IN 2016, PEOPLE of faith in the city of Billings, Mont., gathered to call for their community to get more involved in resettling refugees. With growing violence, persecution, and strife around the world and a record number of people forced to flee their homes, this community had the heart to help.
But the closest refugee resettlement office in the state was in Missoula, a 345-mile road trip west on I-90. The United States traditionally requires refugees to be resettled with families and relatives or close to these resettlement sites, which help new arrivals land on their feet and access needed services. For Billings — and for many other like-minded communities across the country — it was a logistical challenge to participate in the work of welcome.
Earlier this year, that changed. On Jan. 19, the Biden administration launched Welcome Corps, a new initiative giving everyday Americans the opportunity to sponsor refugees. Groups of at least five can now apply to form “private sponsorship groups,” which are responsible for welcoming refugee newcomers into their communities. These groups agree to assist in providing initial housing; as well as support access to health care, school enrollment, and employment opportunities; and otherwise engage directly in the life-changing work of refugee resettlement.