The Obama administration will meet its target of settling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States by the time fiscal year 2016 ends on September 30, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Tuesday night.
Addressing an end-of-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr reception at the State Department, Kerry noted that the 10,000 figure would be a six-fold increase in Syrian refugee admissions from FY 2015.
“Tonight, I can announce proudly that we will meet President Obama’s goal of welcoming 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States in the current fiscal year,” he said.
“Those are refugees, which is different from normal process of migration and green card and becoming a citizen and so forth. It’s a very different category,” Kerry added. “It’s also representing six-fold increase over what we did the year before.”
(A total of 1,682 Syrian refugees were resettled in FY 2015.)
Obama’s 10,000 target drew strong opposition from critics concerned about the possibility that groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) may use refugee admission programs to infiltrate terrorists into Western countries.
The fact that two of the ISIS terrorists who attacked Paris last November had – according to French prosecutors – entered Europe posing as refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria fueled the concerns.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers early this year ISIS was “taking advantage of the torrent of migrants [entering Europe] to insert operatives into that flow.”
Dozens of GOP governors said they would not allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states. Some Republicans are also calling for Christians and other religious minorities to be prioritized in U.S. refugee admissions.
The administration’s plan got off to a slow start: By the end of January – one-third of the way through FY 2016 – only 841 had been admitted.