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The White House said Thursday President Barack Obama has ordered his administration to “scale up” the number of Syrian refugees allowed in the United States in the coming year, preparing his team for at least 10,000 in the next fiscal year.  According to a senior administration official “The proposed resettling of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees would be allocated out of a U.S. quota of 75,000 refugee admissions slated for next fiscal year, beginning October 1st.”

That quota applies to refugees all over the world and Obama has the authority to raise that quota if there’s a crisis.  Referring to the 75,000 quota, a Senate aide claims that Kerry had told senators that “they’d seek an additional increase beyond that.”

The aide also said that Kerry had spoken about a potential new total as high as 100,000.  A total of about 1,500 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the United States since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, many of them this fiscal year.

According to the State Department figures as of September 4th 23 refugees were admitted in 2011, 41 in 2012, 45 in 2013, 249 in 2014 and 1,199 so far this fiscal year, which ends September 30th.  It’s expected that an estimated 300 more refugees will be admitted by the end of this fiscal year.

According to U.S. officials this adds up to a grand total of about 1,800 refugees from Syria’s four-year civil war being admitted to the United States by October 1st.  Human rights groups have suggested by the end of next year the U.S. accept 65,000 Syrian refugees.

The rate of admissions is growing however the U.S. is limited in how quickly it can resettle refugees because of both admissions quotas and security concerns.

There’s a clear divide on the issue, according to a senior State Department official briefing reporters there were.  The official also said the main objective of the resettlement program was to ensure that once the conflict was over refuges admitted to the United States would return home, which was difficult to do when they’re resettled so far from home.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, expressed his concerns in a statement after the meeting on refugee admission.

The official said “Before agreeing to accept tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, the Obama administration must prove to the American people that it will take the necessary precautions to ensure that national security is a top priority, especially at a time when ruthless terrorist groups like ISIS are committed to finding ways to enter the United States and harm Americans.”

The U.S. relies on U.N. lists of refugees who are deemed safe candidates for resettlement, however the screening process can take anywhere between 18 and 24 months and strains the resources of the Department of Homeland Security as well as Customs and Immigration Services.  On Wednesday the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the current migration poses an opportunity for terrorist groups such as ISIS to “infiltrate operatives among these refugees.”

Over half the population of Syria has been displaced by the current civil war, and the flow of refugees in the Middle East and Europe has strained countries’ resources and divided local populations.

 

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