tags: Press Releases

Latin Americans’ participation in refugee resettlement program urgently needed

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week:

At a time when the asylum process is under scrutiny and at the center of political divisions in an election year, the United States government has a program in place that allows up to 50,000 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean to resettle in the United States through private sponsorships. But only a little more than 200 applications have been received from the region.

The organization, Welcome.US, is one of those allied with the Department of State to promote and implement the Welcome Corps program that began in January 2023. It permits refugees who meet certain requirements to be sponsored by U.S. citizens and permanent residents in their resettlement process, as people seeking asylum. 

According to the State Department, in its first year, the Welcome Corps mobilized more than 15,000 people in the United States to sponsor more than 7,000 refugees from around the world. 

“For the first time this year the presidential proclamation on refugee resettlement, which basically sets the resettlement caps for the country each year, designated 50,000 slots for refugees from Latin America,” explained Monna Kashfi, Vice President for Content and Communications at Welcome.US. 

“And that has not happened before because traditionally refugees from Latin American and Caribbean countries have not been eligible for refugee resettlement in the US and instead have pursued asylum at the southern border. A very treacherous, risky, and inhumane journey,” said Kashfi.

In its effort to ease pressure at the border between the United States and Mexico, the Biden administration is utilizing mechanisms to promote applying for asylum through means other than presenting yourself at the border. “The goal of the Biden administration is to encourage people to take advantage of these new legal designated pathways, sponsorship being one of them, instead of making that treacherous journey for asylum. So they designated 50,000 of that 125,000 annual cap this year for refugees from Latin America and the Welcome Corps is one of the programs supporting that,” Kashfi indicated.

“Unfortunately we’ve only have just over 200 applications from the region,” she added.

The lack of information is the main reason for this. ”People are just unaware that the program exists,” said Kashfi.

The Welcome Corps portal indicates that “U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents form a sponsor group and apply to support a refugee or refugee family. The sponsor group helps the refugees transition to life in the United States and provides services, including securing $2,425 for each refugee, to support their first 90 days in the country.”

It adds that “refugees are individuals who left their home country and cannot return because of persecution.” 

They should have one of the following documents: registration in the Safe Mobility Initiative; if they are Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan, a form I-134 or I-134A pending and filed on their behalf by September 30, 2023 (CHNV parole); or confirmation of their registration as a refugee or asylum seeker.

In the case of those persons with refugee ID or registration, a total of five people must vouch for each applicant who, upon arrival, will be eligible to work.

A year after their arrival, refugees can apply for permanent resident status, and be eligible for citizenship five years after arrival. Unlike humanitarian parole, Welcome Corps “comes with a path to citizenship,” explained Kashfi. 

The states with the most applicants from people who want to become sponsors are Minnesota, Texas, California, and Ohio. “And the majority have been for refugees from Africa,” said Kashfi.

The asylum program has been under attack ever since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in January 2017, and continues under fire now that he’s looking to return to the White House.

Kashfi considers that, no matter what happens in the election this fall, “the core of this program, the ethos is really the difference between providing someone a lifeline and a bridge to safety in an orderly, lawful pathway.” 

And it not only transforms the life of the refugee but also that of their sponsors. “When a sponsor group forms they have their whole community behind them. It’s not just five people,” she said. 

Participants can sponsor someone they know or someone they do not. What’s certain is, according to Kashfi, “it is a transformational experience for all those involved.”

An enriching experience in the middle of so much bad news on the immigration front. 

Those interested in obtaining information about how to become a refugee sponsor can visit the following link for Welcome Corps.

This Thursday, June 13, at 6pm Eastern Time, the group will hold a webinar about the program in English and Spanish. To participate, register at this link

June 20 is World Refugee Day, and what better way to commemorate it than sponsoring refugees for their resettlement in the United States.

The original Spanish version is here.