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Biden administration unveils new immigration program to sponsor refugees. Here’s how it works

Biden announced a new resettlement program to help asylum-seekers from countries like Venezuela and Cuba find asylum in the U.S.

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Tom and Andrea Heinz investigate a beached migrant boat on Coco Plum Beach in Marathon, Fla.

Tom and Andrea Heinz, a couple from Illinois who were staying with friends nearby, investigate a beached migrant boat named “La Esperanza,” Spanish for “Hope,” on Coco Plum Beach in Marathon, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Rebecca Blackwell, Associated Press

The Biden administration is rolling out a new immigration policy that focuses on American families sponsoring displaced people to come into the U.S.

The program, called “Welcome Corps,” relies on private citizens assisting by taking on “logistical and financial responsibility for helping thousands of refugees transition to life in the United States,” The New York Times reported.

Shifting some of the responsibility onto everyday Americans could vastly increase the number of refugees the U.S. could logistically take in to help support individuals and families fleeing war, famine and violence in their home countries.

Canada and Sweden have implemented similar programs to help welcome refugees, according to The United Nations Refugee Agency.

“We believe that by engaging more Americans in this effort, we will rebuild broad public support for the refugee resettlement program,” Julieta Valls Noyes, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the State Department, told the Times.

How do you apply to sponsor a refugee?

To apply to be a sponsor, at least five people can come together and “must raise a minimum of $2,275 per refugee, and those funds will provide initial support for expenses like apartment security deposits, clothing and furniture,” according to CNN.

It does not require continuing financial support from the groups after the initial $2,275.

“The goal is for the refugees to become self-reliant as quickly as possible,” a senior State Department official told CNN.

Refugees participating in the program would go through the same rigorous vetting processes required to obtain U.S. citizenship that all people seeking refuge in the U.S. have gone through.

What is Biden’s immigration plan he rolled out earlier?

In 2022, a record 2.4 million migrants tried to cross the border to escape violence or poverty in their home nations, so politicians and U.S. citizens at the southern border have been urging Biden to take more swift action on immigration, per The Hill.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and a group of city mayors traveled to southern Texas to see what was happening for themselves.

“Just a few days ago, I was in El Paso to see for myself the asylum-seeker crisis affecting our border states and our entire nation,” Adams said at a conference of U.S. mayors on Wednesday, per Fox News. “What I saw was not a state problem or city problem. It is a national problem driven by global forces impacting regular people.”

He urged action from Biden and other lawmakers to “enact policies that might stem the flow of illegal immigration,” and requested that more options be given to cities to provide support for the newcomers, according to Fox News.

Earlier this month, Biden announced a plan to address some of those issues with a program that would increase the number of people accepted into the U.S. to 30,000 per month, from the countries with the highest numbers of people seeking asylum in the U.S. Those countries include Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the Deseret News reported.

The program also focuses on increasing federal funding to keep people from illegally crossing the border, as well as increasing spending to “hire additional immigrant officers and judges to speed up review of asylum cases,” per The Hill.

When Biden first unveiled that immigration plan, he did receive backlash from some immigration advocates, who were concerned it wouldn’t be enough and did not like that it required those seeking asylum to apply from their own countries.

“This benefit will exclude migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey told The New York Times.