Julieta Valles Noyes told reporters Thursday that the agency responsible for interviewing refugees overseas had conducted over 20,000 interviews during the first quarter of the year and that she was “confident” that the numbers of refugees arriving in the months ahead would increase.

__

AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

___

Follow Santana on Twitter @ruskygal

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
23 hours ago
FILE - Anti-coup protesters hold up signs as they march in Mandalay, Myanmar Sunday, March 14, 2021...
Associated Press

Myanmar resistance steadfast against army rule 2 years later

BANGKOK (AP) — The prospects for peace in Myanmar, much less a return to democracy, seem dimmer than ever two years after the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, experts say. On Wednesday, legions of opponents of military rule heeded a call by protest organizers to stay home in […]
23 hours ago
Rescue workers and people gather at the site of Monday's suicide bombing after authorities finished...
Associated Press

Peshawar, the city of flowers, becomes epicenter of violence

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s Peshawar was once known as “the city of flowers,” surrounded by orchards of pear, quince and pomegranate trees. It was a trading city, situated at the gates of a key mountain valley connecting South and Central Asia. But for the past four decades, it has borne the brunt of rising […]
23 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
23 hours ago
FILE - Taiwanese Mirage 2000 fighter jets taxi along a runway during a drill at an airbase in Hsinc...
Associated Press

Taiwan activates defenses in response to China incursions

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations of 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing’s strategy to unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy. The large-scale Chinese deployment comes as Beijing increases preparations for a potential […]
23 hours ago
In this Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 photo, Beth Caruso, author and co-founder of the CT Witch Trial Exon...
Associated Press

Connecticut may exonerate accused witches centuries later

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Decades before the infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, Alse Young was killed at the gallows in Connecticut, becoming the first person on record to be executed in the American colonies for witchcraft. The Windsor town clerk registered the death on May 26, 1647, in a diary entry that read: “Alse […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
US citizens get chance to play role in resettling refugees