Obama Lifts Refugee Admission Target to 110,000; Wants 'Significantly Higher Number' from Syria

Patrick Goodenough | September 13, 2016 | 11:54pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration proposes to increase the number of refugees admitted into the United States over the next fiscal year to 110,000 – a 57.2 percent increase from the 69,933 resettled in FY 2015 and a 29.4 percent increase from the FY 2016 target of 85,000.

The administration earlier set a FY 2017 projection of 100,000 admissions, but President Obama is hosting a leaders’ refugee summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, with the aim of encouraging all countries to admit more refugees next year

Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson briefed Senate and House Judiciary subcommittees on the issue on Tuesday.

Responding to the plans – outlined in a new report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions for FY 2017 – Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said in a statement afterwards the administration was expanding “its reckless and extreme policies” while ignoring Americans’ concerns.

“President Obama and his administration are now pushing their extreme policies even further by stubbornly placing the requests of the United Nations above the safety of the American people by surging refugee admissions to 110,000,” said Sessions, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and the national interest.

The administration has yet to announce how many of those 110,000 refugees will be from Syria, but the report to the Senate and House judiciary committees says it “aims to admit a significantly higher number” of Syrian refugees next fiscal year than the 10,000 target initially set for FY 2016.

As reported this week, this year’s 10,000 target has already been exceeded by more than 15 percent. The new report to Congress indicates that the administration expects a total of up to 13,000 by the time the fiscal year ends in just over a fortnight’s time.

Also noteworthy in the administration’s report are its references to the plight of Syrians of various religious backgrounds.

“In Syria, the Assad regime increased its targeting and surveillance of members of a variety of faith groups it deemed a threat, especially members of the country’s Sunni majority,” it says. “This occurred concurrently with the escalation of violent extremist activity targeted against religious minorities, including Christians, Druze, Alawites, Yezidis, and others as the civil war continues.”

As CNSNews.com has reported, just 0.4 percent of the Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. in FY 2016 are Christians, while 98.3 percent are Sunni Muslims.

(Graph: State Department Refugee Processing Center/CNSNews.com)

While the report to Congress does not mention the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria by name in the paragraph on Syria, the section on Iraq does refer both to ISIS and to the administration’s determination earlier this year that the terrorist group is committing genocide against groups “including Yezidis, Christians and Shi’a Muslims.”

“Ongoing sectarian tensions and discrimination affect all of Iraq’s religious and sectarian communities,” it adds. “As a result, some of these religious communities, along with their ancient languages and customs, are on the verge of disappearing.”

Rising numbers from Near East and South Asia

If met, the 110,000 target for the next fiscal year will constitute the largest number of refugee admissions since FY 1994, when 112,981 were admitted – including more than 43,000 from the former Soviet Union and a similar number from Asia.

That year, fewer than 6,000 refugees from the predominantly Muslim nations of the “Near East and South Asia” region were admitted, according to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.

By contrast, more than 30,000 refugees from that region have been admitted every year since FY 2009, with the exceptions of FY 2011 (27,168) and FY 2015 (24,579).

This year’s total from the Near East and South Asia is expected to reach 38,000, according to the new administration report. They will include up to 15,000 Iraqis, 13,000 Syrians, 6,000 Bhutanese (mostly Hindu ethnic Nepalese) and 4,000 Iranians.

The administration’s plan for FY 2017 includes 40,000 refugees from the Near East and South Asia – the biggest single region of origin.

The administration wants to resettle 110,000 refugees in the United States in the new fiscal year, the largest number for a single year since FY 1994, when almost almost two-fifths of those admitted were from the former Soviet Union.

The remainder of the 110,000 refugee slots, according to the administration plan, will be filled by refugees from Africa (35,000), East Asia (12,000), Latin America and the Caribbean (5,000) and Europe and Central Asia (4,000). The last 14,000 places are an unallocated reserve.

In his statement Tuesday criticizing the administration’s plans, Sessions cited both security and budgetary concerns.

“Despite opposition by the American people, a documented link between terrorism and individuals admitted to the United States as refugees, and over $19 trillion in debt, the Obama administration has committed the United States to admitting 110,000 refugees during fiscal year 2017,” he said.

“The common sense concerns of the American people are simply ignored as the administration expands its reckless and extreme policies.”

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