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'Welcome Corp' Encourages US Refugee Support

FILE - A Haitian migrant is seen next to a painting of a US flag outside the Senda de Vida (Path of Life) shelter in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, on the border with McAllen, Texas state, U.S., May 20, 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday launched a program to encourage ordinary Americans to sponsor refugees as admissions languish despite record displacement around the world.

In what he billed as the biggest innovation in U.S. refugee resettlement in four decades, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the new Welcome Corps would aim to ask 10,000 Americans in its first year to offer a hand to new refugees.

"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," said Blinken, long known for his advocacy for refugees.

U.S. citizens or permanent residents in groups of five or more can sponsor refugees by helping them with basics such as winter clothing, furniture and security deposits for housing as the new Americans seek work.

Each circle of sponsors must demonstrate that it can provide a minimum of $2,275 in support per refugee. The circles will not be compensated.

The Welcome Corps is modeled after a successful program in neighboring Canada as well as narrower initiatives in the United States for people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan, a U.S. official said.

Biden has set a goal of allowing 125,000 refugees a year, reversing drastic cuts by previous president Donald Trump, who made opposition to non-Western immigration a signature issue.

The Biden cap is in addition to Ukrainians and Afghans who can come to the United States under separate programs.

But only 6,750 refugees were resettled in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, due to long delays in processing and verification of claims.

Biden recently also gave the green-light for border guards to turn back migrants at the Mexican border after coming under political pressure over rising numbers of undocumented Central Americans, Haitians and Venezuelans.