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Experts: Let Private Citizens Sponsor Refugees

October 17, 2022 (1 min read)

Janine Prantl, Stephen Yale-Loehr, NY Daily News, Oct. 15, 2022

"Every fall, the U.S. president sets a refugee ceiling — the maximum number of refugees that may be resettled annually to the United States. For the new fiscal year that started Oct. 1, President Biden plans to resettle up to 125,000 refugees. Because of dramatic cuts to the refugee program during the prior administration, that goal will be hard to meet. A year ago, Biden set the same target, but more than 100,000 refugee slots went unused. Historically, only the U.S. government, working with international refugee agencies and nonprofits, has determined which refugees will be admitted to the United States. That’s a mistake. To meet its goal of admitting 125,000 refugees this fiscal year, the United States should also promptly allow private sponsorships of refugees. ... [P]rivate refugee sponsorships would allow Americans to participate directly in welcoming refugees and facilitating their successful integration. Experience in the United Kingdom shows that private sponsorship can be a powerful tool in expanding communities’ understanding and capacity for welcoming newcomers. It can reduce fears about others more generally, change working practices to make them more inclusive for diverse populations, and bring new perspectives into relatively homogeneous communities. Involving U.S. citizens in the immigration process could thus be a way to dampen the current heated debate about immigration and allow Americans to see the mutual benefits of immigration.

Prantl is an immigration postdoctoral associate in the Cornell Law School Immigration Law and Policy Research Program. Stephen Yale-Loehr is professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School.