McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A nationwide and global campaign to raise money and donated air miles for asylum-seeking migrants to fly to the United States was launched Tuesday.
The Welcome Connect Travel program is a joint campaign by the nonprofits Welcome.US, and Miles4Migrants, as well as American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT). It is fashioned after a similar air miles donation campaign by the two nonprofits in 2021 when over $2 million and 500 million air miles were raised to help 18,000 Afghans fly to the United States.
Now they are hoping to raise $1.5 million to fund flights for asylum-seekers from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Ukraine who are part of new humanitarian sponsorship programs offered by the United States government for those who qualify.
In January, Homeland Security officials announced that up to 30,000 qualifying asylum-seeking migrants per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela will be accepted into the United States if they meet certain requirements. This includes direct flight from their country to the United States and sponsorship in the United States, as well as certain health requirements.
The Biden administration hopes that through direct flights fewer migrants will make the dangerous and arduous trek north to the border, and families will be safer, and fewer migrants will congregate on the Southwest border.
Those selected for this humanitarian parole program are legally allowed to remain in the United States for up to two years and are allowed to hold U.S. jobs during that time, according to DHS.
Another similar program, the Uniting for Ukraine program, also allows qualifying Ukrainians to come to the United States for up to two years and work if they have sponsors and meet health requirements.
The Welcome Connect Travel program hopes to help those who meet all these requirements by supplying their air travel, the organizers say.
“We know that the cost of traveling to safety can pose a financial burden for newcomers and the sponsors who will support them as they rebuild their lives in a new community, and we don’t want that cost to stand in the way of people finding a path to safety,” Welcome.US CEO Nazanin Ash said in a statement. “Americans everywhere can now directly support newcomers and their sponsors in meeting this important need. It’s another way to show that when we band together, we can exponentially increase our capacity to welcome.”
“Travel powers progress. It is the engine room of the global economy, driving trade and growth. It connects people and communities, helping to bring down barriers and create new opportunities. We are committed to backing our beliefs with actions. By working with Welcome.US, we can deploy our experience and technology to help vulnerable people travel to safety,” Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott said.
As donations are raised, Welcome.US and Miles4Migrants will work with sponsors to book flights, program officials said.
The average international flight to the U.S. is about $1,600 and organizers say public donations will help those vetted migrants to meet the travel requirements so they can come legally to the United States.
Border Report asked a few South Texas nonprofits if this program would help them and they all agreed that flying qualifying asylum-seekers to the United States is expensive and often out of their organizations’ budgets.
“Every individual has the human right to seek refuge and live in a safe place. Beyond the violence, persecution, and threats in their own countries, they still face all the transportation burdens, which makes their journey even more arduous. We are honored to partner with Welcome.US and Amex GBT, utilizing our expertise in flight booking and connections with airline companies to help individuals in need move towards safety with dignity and hope,” said Miles4Migrants Executive Director Glaydon de Freitas Filho.
According to Guidestar.org, Welcome.US is a nonprofit that helps to promote public awareness about the economic benefit of immigrants to the U.S. economy. The organization also helps to promote Immigrant Heritage Month in June and is involved in several events nationwide.