The initiative is a private sponsorship program supporting the resettlement and integration of refugees as they begin a new chapter in their lives in the US. “Throughout our history, our country has benefitted from the energy, the ingenuity, and the hard work of refugees,” proffered Blinken.
A statement from the US Department of State, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, referenced the willingness of Americans to help displaced people, many of whom come from Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
The Welcome Corps will enhance the initial DOS resettlement support and allow individual Americans to privately sponsor refugees.
“The launch of Welcome Corps is a transformative moment for the US, and as secretary Blinken stated, it’s the most significant innovation in US refugee resettlement in the past 40 years,” Miriam Feldblum, co-founder and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, told The PIE News.
The state department will match refugees approved for resettlement with private sponsors, and is seeking 10,000 Americans to support 5,000 refugees in the program’s first iteration.
Sponsors can assist these efforts through financial contributions, as well as by connecting refugees to essential services such as housing, employment, and education.
“Expanding access to U.S. higher education with resettlement for refugee students is not only a life-changing opportunity for refugee students, but will unleash [their] talent and potential which will benefit and transform campuses and communities, as greater diversity drives excellence and innovation,” Feldblum said.
The Presidents’ Alliance said it is heartened that the Biden administration’s February 2021 Executive Order is coming to fruition. “We are very excited for the opportunities for college and university sponsorship for refugee students to be announced in the coming months,” Feldblum added.
“It’s our responsibility to support refugees through scholarships and sharing resources and expertise”
Leaders in international education at US HEIs spoke with The PIE about the Welcome Corps initiative. “This is an ultimate human rights act that lends a helping hand to our fellow human beings in time of dire need and upholds their dignity,” said Reza Fakhari, vice president for internationalisation at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York.
Fakhari’s career is deeply rooted in human rights. He said the SFC human rights program has been focusing on scholars and journalists at-risk and have recently accepted a Moroccan journalist at-risk.
“As increasing numbers of refugees are bused or voluntarily arrive in New York City, SFC is exploring how best to outreach to refugee students and assist them with admission into St. Francis as a Welcome Corps partner,” he said.
New York University associate vice president for global services Sherif Barsoum also shared his sentiments, stating, “We are well aware that having refugees as part of our university community provides great benefits and opportunities to both refugees and the university community as a whole.”
Barsoum emphasised the importance of “thriving beyond borders”.
“It’s our responsibility to support refugees through scholarships and sharing resources and expertise to give incoming refugees and their families support in their transition to the US through academic, wellness, co-curricular, and social opportunities for cross-cultural learning,” he added.