The Biden administration announced on Monday that it will allow groups of private citizens to sponsor Afghan refugees as resettlement agencies struggle to handle thousands of new arrivals, Roll Call reports.
Private citizens will be allowed to form “sponsor circles” to aid refugee resettlement. The sponsor circles will be responsible for providing basic services to refugees in their first 90 days in the country, which is typically done by resettlement agencies that were gutted during the Trump administration’s crackdown on asylum-seekers and legal immigration.
Resettlement agencies, which typically provide housing, furniture, clothing, food, and aid have been hollowed out as the number of refugees steadily declined under Trump before the wave of Afghan refugees following the US withdrawal.
“Americans of all walks of life have expressed strong interest in helping to welcome these individuals,” the State Department said. “The Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans harnesses this outpouring of support and enables individuals to become directly involved in the welcome and integration of our new neighbors.”
Tens of thousands refugees:
The Biden administration said that about 7,000 Afghans have been resettled in the US since the withdrawal.
But more than 53,000 Afghans are stuck at military bases around the country and another 15,000 are waiting to be vetted overseas.
Resettlement agencies were unprepared to handle the wave after resettling just 11,411 refugees last fiscal year, prompting the new policy.
“With the current capacity challenges, a parallel model like this could be helpful for reaching higher refugee admissions,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the resettlement group Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told Roll Call.
More support needed:
The new sponsor circles will have to raise $2,275 per refugee.
The State Department said “community members will take on the primary responsibility of welcoming and providing initial support to newly arrived refugees, helping facilitate their successful integration.”
But private citizens will still need sufficient support from the resettlement infrastructure, Vignarajah said.
“With that said, it’s imperative that it is implemented thoughtfully and with sufficient institutional support,” she said. “We want to make sure that both refugees and the Americans who welcome them feel positioned for successful outcomes.”