The Biden administration has been following the example of Canada's private refugee sponsorship program and launched several programs in which Americans can apply to sponsor refugees from a select list of countries to move to the United States. In a nutshell, "sponsorship" means you promise to take care of the beneficiary while they're adjusting to life in the U.S.

These initiatives include: 

  • Sponsor Circles for Afghans,
  • Uniting for Ukraine,
  • Humanitarian parole sponsorship for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans (CHNV),
  • and Welcome Corps, in which small groups of sponsors help refugees who have already left their home countries to move to the U.S.

These programs potentially allow Americans to do a large amount of good by helping people escape some of the most crisis-stricken countries in the world. There are also secondary benefits, like allowing refugees to send remittances back home to their needy families, or to bring their family members to the U.S. as well.

I sponsored a friend under the Cuban humanitarian parole sponsorship program, and while it has been a very rewarding experience on a personal level, I would not necessarily recommend it as the highest-impact option. The reason is that the CHNV program operates under a strict quota system, and the number of applications far exceeds this quota. Therefore, for every person who gets through, there's another person who didn't get to immigrate as a result. 

I could make the argument that helping a young person is good because he'll get to experience more years in the U.S. than a typical beneficiary. I could also argue that helping a Cuban instead of someone from another nationality has an advantage because Cubans have a much easier pathway to permanent residence. That's because of the Cuban Adjustment Act (the other three nationalities only get parole for 2 years, after that they would have to try to find some other way of staying in the U.S.). On the other hand, while the economic situation in Cuba is dire, it is probably even worse to be living in Haiti.

But I think the highest-impact opportunities are ones where demand is unlikely to reach the quota, like Welcome Corps.

I'm not going to try to summarize all of the details of eligibility and how to become a sponsor in this post, for that you can just read the website of welcome.us, a nonprofit that helps connect sponsors with beneficiaries and has learning resources about how to become a sponsor.

What I will say is that what excites me the most about private refugee sponsorship is it combines two important qualities as an opportunity to do good. One is that I think it's very high-impact; moving someone from one of the worst countries in the world to live to one of the best is life-changing. But the other is it's a very personal way of doing good. Not only do you get to meet the people you're helping, you get to help them adjust to life in the U.S. and support them until they're able to support themselves. I think one of the challenges EA faces is many of our highest-impact opportunities are often missing that personal touch which can be highly motivating and brings the act of doing good more in line with our natural human instincts.

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I wish I was a middle aged homeowner who could do this lol

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