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Should the U.S. Follow Canada’s Lead on Refugee Resettlement?

As the U.S. embraces Canada’s celebrated model of refugee resettlement, some experts warn it might be easier said than done.

When the U.S. State Department announced a new refugee program recently, the ears of America’s neighbor to the north might have been ringing.

The State Department is calling Welcome Corps, which would allow Americans to privately sponsor and support displaced people seeking a new life in the U.S., the “boldest innovation in refugee resettlement in four decades.” But a similar program – which experts broadly describe as the blueprint for private sponsorship – is already in place in Canada.

“The Government of Canada, the people of Canada, have been using this model for a number of years, and it’s been wildly successful there,” a senior State Department official said during an on-background briefing on Jan. 19. “And we are very grateful to our friends and allies in Canada who gave us a lot of advice as we were designing this program.

U.S. officials are optimistic about the program, and advocates have praised Welcome Corps as a helpful addition to refugee resettlement. But analysts add that while it certainly seems like the country is trying to copy Canada’s long-running system, whether that’s a good thing across the board is another issue, as Canada has had its own sponsorship-related challenges.

How Welcome Corps was born
Though Welcome Corps’ roots date back to an executive order from President Biden shortly after he took office in January 2021, the idea of creating a sponsorship model in the U.S. took on a new urgency several months later in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August. When that situation caused millions of Afghans to be uprooted from their lives, the response from the U.S. government was, “‘Okay, we need an extra tool’” for bringing in societal refugees, says Brian Dyck, the migration and resettlement program coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee Canada, a Christian nonprofit focused on peace and justice efforts.

Dyck says he, along with other experts in Canada, advised the Biden administration in the early stages of creating a private sponsorship system for the country. The first incarnation was part of a program for displaced Afghans through humanitarian parole, which is run through a streamlined process that moves more quickly than the official U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, but doesn’t come with a path to citizenship or many benefits. Ukrainians were later given a similar pathway after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

Many Afghans who arrived in the U.S. through their own parole process were connected with private sponsors through the related Sponsor Circle Program – a predecessor of Welcome Corps. Around the same time, Welcome.US – a sponsorship-mobilizing nonprofit that initially focused on assisting displaced Afghans – was launched, with four former presidents and first ladies as honorary co-chairs.

Eventually, Welcome Corps itself was launched. The State Department says it will be facilitating matches between vetted private sponsors and refugees – including those already approved for resettlement under the official admissions program – in two phases throughout 2023, with a first-year goal of having 10,000 Americans sponsor at least 5,000 displaced people.

Beyond what was already said during that background briefing in January, the State Department confirmed to U.S. News that its North American neighbor played a role in advising officials on how to launch the program.

“We routinely engage with the Government of Canada on matters of third-country resettlement for refugees,” a department spokesperson said in a statement on background. “In developing the Welcome Corps, we sought guidance and lessons learned from our Canadian counterparts who have successfully used the private sponsorship model for refugee resettlement in Canada for many decades.”

It’s understandable that they sought that guidance. Canada’s private sponsorship program is the “oldest and largest in the world,” according to a 2021 analysis by the Niskanen Center, a think tank that advocates for immigration reform among other policy areas. The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through research, notes in a 2021 piece that Canada’s system is promoted by the United Nations’ refugee agency as a model, and countries such as Argentina, Australia, Germany and Spain have started or committed to similar programs.

Many advocates for refugees see the U.S. joining the fray as exciting – as long as it’s used as a complement, not a replacement, to the official refugee admissions process that has recently been backlogged.

“I think this is absolutely the right thing to do – to offer private sponsorship to expand our capacity for hospitality and welcome in this radical, incredible way,” says Diya Abdo, an English professor at Guilford College and founder of Every Campus a Refuge, an initiative that mobilizes college and university campuses to house refugees.

Abdo’s nonprofit has already signed on as a private sponsor organization for Welcome Corps. She believes that by increasing the number of sponsors involved in welcoming refugees and investing in their safety, resettlement becomes a community issue where integration of newcomers benefits everyone.

There is evidence that Americans are motivated to help: Abdo says 10,000 people signed up for a Welcome Corps information session within two weeks of its announcement.

How Welcome Corps compares to Canada’s model
There are some notable differences between Welcome Corps and Canada’s sponsorship program.

Canada’s refugee program has three components, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The first is Canada’s official Government-Assisted Refugees program, in which government-funded nonprofits help resettle refugees. Then there are two separate arms that are tied to sponsorship: the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, which allows people to nominate refugees themselves, and the Blended Visa Office-Referred program. The latter is actually a better comparison to the Welcome Corps, says Ian Van Haren, the author of the previously referenced 2021 Migration Policy Institute article and executive director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, a Canada-based nonprofit that seeks justice for refugees and asylum seekers. Like its American equivalent, that program involves sponsors working with refugees already proposed by the United Nations.

Canada’s version has run into challenges, however. Van Haren notes in his article that while Canada’s Blended Visa Office-Referred program was popular in 2016 around the Syrian refugee crisis, the Canadian government “has struggled recently to find willing sponsors for refugees they do not know.”

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Jenny Craig is reportedly winding down its weight-loss centers and warning of mass layoffs

Jenny Craig is reportedly shutting down some of its weight-loss centers and warning employees of mass layoffs amid upheaval in the industry from popular new prescription drugs like Ozempic.

Jenny Craig alerted employees to potential layoffs as it begins “winding down physical operations” and hunts for a buyer, according to NBC News. Jenny Craig has nearly 500 weight-loss centers in the United States and Canada.

The company, founded in 1983, did not disclose to  how many weight loss centers will close or how many employees will be impacted.

“Like many other companies, we’re currently transitioning from a brick-and-mortar retail business to a customer-friendly, e-commerce driven model. We will have more details to share in the coming weeks as our plans are solidified,” a spokesperson for Jenny Craig said in a statement to .

Jenny Craig’s program provides nutritionally balanced menus, which include entrees, desserts and snacks, designed to help people lose weight. Bloomberg reported this week that the company has roughly $250 million of debt and is considering a bankruptcy filing if efforts to find a buyer for its assets fail.

It’s the latest sign of major changes in the weight-loss industry, brought on by popular new prescription diabetes drugs such as Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus.

These relatively new drugs work by stimulating the release of insulin, which helps lower blood sugar. They also slow the passage of food through the gut.

The FDA approved Ozempic for the management of diabetes in 2017 and Wegovy for weight loss in 2021.

Traditional weight-loss companies are scrambling to adjust. WeightWatchers is also getting into the prescription weight-loss drug business.

The company, now known as WW International, recently bought Sequence, a telehealth subscription service that connects patients with doctors who can prescribe weight-loss and diabetes drugs.

The $106 million acquisition of Sequence will give WW a foothold into the growing market for prescription drugs to manage weight loss.

Ozempic has gained popularity in part due to celebrities using it for weight loss.

But there are many concerns with using diabetes drugs for weight loss, including high costs and shortages that are making it harder for people with diabetes to obtain the drugs.

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Minnesota tops nation in wild birds confirmed dead from bird flu

The deadly bird disease is back this spring, and, in fact, never left over the winter.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is back killing domestic poultry and wild birds in Minnesota again this spring as huge flocks of migratory birds carry it north for another season.

But, in fact, the deadly bird disease never left the state, even over our long winter, with birds dying in December and January and some new research showing the killer flu virus may survive even in cold Minnesota lake water — with no host bird — during the winter.

That’s the update from wildlife biologists as the great spring migration descends on Minnesota, as the snow line recedes north and ice on lakes and rivers begins to let loose.

Since the disease was first reported in Minnesota just over a year ago, some 566 birds have been tested and confirmed carrying the H5N1 strain of bird flu that’s been expanding worldwide since 2020, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wisconsin has had 211 confirmed cases and North Dakota 310 as of April 11.

Nationally, more than 6,500 wild birds have been confirmed dead from the virus over the past year, some from all 49 continental states, although wildlife experts say that’s likely a gross under counting of the total number, most of which die and are never found by people.

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Outdoors notebook: Hoeven, Heinrich introduce CWD Research and Management Act

Bipartisan legislation would empower state, tribal governments to address and prevent CWD outbreaks.

Bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate aims to address the growing problem of chronic wasting disease in wild populations of deer, elk and moose.

Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., introduced the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act. The bill is a Senate companion to legislation the House of Representatives passed last December with an overwhelming 393-33 vote.

The bill would authorize $70 million per year, split evenly to support both the research and management of CWD. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would administer the funds through cooperative agreements with state and tribal wildlife agencies and agriculture departments.

The legislation also includes an authorization for USDA and state and tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs USDA to review its herd certification program within 18 months, according to a news release from Hoeven’s office.

“CWD is a growing threat to both wildlife and livestock, impacting sportsmen, ranchers and the local ecology of regions across the U.S.,” Hoeven said. “Our legislation would empower state and tribal governments to better manage and prevent outbreaks of this deadly disease, while also advancing new methods for detecting CWD and limiting its spread.

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