US citizens get chance to play role in resettling refugees under new program

A US government program was launched Thursday to give American citizens the chance to play a role in resettling the thousands of refugees who arrive every year in the United States.

The US State Department during the first year of the Welcome Corps 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.

Under the program, American citizens would apply to privately sponsor refugees to resettle in the United States 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, according to US State Department.

According to the State Department, 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.

The program will roll out in two phases. First, private sponsors will be matched with refugees already approved for resettlement under the US Refugee Assistance Program which 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 US, according to the State Department.

Under the refugee program, people fleeing violence or persecution can come to the US and stay permanently. Since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980 the US 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, according to the Associated Press report.

The US State Department says groups of at least five individual American citizens or permanent resident adults will be able to apply to the Welcome Corps to privately sponsor the resettlement of refugees in the United States.

Private sponsors will be responsible for independently raising funds and directly providing essential assistance to refugees for their first 90 days in their new community. This assistance includes helping refugees find housing and employment, enrolling children in school, and connecting refugees to essential services in the community, the department said in a statement.