In order to reinvigorate the historical role of the United States as a refugee destination, the Biden administration announced a sponsorship program this week to promote and promote private sector involvement in supporting recently arrived refugees.
The initial focus of this work was to help new immigrants from Afghanistan, but as Washington increased the number of refugees after years of drastic reductions implemented by the former Trump administration, it is expected to become a model for helping other refugee groups in the future.
The State Department announced partnerships with more than 250 non-profit organizations that have joined forces to help Afghan families resettle in the United States under the Welcome.US umbrella.
The site is at the center of the story of donations, volunteer efforts, and how ordinary Americans changed the lives of displaced Afghan families. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as many celebrities, support the initiative.
“The generosity of the American people in welcoming newly arrived Afghans… is remarkable and clearly demonstrates our values as a country that welcomes immigrants from refugees and vulnerable groups from all over the world,” Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said. Said in a statement.
For decades, the federal government has been cooperating with American refugee settlement agencies to help new immigrants register for language training and employment services, register their children in schools, apply for social security cards, and perform other basic tasks.
The new partnership came at a time of strong criticism of the government’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan during and after the U.S. withdrawal. It aims to greatly strengthen the system and “promote the support of Americans from all walks of life to support the new arrivals.” Of Afghans”, according to the State Department.
According to a recent poll, 90% of Democrats said that Americans should welcome Afghans, and 76% of Republicans support accepting refugees who help the US military.
Can do more
Many immigration advocates and analysts welcome the initiative, but some say that more can be done.
David Bill, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said in an email to the Voice of America that although the Biden administration recognizes that the private sector is willing to accept refugees as “great”, he urges the government to allow private individuals and organizations to sponsor refugees. In addition to the existing public subsidy for refugees.
“The ability of Americans to accept refugees should not depend on whether the US government is willing to provide funding and raise the ceiling as it is now,” Bill said.
Watch: Afghan evacuees puzzled by US identity
The number of refugees admitted into the United States each year is determined by the President through consultation with Congress. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised to accept as many as 125,000 refugees each year, which is higher than the 15,000 refugee limit set by former President Donald Trump in the last year of his administration. After taking office, Biden initially retained Trump’s lower ceiling, but then raised it to 62,500 under strong protests within his Democratic Party.
So far, in the 2021 fiscal year ending September 30, the United States has admitted fewer than 7,000 refugees, excluding Afghans.
Scrambling to help newcomers
Although ordinary citizens are not involved in immigration cases for refugee resettlement, US officials hope that the private sector will collect and share resources to help newcomers and reduce the burden on resettlement organizations, which often scramble to arrange housing and other basic necessities for refugees.
“In the past few weeks, we have provided services to more than 100 people,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive officer of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Center, an immigration settlement agency, told reporters. “Some people only bring a backpack. We know the importance of an orderly system that can handle and prepare these new Afghan immigrants and help them make informed decisions about where they ultimately want to be resettled.”
Afghans who are evacuated to the United States without an immigrant visa are legally designated as “parole persons,” not as refugees in the strict sense. Under current U.S. law, this distinction means that they have a complicated immigration path before them.
Although they are temporarily exempt from deportation and allowed to apply for work permits, entering the country on parole does not grant immigration status, obtain public benefits, or constitute a way to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Immigration advocates urge Congress to pass legislation to protect people on parole and allow them to apply for permanent residency.
Others arrived under the special immigrant visa program, which automatically puts them on permanent residency and then U.S. citizenship, a process that may take more than five years.
As of September 14, 64,000 evacuees from Afghanistan have arrived in the United States, joining the country’s approximately 132,000 Afghan immigrants, most of whom have arrived in the past decade.
Immigration advocates say that new immigrants from Afghanistan will greatly benefit from the support system provided by Welcome.US, because initially their income will be lower than the overall foreign and local-born population of the United States.