On Monday, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and Human Rights First (HRF) released a report outlining what a private refugee sponsorship system could look like in the United States. The report provides answers to many questions about the specific design of a sponsorship system, with the ultimate goal of improving the U.S. refugee resettlement program and increasing resettlement capacity. 

Private refugee sponsorship is defined as a platform that, “offers communities, organizations, companies, and philanthropies the opportunity to support the resettlement of additional refugees to the United States.” Sponsorship serves as a mechanism to translate private sector support into direct assistance to increased refugee resettlement.

IRAP and HRF’s report examines the key principles of private refugee sponsorship. Such a program, they write, must ensure privately sponsored refugees receive the same stringent security checks that refugees currently undergo, and must facilitate resettlement in addition to the government cap. Moreover, the models for pairing sponsors and refugees should accommodate the motivations of the sponsors to produce the best outcomes.

The report provides answers to many questions that refugee advocates have been asking about a private sponsorship system. From strategies to set the private quota and the process to select both sponsors and refugees to what sponsorship would entail for pre and post-arrival services, this policy blueprint delves deep into the details. It also includes a section sketching out what the structure of a initial pilot program could look like.

The paper comes on the heels of Refugee Council USA–the umbrella organization representing the refugee groups nationwide–releasing their statement on private sector engagement in the refugee resettlement program. They call for the United States to consider private sponsorship as a way to tap into private sector support and interest for resettlement, noting an increase in demand from citizens and communities to get more involved to aid refugees.

Not only would private sponsorship increase total refugee admissions, it will create a robust, pro-refugee constituency that can push Congress to increase funding and implement reforms benefiting refugees. Furthermore, it will help forge close relationships between Americans and refugees that ease their integration into American society.

The Niskanen Center published the afterword of the report after leading the advocacy effort for private sponsorship in the last year. As I wrote in the paper:

The magnitude of the current refugee crisisunprecedented in recorded historyhas led many in the U.S. to push for ways to harness the tremendous goodwill of everyday Americans looking to do their part to help. The idea of private refugee sponsorship answers the question refugee advocates receive from Americans on a daily basis: ‘How can I help?’

Private sponsorship is now on the agenda of policymakers at the height of the U.S. refugee program thanks to a dedicated effort from a broad range of refugee advocates since last year. This new IRAP and HRF report provides the necessary specifics to take the general support for the idea and push forward in sketching out what a sponsorship program could really look like. It’s an invaluable contribution to the U.S. effort to launch private sponsorship and leverage American charity to help more refugees. 

Refugees around the world are looking at the United States to demonstrate leadership in the face of this global human rights crisis. As the U.S. moves closer to private sponsorship, the American people will have the chance to play a larger role in providing a safe haven to the persecuted across the globe.

Click here to read the full paper.