Building on its long tradition of helping refugees, the United States has launched Welcome Corps, a program to allow everyday Americans to sponsor refugees for resettlement. Volunteers will help refugees to obtain housing, buy clothes, secure employment for adults, and get children enrolled in school.
“The Welcome Corps will allow Americans to do what we do best: be guides and friends to our new neighbors, put them on a path to realizing their full potential — to the benefit of not just refugee families, but all our families,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose own relatives came to the U.S. searching for freedom and safety.
U.S. citizens who form private sponsor groups can apply to help refugees build new lives in the U.S. The sponsors can come from local communities, faith-based organizations, veterans groups and other organizations. Each group must raise at least $2,375 per refugee and commit to helping the refugees for 90 days. Program officials expect informal support to continue well after 90 days.
A consortium of nonprofit organizations that specialize in resettling refugees is partnering with the U.S. Department of State to implement the program and support sponsors. The consortium is led by the Community Sponsorship Hub and includes Church World Service, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), the International Refugee Assistance Project, the International Rescue Committee and Welcome.US.
The State Department is earmarking $15 million over three years for the consortium. Private sponsor groups will receive training and information on how to help with cultural adjustment, as well as access benefits and services. Private sponsor groups will submit reports after 30 and 90 days, and representatives of Welcome Corps and the State Department will visit the groups and refugees.
The refugees with whom Welcome Corps pairs private sponsor groups have already been approved for resettlement by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
Welcome Corps aims to have at least 10,000 Americans to sponsor 5,000 refugees. Since its launch in January, more than 39,000 Americans have signed up, said Rosanna Kim, a senior adviser at the State Department.
Later this year, Welcome Corps will allow private sponsor groups to identify the refugees they want to support.
In 2021, President Biden signed an executive order to accept 125,000 refugees annually, and Welcome Corps will help the United States meet that number. The initiative is modeled on the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, which resettled around 600 Afghans with 1,200 American sponsors after Kabul fell in 2021.
“American communities have long been at the heart of welcoming refugees, whether they were escaping the horrors of World War II, the repression of autocrats, or persecution because of who they were or what they believed,” Blinken said. “We witnessed this over the last year as Americans of all ages and backgrounds — in every American state — stepped up to help resettle thousands of Afghans, Ukrainians, and Venezuelans.”