MIAMI — A site dedicated to matching people seeking safety with sponsors in the United States has seen interest past its capacity to handle the volume, particularly from Haitians hoping to apply for the humanitarian parole process.
Welcome Connect, created by the nonprofit Welcome.US, pairs sponsors with people from countries including Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti eligible for refugee and humanitarian parole status. The site opens a registration form for potential beneficiaries – aspiring immigrants living outside the U.S. – on the 15th day of each month. When registration opened Mar. 15, the higher-than-expected volume of users caused the Welcome Connect platform to crash.
“We are cognizant of the great need coming out of Haiti in particular, and the close connections that our country in general has to Haiti,” said Kit Taintor, the organization’s vice president of policy and practice.
Welcome.US is one of many organizations that is working to mobilize sponsors and connect them with potential beneficiaries following the Biden rule-change last year that opened the door for Americans to sponsor refugees for the first time in decades. Welcome.US launched in September 2021, the only focus was on Afghans fleeing war. Their Welcome Connect platform launched in 2022, and at the time the only eligible population for the platform was Ukrainians. The group then opened to additional safety seekers as immigration rules and policies changed. Among them, the Biden Administration’s Jan. 5 humanitarian parole applicable to Haitians.
About 700 sponsorship matches from Welcome Connect have decided to move forward with the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services application, which is still required to immigrate to America. One “match” usually includes more than one beneficiary. In total, the Welcome Connect platform has helped 1,800+ people get sponsored.
Now, Welcome Connect has more than 17,000 potential sponsors looking to be matched. Of those, 3,200+ potential sponsors are in active conversations with potential beneficiaries.
The group is now sorting through the registrations to make sure people with ties to Haitians, direct or indirect, recognize how they can become sponsors themselves, Taintor said.
Site traffic from The Haitian Times, which is not involved with sponsorship matching, shows tens of thousands of visitors went from the news outlet’s platform to Welcome.Us around Mar. 15. Meanwhile, the U.S. has a cap of 30,000 beneficiaries being allowed to enter each month.
Also, the number of people who registered to sponsor Haitians in particular through Welcome Connect remains unclear. Once the site went down, would-be immigrants started filling out the application for sponsor candidates that was still accessible.
Welcome Connect is unable to match the volume of people in need visiting the site, Taintor said.
“We’re still trying to go through and make sure that folks that filled out the sponsorship form truly do have sponsorship that they can offer,” Taintor said.
Welcome Connect continues to encourage U.S. residents and citizens to sign up to be sponsors.
“There’s not that many programs actually in which [you] can put in an application and really change the trajectory of somebody’s life and radically change the future for an individual like that,” Taintor said.
Editor’s Note: The Haitian Times is not part of the sponsor-matching process, and has recently been targeted by scammers promising people it is. Please do not pay anyone money to send messages or comments on our stories. Report scams to the immigration authorities’ Fraud and Abuse Prevention by phone (1-877-388-3840) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).