New Orleans The State Department and Biden Administration have announced the creation of a new program to increase refugee resettlement in the United States called the Welcome Corps. You know like the Peace Corps, Army Corps, and the like. The program isn’t perfect, but in these difficult and divided times, it seems to me to be an interesting put-up or shut-up challenge to Americans to re-establish exactly who we are and what it says about the character of our people.
The aim is to increase the resettlement effort for refugees, which was curtailed heavily under the Trump administration, with a goal to contract with families and self-organized groups of five or more who are willing to take on the job of helping sort out a family of refugees in their local community. The helping family would have to be interviewed by the State Department and would be committing to privately raise $2275 per refugee family member. They would have to suit up and help find housing, schools, jobs and the like for the refugee family. It is hoped that the program will catch on and become permanent, but in the beginning the government is hoping to recruit about 10,000 people to help 5000 refugees. Not to shame anyone, but this program is not an American original, but a copy cat operation modeled on similar efforts underway in fifteen other countries, including our ever generous and welcoming northern neighbor, Canada.
Right now, the government subcontracts resettlement efforts for refugees to some nine well-experienced big nonprofits. Well, let me correct that. They used to be big, but that was when the US was resettling 70,000 refugees annually before the Trump team cutback the program to only 10,000 a year, forcing big retractions and redundancies in the nonprofits. The Welcome Corps is meant to help reverse that trend and increase capacity by distributing the load.
The old program and the new program aren’t perfect of course, because they are both somewhat a case study of the worst face of neoliberalism. If the government really wanted to do right by refugees coming to America, they would get serious, take on the job as a public good and fund it fully. That’s the America of the Statute of Liberty welcoming people in the myth of our past. I’m kind of giving the Welcome Corps a pass on its neoliberalism excess, because all of us know that now getting real government support for refugee resettlement through the politically divided Congress and the ascending ideologies of white Christian nationalism and replacement theories would face the same odds of success as the classic snowball in hell.
I stand for taking the lemon and making lemonade. Let’s see what our national values really are now, and how this Christian nationalism stands up in practice when it comes to following the Biblical precepts to help exactly families like these refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Who wants to form a group and join the Welcome Corps?