About a year ago Jesuit Refugee Service/USA staff at the U.S.-Mexico border realized something about many migrants’ journeys: They needed as much help settling into their final destinations as they did when they first entered the country.

This week, the organization launched a new initiative to respond to that need and expand its migration response to the interior United States. The “Migrant Accompaniment Network” is a group of nationwide volunteers who help migrants assimilate to their new community once they arrive.

The initiative comes amid an ongoing immigration crisis. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that there were more than 2.2 million migrant encounters nationwide from October 2021 and July 2022, and specifically more than 1.9 million migrant encounters at the southern border. Both figures well exceed the respective totals for Fiscal Year 2021 by more than 200,000.

In recent months, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bused migrants to Democrat-led cities – Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago – as a rebuke to President Joe Biden’s border policies. The move has led to a constant war of words between the cities’ mayors and Abbott as the cities struggle to respond and the federal government stands idly by.

The actions, or lack thereof, from elected officials is part of the reason the new initiative is crucial, Joan Rosenhauer, the executive director of JRS/USA told Crux.

“If officials are not providing that support but are arguing about what we should be doing for these asylum seekers, then it’s so important for volunteers who do want to make sure that they represent a welcoming community to step up and provide the simple kind of support efforts that make a huge difference for people who are new to a community and are feeling quite lost,” Rosenhauer said.

How the “Migrant Accompaniment Network” works is people can sign up to volunteer through JRS/USA, and then they’ll go through a background check, an onboarding and orientation process. From there, the organization will connect the volunteers with migrants that arrive in their city. The role of the volunteer, Rosenhauer said, is to be a “local supporter, to give [the migrant] a friend there so to speak.”

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