(CMC) – The United States has launched a new private sponsorship programme that will enable Americans to sponsor refugees arriving through the US Refugee Admissions Programme (USRAP), amid heightened concern over plans by the Joe Biden administration to limit migrants from the Caribbean and other countries.
US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said that the Department of State, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, has launched the Welcome Corps that would directly support refugees’ resettlement and “make a difference by welcoming these new neighbours into their communities.”
“This programme invites Americans to be partners and guides to refugees, as they build new lives in the United States and help them realise their full potential,” said Blinken, adding “the Welcome Corps is the boldest innovation in refugee resettlement in four decades.”
“It is designed to strengthen and expand the capacity of the USRAP by harnessing the energy and talents of Americans from all walks of life desiring to serve as private sponsors – ranging from members of faith and civic groups, veterans, Diaspora communities, businesses, colleges and universities, and more,” he said.
In the programme’s first year, the Biden administration’s goal is to mobilise at least 10,000 Americans “to step forward as private sponsors and offer a welcoming hand to at least 5,000 refugees from around the world.”
The US Secretary of State said the Welcome Corps will build on “the extraordinary response of the American people over the past year in welcoming our Afghan allies, Ukrainians displaced by war, Venezuelans, and others fleeing violence and oppression.”
“In the face of unprecedented global displacement, the United States will continue to lead the international community in humanitarian response, including refugee resettlement. By launching the Welcome Corps, we build on a proud tradition of providing refuge and demonstrate the spirit and generosity of the American people as we commit to welcoming refugees in need of our support,” Blinken continued.
Blinken’s announcement comes as Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman, Yvette D Clarke, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk last week denounced plans by the Biden administration to restrict migrants from the Caribbean and other places.
Earlier, the Biden administration announced that it was limiting migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti who enter the US to 30,0000 each month under humanitarian parole, while expelling those who attempt to cross the south western border.
“As the daughter of immigrants and a woman who has dedicated her life towards securing their fair and equitable access to the American dream, I have long pursued reform in a desperately out-of-date immigration system,” Clarke, whose parents hail from Jamaica, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“Unfortunately, the recently announced reforms from President Biden and his administration fail to deliver the change migrant communities deserve and have prayed for. Moreover, these insufficient solutions have permitted the cruel and oppressive legacy of the Trump-era Title 42 policy to persist,” added the representative for the largely Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
“I am far from alone in finding that tragic fact unacceptable. This harmful policy has for years disproportionately impacted Black migrants and created life-threatening conditions for immigrants seeking refuge at our borders. It has denied them due process entitled to them by law and the opportunity provided to them by America,” said.
Clarke urged President Biden to re-evaluate his administration’s decision on the issue.
Türk said the Biden administration’s border policy reforms “risk undermining the basic foundations of international human rights and refugee law,” also the intention to use the COVID pandemic-related Title 42 public health order even more than today.
The United Nations rights chief said that Title 42 has already been used by US immigration officials “2.5 million times at the southern border to expel people to Mexico or their home country, without assessing what risks they faced as a result of being returned.”
The White House said in a statement that the new programme will expand and expedite legal pathways for orderly migration from Caribbean and other countries, and result in new consequences for those who fail to use those legal pathways.
It said that the new measures draw on the success of the Venezuela initiative, which was launched in October 2022, “and has resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of Venezuelan nationals attempting to enter the United States unlawfully.”
In addition, the Biden administration said it is “surging additional resources to the border and the region”, scaling up its anti-smuggling operations, and expanding coordination and support for border cities and non-governmental organisations.
“Importantly, the actions announced today are being implemented in close partnership with Mexico and governments across the Western Hemisphere,” the statement said.