WASHINGTON — The U.S. will hit its goal of taking in 10,000 refugees from Syria on Monday, a month ahead of the deadline set by President Barack Obama.
The announcement is a victory for the administration, which has said that by accepting more refugees, the U.S. would both help people fleeing the brutal Syrian civil war and gain credibility as it asked European partners to shoulder the burden of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the violence.
But it’s also sure to reinvigorate debate in the 2016 campaign, where Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has warned that the refugees pose a security risk. His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, directed agencies in his state to attempt to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling there, and other Republican governors have also vowed to put up roadblocks. Republicans in Congress have questioned whether the screening process for the refugees is stringent enough.
Trump has criticized his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for supporting Obama’s plan, saying she’s more concerned with providing jobs to those fleeing conflict than those already in the U.S. Clinton has accused Trump, who once proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S., of trying to stoke fear.
Delivery on the president’s pledge to admit 10,000 refugees reflects a dramatic increase in admissions in recent weeks. In the first six months after Obama’s announcement of the goal last Sept. 10, only about 1,200 Syrian refugees had resettled in the U.S.
Susan Rice, the president’s national security adviser, said the uptick was “a testament to the hard work and dedication of employees across the federal government” in responding to the crisis.
“While refugee admissions are only a small part of our broader humanitarian efforts in Syria and the region, the President understood the important message this decision would send, not just to the Syrian people but to the broader international community,” Rice said in a written statement.
The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization, said in a statement that it hoped the White House would increase refugee admissions by an additional 55,000 in the coming fiscal year.
“Never before has the world witnessed such a dramatic scale of human displacement and suffering,” David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement. “As diplomacy fails to curb the fighting in Syria, leaving over half the population displaced, the United States should lead the world in making concrete commitments to refugee resettlement.”
The U.S. plans to hold a summit on refugee issues on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next month. At that meeting, the U.S. will ask other countries, as well as businesses and nonprofits, to boost humanitarian assistance funding and double the global number of refugees offered chances to resettle.