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“We’d love to see more refugees resettled here.” U.S. Department of State visits Indiana to promote Welcome Corps

Julieta Valls Noyes, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, during a visit to Indiana this week.
Ben Thorp
/
WFYI
Julieta Valls Noyes, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, during a visit to Indiana this week. 

An assistant secretary from the U.S. Department of State visited Indiana this week to promote a new refugee resettlement program.

The program is aimed at growing community support around newly arrived refugees.

Last year, the Biden Administration announced the formation of the Welcome Corps, which allowed local community groups to sponsor refugees and help assist with settlement.

Julieta Valls Noyes is the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

“Just this year Indiana has welcomed 1,150 refugees and Afghan special immigrant visa holders,” she said. “So while we’re grateful to Indiana for all that it has done we’d love to see more refugees resettled here too.”

A 2022 report from Indiana University outlined barriers faced by refugees in the state and called for a number of additional supports including more investment in affordable housing and expanded language services.

Claire Holba is the Director of Policy and Advocacy with Patchwork Indy’s refugee sponsorship program. She said the hope is that the Welcome Corps will expand on existing support for refugees.

“It’s a community sponsorship model. You have a group of five, or sometimes more, people who say, ‘We want you here. We are welcoming you,’” she said.

Across the state, there are 27,800 settled refugees according to IU’s Center for Research on Inclusion & Social Policy. Indiana's largest refugee group comes from Burma.

Leslie Sperry is a Fort Wayne resident who sponsored a refugee family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said a group from her church made the decision to sponsor through the Welcome Corps program.

“I’ve always felt that Fort Wayne and Indiana in general is a really good place to raise a family,” she said. “My family, other people who live here, and refugees who want to come and raise their families.”

Sperry and her group sponsored Meshack Asende and his family, helping him find a job and a place to stay. She said initially her group found Asende an AirBNB and stocked it with Congolese food.

“If you get someone who is perfect that means you will be perfect,” Asende said of the group. “This is the chance I get because I met with the perfect people.”

Ben Thorp
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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