By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chief executives from a wide array of U.S. companies met White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients on Thursday to discuss refugee resettlement and sponsorship programs as well as ways to help refugees get jobs and access to transport, the White House said.
The CEOs attending included Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Walmart’s Doug McMillon, Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, HP’s Enrique Lores and others. They are part of a council of leaders affiliated with Welcome.US, a group dedicated to helping support refugees in the United States.
They were meeting with Zients and other White House officials “to discuss specific ways we can continue to work together to support safe, orderly pathways for people in need of safety to come to the United States, including through refugee resettlement and new, expanded humanitarian sponsorship programs,” a White House official told Reuters ahead of the meeting.
Gap CEO Richard Dickson, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, Lyft Inc CEO David Risher, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert also attended, along with representatives from Airbnb, Goldman Sachs, Meta and others.
The White House said after the meeting that the officials and executives discussed long-term needs of refugees but also solutions to immediate ones, including providing credits for ride-share services and money for public transportation, increasing offers of pro bono legal services, and helping people eligible to work to get jobs.
They also talked about mentorship working with communities to sponsor and welcome refugees, it said.
“Today’s meeting highlights the importance of public-private partnerships in building durable and scalable capacity to better respond to the global displacement crisis,” the White House said in a statement.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul met Zients and other senior administration officials last month to discuss an influx of migrants in New York City that has strained its resources.
Republicans have hammered Biden, a Democrat, for his policies on immigration, and the issue is likely to feature prominently in the 2024 presidential campaign, when Biden, who is running for re-election, is likely to face former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and an immigration hardliner.
Biden sought at the beginning of his administration to recast the U.S. immigration system, but appetite in Congress for comprehensive reform legislation has been low.
The White House, which says it wants to partner with the private sector to build a humane immigration system, worked with Welcome.US to help Afghan refugees coming to the United States after Biden pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in 2021.
Welcome.US and its CEO Council have worked with the administration to “implement the largest expansion of humanitarian sponsorship pathways to safety in the United States in recent history,” a representative for the group said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Stephen Coates)