Immigration News: January 18, 2023

Want to sponsor a refugee? The new Welcome Corps program will allow groups of at least five individuals to pool their resources to bring a refugee to their community. The Welcome Corps is the latest effort by the Biden administration to jump start the lagging U.S. refugee program.

[CBS] “The State Department initiative, which will be called Welcome Corps, could pave the way for a seismic shift in U.S. refugee policy, as most refugees brought to the U.S. for the past decades have been resettled by nine nonprofit organizations that receive federal funding. 

“Under the program, modeled after a long-standing system in Canada, groups of at least five U.S.-based individuals could have the opportunity to sponsor refugees if they raise $2,275 per refugee, pass background checks and submit a plan about how they will assist the newcomers, the sources said.

“Approved private sponsors will play the role of traditional resettlement agencies, helping newly arrived refugees access housing and other basic necessities, such as food, medical services, education and public benefits for which they qualify.”

[Reuters] “The program will aim to find U.S. sponsors for 5,000 refugees in fiscal year 2023, which ends on Sept. 30, another of the sources said. …

“The Welcome Corps program will bring in refugees through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, which takes referrals from the United Nations and U.S. embassies. Biden set a cap of 125,000 refugee admissions this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2022, but only 6,750 arrived from October-December, according to program data.”

And in other news

“Sanctuary city” is a term often loosely used, without a specific meaning or legal definition. But what about “welcoming city?” Chicagoans who are embracing that concept explain what it means to their city.

[WTTW] “’Under Mayor Lightfoot’s administration, we’ve really focused on using the word ‘welcoming,’ and that’s on purpose,’ [Nubia Willman, Chicago’s chief engagement officer,] said. ‘Often when we think about sanctuary, it’s very much about protecting against the federal government, against ICE and whatever iteration of that is in the years past. ‘Welcoming’ is much more holistically facing. It’s really about embracing people, making them feel welcome. And so when we do that here in the city, it’s not just about protection from ICE or the federal government, it’s also about integration. It’s also about celebration.’

“Ana Solano, a community intake specialist with Erie House, has been among the many people working to provide services to newly arrived immigrant families. She said in her observation, Chicagoans have embraced the idea of being a welcoming city and are eager to extend support to migrants and refugees who have landed here.”

“Hermanos de la Calle,” an organization helping homeless people in South Florida, is now assisting immigrants as well. They provide temporary housing and assistance to immigrants living unhoused. 

[CBS] “The organization urges migrants to contact organizations, friends, and relatives in other states because of the high cost of living in South Florida.  

“According to Munoz, if they have a place to go, they will pay for the trip.  

“But migrants must show proof someone is waiting for them, ‘we cannot export homeless to other parts of the country.'” 

As the United States turns back growing numbers of Cuban and Haitian immigrants arriving by boat, and as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calls out the National Guard to somehow stop migration, desperate migrants keep coming.

[The Guardian] “In the latest incidents of migrants attempting to land in south Florida, the TV station WPLG spotted city of Miami marine patrol jet skis rescuing at least two people found swimming in the ocean, and a CBP spokesperson, Michael Selva, said beachgoers on Virginia Key had helped others ashore on Thursday using small boats and jet skis.

“Two days earlier, another group of about 25 people made landfall near Fort Lauderdale. Authorities arrested 12, while others ran away.

“Increasing numbers of people are risking their lives to reach the US despite stricter policies from the Biden administration intended to deter irregular immigration and increase humanitarian visa numbers for Cubans, and others, to enter legally – but with a high bar to entry unattainable to many of the thousands fleeing existential threats including extreme violence, political oppression, severe poverty and hardships exacerbated by the climate crisis or failed states.”

The Darien Gap is dangerous, even deadly, but migrants keep walking through it, trying to reach the United States.

[AP] “Nearly 250,000 migrants crossed the treacherous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama in 2022 on their way north, a figure that was nearly double the number from a year earlier, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday. 

“At least 36 migrants died during the journey, but the United Nations’ migration agency said the real number is likely higher because some of those who perish in the deep jungle are never recovered. 

“In 2021, at least 133,000 migrants — mostly Haitian — crossed the Darien, according to Panama’s data. Last year, Venezuelans dominated the flow with more than 150,000 crossings.” 

Funding shortfalls exacerbate the immigration application backlog at USCIS. Higher fees won’t resolve the problem, which has been years in the making. The problem: Congress has refused to do anything about the shortfall. 

[American Immigration Council] “Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees—the application fees paid by would-be immigrants and nonimmigrants and their employers. That makes it hard to fix backlogs and other issues, since the fees coming in each year are only enough to cover processing that number of applications – not the new applications and the older, backlogged ones. …

“[Humanitarian] benefits, such as refugee status, asylum, and Temporary Protected Status, make up a growing workload that USCIS gets little or no money to process.

“Director Ur M. Jaddou told Congress last year that when USCIS became a standalone agency in the early 2000s, its humanitarian workload took up less than 5% of its budget.

“By 2022, USCIS’ humanitarian workload had grown to nearly 20%. That shift may not seem enormous, but when you consider that asylum applications and refugee processing charge no fees—and that application fees for TPS are capped at $50 by federal law—that’s a large share of the budget being taken up by work that doesn’t generate revenue.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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