Which 'Refugees' Are We Welcoming?

Resettlement in the United States has only gotten more arbitrary

By Nayla Rush on May 26, 2023

The process for selecting refugees to be resettled in the United States has long seemed arbitrary and unfair. For the most part, refugees were randomly picked by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to come here, while others in similar circumstances were left behind.

One couldn’t have expected that the selection process would get even more arbitrary.

Who is Welcoming Whom?

The Welcome Corps, a new program introduced by the Biden administration in January 2023, hands over the control of part of the resettlement process to refugee advocates in the United States (whether private individuals or organizations) and allows them to select their own refugees and future American citizens. Per U.S. immigration law, resettled refugees are required to apply for a green card one year after arrival and can apply for citizenship four years later (not five, as the five-year count for refugees starts on the day of arrival).

The Welcome Corps will not replace but instead complement the traditional resettlement process led by UNHCR and resettlement agencies—with the latter being religious or community-based organizations contracted by the Department of State to provide services to refugees once they’re here. As underlined by the Biden administration, this UN refugee agency with “the international mandate to provide protection to refugees worldwide, has historically referred the vast majority of [resettlement] cases to the United States.” This will not be the case under the Welcome Corps.

Under the new program, private individuals in the United States (backed by various non-governmental organizations) will take on the primary responsibility of selecting candidates for resettlement and then providing them with initial support once here. In fact, private sponsors do not even need to identify particular candidates for resettlement—the “Welcome Corps team” (i.e. non-profit organizations, including the above-mentioned resettlement agencies) will be in charge of matching sponsors with people to be resettled.

In effect, the Biden administration is handing the control of refugee selection and admission of future U.S. citizens to, not just a number of private individuals (including freshly arrived refugees), but to a powerful machine of non-profit organizations and philanthropists advocating for an increase in the number of refugees resettled here.


[Read the rest at The National Interest]