© 2024 88.9 KETR
Public Radio for Northeast Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Texas among the top states whose residents are signing up to sponsor refugees

 Zeenat Khan (right), director of DFW Refugee Outreach Services, stands outside a Richardson hotel talking with a group of young Afghan refugees.
Stella M. Chávez
Zeenat Khan (right), director of DFW Refugee Outreach Services, stands outside a Richardson hotel talking with a group of young Afghan refugees.

More than 65,000 people around the country are participating in a U.S. Department of State program that lets Americans sponsor refugees — and Texas ranks among the top five states with residents who’ve submitted applications.

The Welcome Corps program, which matches a refugee or refugee family with a sponsor group, is over a year old. In December, it expanded to allow applicants to sponsor someone they know.

Annie Nolte-Henning, executive director of the Community Sponsorship Hub, said that was a game-changer.

“This expansion of Welcome Corps holds this huge promise of reuniting families and friends who have been separated from loved ones in the United States by crisis,” Nolte-Henning said. “Now, people who have been waiting for many, many years to reunite with their mom or their uncle have the opportunity to form a private sponsor group and be able to welcome their family through this new pathway.”

In addition to Texas, other states leading in the number applications submitted include Minnesota, Washington, California and Ohio.

Anyone interested in applying to become a sponsor must first form what’s known as a Private Sponsor Group, which consists of five U.S. citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18 and who live in the same area.

A sponsor group must commit to fundraising $2,425 per individual it plans to sponsor. That money goes towards costs for housing and other needs and is the amount that refugee resettlement agencies receive to assist refugees.

Nolte-Henning said different affinity groups

“Members of veterans groups — to be able to welcome their Afghan allies — LGBT groups and human rights organizations, faith groups, service organizations…all being able to support vulnerable refugees by identifying a specific refugee individual that they wish to sponsor,” she said. “So it’s a new opportunity.”

During the past few years, refugee resettlement agencies have faced major challenges, including staff and budget cuts. The Trump administration significantly cut the number of refugees allowed to come to the U.S. and the pandemic also placed a strain on agencies.

Last year, the state’s largest resettlement agency, Refugee Services of Texas, closed after 45 years due to financial troubles.

Refugee advocates say these setbacks are why private sponsors are vital to refugee resettlement.

“Sponsors are coming together to do things like securing housing, enroll children in school and just navigate the day-to-day activities we take for granted like paying their bills, navigating the DART…,” Nolte-Henning said. “But I think what’s always stood out most to me is beyond these basics, sponsorship always allows newcomers to immediately gain social capital.”

Information sessions for people interested in becoming a sponsor are held regularly in different cities across the country, including this weekend at the Dallas Public Library. You can also learn how to sign up by visiting WelcomeCorps.org.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

StellaChávezisKERA’seducation reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years atThe Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35. The award-winning entry was “Yolanda’s Crossing,” a seven-partDMN series she co-wrote that reconstructs the 5,000-mile journey of a young Mexican sexual-abuse victim from a smallOaxacanvillage to Dallas. For the last two years, she worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,where she was part of the agency’s outreach efforts on the Affordable Care Act and ran the regional office’s social media efforts.