Hetfield on CNN: Welcome Corps Initiative a ‘Great Step Forward’

By Brian Zumhagen

HIAS.org

HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield discusses the new "Welcome Corps" initiative with CNN anchor Bianna Golodryga, January 20, 2023

In an appearance on “CNN Newsroom” on Friday morning, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield praised Welcome Corps, a new Biden administration initiative that allows Americans to privately sponsor refugees from around the world. The program resembles what HIAS has been doing through its own Welcome Circles, starting with Afghan evacuees in 2021.

In a conversation with anchor Bianna Golodryga — whose own family HIAS resettled decades ago — Hetfield said that with Welcome Corps “we can resettle refugees anywhere in the country where we have three to five people, or congregations, who want to welcome refugees into their community.” Traditionally, under the U.S. Refugee Assistance Program (USRAP), newcomers have only been placed in communities with an official refugee resettlement agency.

The U.S. government’s goal with Welcome Corps is to mobilize 10,000 private sponsors and welcome 5,000 refugees initially. Asked whether those numbers — and the Biden administration’s 2023 refugee admissions goal of 125,000 — are too low, Hetfield said the new program is part of a much needed effort after years of cuts to refugee programs under the previous administration.

“We have to build up capacity and demonstrate leadership because there is a global refugee crisis not just in Ukraine, but over the world,” he said. “There are over 100 million people displaced, two million of whom need to be resettled because they cannot stay where they are. So yes, we do need to do better — but we understand that it takes time to build things back, and this initiative, the Welcome Corps, is a great step forward.”

Watch: Hetfield discusses new “Welcome Corps” initiative