There are many ways for people across the U.S. to take part in the work of welcoming refugees and others forced by persecution, war, or violence to flee their homes. “Sponsorship” is an umbrella term that includes many different types of engagement in which a community group takes responsibility for providing support to certain refugees or refugee-like newcomers in clearly defined ways (through volunteer services, in-kind, and/or financial contributions).
To understand sponsorship, it helps to know how refugee resettlement in the U.S. is organized. The federal government contracts with ten national refugee resettlement agencies, including EMM, to provide services to forcibly displaced people who enter the U.S. legally — as refugees, special immigrant visa holders, humanitarian parolees, etc. Like the other national agencies, EMM subcontracts with a network of federally approved affiliate organizations to provide specific resettlement services. The federally funded program that supports most refugees during their first 90 days in the U.S. is called “Reception and Placement.” The map below shows the affiliate organizations that have offered these services in Fiscal Year 2023.
In recent years, efforts to go beyond these existing organizations and to encourage other parts of the wider population — faith-based communities, civic groups, ethnic affinity groups, or even groups of private citizens – to play a significant role in refugee resettlement and integration have increased. In response to the decimation of the U.S. refugee admissions process under the Trump administration and the impact of COVID-19, the Biden administration has invested in infrastructure and staffing needed to reach higher annual targets for refugee admissions. Mass migration prompted by crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine has also underscored the need for a broader and more nimble resettlement system.
As the federal government has expanded the ways that ordinary Americans can take part in the work of welcome, EMM has built out new opportunities, as well. EMM currently invites congregations and community groups to partner with EMM in the following forms of sponsorship:
- Co-sponsorship or community sponsorship with an established EMM affiliate organization
- Other forms of community support in conjunction with EMM affiliates (corporate or campus-based partnerships, other local support teams)
- Remote Placement Community Partners (RPCPs)
- Support for asylum seekers through the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program.
To help EMM’s friends and supporters better understand what each of these kinds of sponsorship entails, we are launching a new blog series called Voices of Welcome. The series will include short explainers on types of engagement as well as deep dives into the experience of specific community partners. We hope this will not only educate but inspire readers to consider what you might do, with others, in your own community, diocese, or state, to welcome your newest neighbors. Watch for the next installment in this series, coming soon!