Full paper: “Private Refugee Resettlement in U.S. History” [pdf]


Although the United States has a long tradition of providing a safe haven for refugees, in recent years the government has only modestly increased its annual admission of refugees amidst the world’s largest refugee crisis since World War II.

During the early 20th century, Americans routinely sponsored and funded the resettlement of displaced family members overseas. Religious and ethnic groups provided resources and sponsors to refugees without families in the United States. Following World War II, these private associations and societies were the primary sponsors for refugees, funding almost all refugee resettlement to the United States with private money. Even after the federal government began to fund refugee resettlement, the Reagan administration created a private sponsorship program that resettled about 16,000 refugees with private funds, parallel to federally funded efforts.

America’s long history of successful privately funded refugee resettlement suggests that Americans can respond powerfully to a refugee crisis without needing significant public funding. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has encouraged countries to establish private approaches. Many countries have already responded to this call and are now successfully sponsoring and resettling refugees with private resources. If the United States draws on its own history and creates a private program, it has the potential to become the global leader in private refugee resettlement.

Read the full paper here.