WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Monday met President Barack Obama's goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country, the White House announced.
Obama sought a sixfold increase in the number of Syrian refugees provided safe haven in the United States. After a slow start, the administration was able to hit the goal about a month early and just a few weeks before Obama convenes a summit on refugees during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly.
President Barack Obama walks to Marine One as he leaves Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, after visiting wounded service members. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Obama would have been hard-pressed to make the case for other countries to do more with the U.S. failing to reach a goal that amounts to only about 2 percent of the 480,000 Syrian refugees in need of resettlement. Millions more Syrians have fled to neighboring states such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon and to countries in Europe since the civil war broke out in 2011.
"On behalf of the president and his administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a statement.
Rice said the summit in New York City will highlight the contributions the U.S. and other nations have made to help refugees. She said the U.S. has committed to working with the international community to increase funding for humanitarian assistance and double the number of refugees afforded the opportunity to resettle.
The increase in Syrian refugees also comes at a time of heightened national security concerns following extremist attacks in the U.S. and abroad. The Obama administration has said that refugees fleeing war and persecution are the most scrutinized of all immigrants who come into the United States. The process typically takes 12 months to 18 months and includes in-person interviews and a review of biographical and biometric information.
Officers with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services travel to the country where the refugees fled to interview them. Upon completion of security and medical screening, the Homeland Security officer may approve the refugee's application for U.S. resettlement. After approval, arrangements are made to match the refugee with a voluntary agency in the U.S. that specializes in helping them find a new home and employment.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States will also seek to admit about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
"I think the president would like to see a ramping up of those efforts, but I think the president is also realistic about how quickly that can happen," Earnest said.