USA TODAY US Edition
OBAMA PLANS A RISE IN REFUGEES
U.S. to establish number of migrants it accepts at 110,000 in 2017 to stem flow in Europe, Middle East
The White House plans to sharply increase the number of refugees accepted by the United States to 110,000 in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, saying the move is necessary to help stem a migrant crisis gripping Europe and the Middle East.
The new target is a 29% increase over the 85,000 refugees accepted this fiscal year and a 57% increase over the 70,000 refugees allowed per year from 2013 to 2015.
Secretary of State John Kerry informed members of Congress about the proposed increase Tuesday, according to a senior administration official who was not authorized to discuss the change publicly.
Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have said the U.S needs to do more to help ease the burden on countries in Europe and elsewhere that have accepted millions of migrants fleeing war and famine in the Middle East and Africa.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for the opposite approach, saying the U.S. needs to better screen migrants who may be terrorists. He initially called for a temporary ban on immigrants from all Muslim nations, but has since refined his stance to say would-be refugees from countries with known ties to terrorism require “extreme vetting ” before being admitted to the U.S.
Much of the debate over refugees has focused on the 11 million people who have fled Syria as a bloody civil war continues into its sixth year. The Obama administration has argued that Syrian refugees undergo extensive background checks, a process that can last up to two years, as U.S. and United Nations officials verify asylum seekers’ stories and check possible ties to terrorist organizations.
The White House announced last month that the U.S. had accepted its 10,000th Syrian refugee of the year, and press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was “gratified” that the administration had reached its annual goal. Clinton has said she would raise that ceiling even higher if elected president.
Republican lawmakers and governors have fought back, arguing that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups will try to exploit the refugee program to slip operatives into the United States.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a Trump adviser on immigration and refugee issues, said migrants from Syria have caused mayhem throughout Europe and could do the same in the U.S. if more are accepted.
He said U.S. officials cannot conduct thorough background checks, since Syria is in the middle of a war and criminal records are difficult, if not impossible, to find.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Obama’s ability to unilaterally increase the number of refugees is a reminder why the country’s refugee laws need to be updated.
“We must remain compassionate toward refugees, but we also need to make sure that we use common sense,” Goodlatte said in a statement.
Obama “continues to ignore warnings from his own national security officials and plans to bring in even more Syrian refugees over the next year.”
“We must remain compassionate toward refugees, but we also need to make sure that we use common sense.” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.