June 30, 2016
Does the United States allow private sponsors to resettle refugees?
Not right now, although efforts are underway to change that. While citizens can volunteer or donate money, and may use the word “sponsor” to describe their work, they never steer the process and are not able to affect the total number of refugees accepted.
“We don’t turn over responsibility,” said Lavinia Limón, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an agency that handles resettlement for the federal government. “It’s nothing like the Canadian model.”
(The United States, with its far larger population, takes in many more refugees than Canada, though Canada has resettled more from the Syrian crisis.)
How are refugees resettled in the United States?
The president determines the number of refugees accepted each year in consultation with Congress, which appropriates the funds, and the government contracts with nine agencies, six of which are faith-based, to resettle them. Refugees are given federal money to learn English and pay for essentials, and they are expected to start working in the first couple of months.
Financial help and volunteer work from citizens and charitable organizations are important, too, because “the government funding isn’t really enough to do this right,” said Melanie Nezer, the chairwoman of Refugee Council USA, the coordinating body for agencies that handle resettlement.