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More than 65,000 Americans Have Signed Up To Welcome Refugees Under Expansion of Biden Administration’s Private Sponsorship Program

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New data shows that tens of thousands of Americans have signed up to help welcome refugees under the Biden administration’s recent expansion of its private sponsorship program. Niskanen Center said that new figures from the Community Sponsorship Hub reveal that 65,000 people have signed up to be a part of Welcome Corps, which allows groups of Americans to come together to sponsor a refugee financially. 

Since Welcome Corps’ expansion three months ago, these 65,000 Americans have submitted 13,000 group applications, with another 11,000 pending applications. Americans from every state have signed up, “with Minnesota, Washington, Texas, California, and Ohio leading the way in submissions,” Niskanen Center said. “This outpouring of support is yet another example of Americans’ enthusiasm for welcoming refugees in their communities through private sponsorship.”

Welcome Corps shared the story of one group of sponsors in Austin, Texas. While the Association for Congolese in Austin (ACA) typically supports the Congolese diaspora in the area, group members said they “were thinking about how to expand and try to do something more.” In December, they gathered at the airport to welcome a family from Venezuela.

“We were able to bring somebody from Venezuela who speaks Spanish with the same accent as their Spanish. And I think that was very, very helpful and just beautiful even for the person who volunteered to come,” said ACA member Innocente. “He was so excited to be there to do this. Having that person for the first time when you arrive in America, having a person from your country in the airport waiting for you, somebody who speaks your language, your accent—that was huge.”

The family – consisting of Ronald, Yoliana, and their 15-month-old daughter Aparicio – felt the group’s effort and heart. “When we exited the plane and cleared customs, we felt a little bit on our own because we were arriving at a new place,” Ronald said. “But it was a very pleasant surprise when we exited the baggage claim area and we were received by the Congolese group.” The group has helped the family with housing and furniture as they begin their new lives here. “Ronald and Yoliana are taking English classes and exploring the job market—an opportunity they couldn’t access in Venezuela.”

Other Americans who have signed up for Welcome Corp include Jill Goldstone, a Pennsylvania resident who, along with neighbors, has sponsored several Congolese and Venezuelan refugees. Her grandmother was a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany. Other refugees welcomed through private sponsorship include Johanna and Luz, a couple forced to flee Venezuela. With help from sponsors Denise and Laura, Johanna and Luz have found jobs, enrolled in English classes, and made new friendships within Nevada’s LGBTQ community. 

In one of the strongest indicators that the U.S. refugee system has been steadily rebounding following massive cuts under the previous presidential administration, recent data has also revealed that the number of refugees resettled in the United States during this current fiscal year could reach the highest levels seen in decades. 

“According to the latest data from the Refugee Processing Center, the Biden administration is on track to resettle 92,979 refugees this fiscal year, up from 60,014 last year in FY 2023. These numbers are projected based on the 32,021 refugees resettled between the start of October and the end of January,” wrote Austin Kocher, Assistant Research Professor at the Transactional Research Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). “To put that in context, 93,000 would be the largest number of resettled refugees in any single year since 1995 and certainly larger than any year post-9/11 (although FY 2016 would be a close second).”

Niskanen Center notes that Welcome Corps, which initially kicked off just over a year ago, “is the most significant innovation in U.S. refugee resettlement in decades, in which groups of five adults join to raise money together, complete sponsorship training, pass background checks, and ultimately welcome a refugee into their community. The program started by matching sponsors to refugees already qualified for and awaiting resettlement in the United States.” 

Annie Nolte-Henning, executive director of the Community Sponsorship Hub, described the program as a game-changer to Texas Public Radio

“This expansion of Welcome Corps holds this huge promise of reuniting families and friends who have been separated from loved ones in the United States by crisis,” Nolte-Henning said. “Now, people who have been waiting for many, many years to reunite with their mom or their uncle have the opportunity to form a private sponsor group and be able to welcome their family through this new pathway.” Willie, ACA leader, said group members know how hard it is to be a refugee. “You leave your country where you had everything and move to a country where you have to sleep in a tent, or sleep on the floor, sometimes outside, no water, no electricity. We saw really very, very painful experiences, and helping one refugee, you make a big difference in their life.”