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Passion and Partnership Are Helping Refugees in the U.S.—But We Need More

4 minute read
Pichai is the chief executive officer of Google and Alphabet. Sweet is chair and chief executive officer of Accenture. Pichai and Sweet are co-chairs of the Welcome.US CEO Council.

A new report shows the global refugee crisis has rapidly increased in recent years, reaching a new record high of approximately 110 million displaced people. This is one of the defining challenges of our time. Fortunately, in the United States, we are seeing a growing movement of individuals, families and communities going above and beyond to provide support and make newcomers feel welcome.

Through policy innovations led by the U.S. government, an intrepid effort by frontline resettlement agencies, and a unique approach by Welcome.US—a national initiative to mobilize Americans from across the country to welcome and support people seeking refuge in the U.S.—people in every state and over 10,000 zip codes have helped resettle more than 200,000 Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers.

This is a major change from what we have seen before. What was once a responsibility that fell heavily on specialist resettlement agencies is now being shared by individual families, communities, and businesses in an unprecedented public-private effort. This is something to celebrate and to build on.

Throughout America’s history, our communities, businesses and culture have benefited deeply from the contributions of refugees who have settled in the U.S.. We felt it was vital to help continue that American tradition. That’s why we both agreed to chair the Welcome.US CEO Council, a group of more than 35 major American companies. By bringing together the scale of the private sector and our workforces in a coordinated way, we can help expand the work of Welcome.US and tap into an even greater capacity across the country to welcome newcomers and help set them up for success in their new homes.

We’ve made considerable progress over the last year, with companies from across industries bringing forth their unique capabilities to bolster the work of governments and nonprofits. For example, Airbnb.org has helped connect refugees and asylum seekers to free, temporary housing, HP and Google provided computers and Pixel phones to help refugees stay connected, and T-Mobile is supporting refugees with free service plans. Comcast NBCUniversal has donated airtime on its networks to spread awareness about this important cause while other Welcome.US CEO Council members, including Amazon, Blackstone, Delta, Gap Inc., Marriott, ManpowerGroup, Walmart, and Accenture, have led the way in hiring more refugees.

The response within our member companies has also been inspiring. At Google and Accenture alone, employees have volunteered more than 5,000 hours in support of refugees—including asylum clinics to help newcomers navigate the paperwork involved with setting up a new life. Member companies like AIG and Chubb have joined us in hosting such clinics, which are led by the legal expertise of Gibson Dunn. Last fall, we attended an asylum clinic in New York, where we heard stories from people like Faqir, a student and dental assistant who was airlifted out of Afghanistan in 2021 after receiving threats from the Taliban. Seeing firsthand the passion of our employees showed how effectively the private sector can bring together the resources to make a real difference.

Looking ahead, we want to make it easier for more individuals and businesses to assist in this effort. One immediate need is sponsorship of refugee families. The Welcome.US CEO Council is supporting two new programs to make it easier for Americans to become sponsors by addressing some of the biggest hurdles. Sponsors matched with a newcomer through the Welcome Connect portal—built by ServiceNow and Goldman Sachs—will be able to access up to $3,000 in matching funds to complement funds raised from their communities. And in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel and Miles4Migrants, Welcome.US will support sponsors with free flights for newcomers who arrive in the US under humanitarian sponsorship programs.

How the world supports refugees is a deeply complex issue with no easy answers. Yet, when it comes to supporting refugees here at home, we are learning what works: When everyday American families and businesses contribute their resources and know-how to change lives for the better. Both the need – and the opportunity to help—have never been greater and we look forward to you joining us in this effort, on this World Refugee Day and beyond.

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