Obama plans 30 percent increase in refugees. Why Dems and GOP are upset

The refugee plan angered some Republicans, who cite security and economic concerns. But some Democrats say the US should accommodate even more displaced people.

Pat Eaton-Robb/AP/File
Syrian refugees Abdullah, left, Fatema, second from right, and their son Ayham, speak with Liese Klein, right, development and communications manager for Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services outside the agency's office in New Haven, Conn., on Sept. 2. The family was diverted to Connecticut last year after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said they were not welcome in that state.

The White House informed Congress Tuesday that it plans to accept 110,000 refugees into the US from around the world during the fiscal year that begins next month.

The 30-percent increase angered some Republicans while disappointing those who say the US should accommodate as many as 200,000 of the world’s displaced people, who number more than 65 million, according to estimates by the United Nations.

We must remain compassionate toward refugees but we also need to make sure that we use commonsense [sic],” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, said in a statement. Representative Goodlatte accused President Obama of failing to think through the impact refugees will have on the American communities in which they resettle.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, said accommodating refugees will harm US security.

“Terrorists have announced that they will infiltrate the refugee population and have successfully done so multiples times in Europe over the last year,” Senator Sessions said in a statement. “These asylum-seekers are overwhelmingly male who make the journey from hotbeds of terrorism to countries throughout Europe.”

Mr. Obama’s refugee plan is expected to welcome a significant number of Syrian people, Politico reports – a group whose migration has been a topic of debate among US presidential candidates.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has called for a complete ban on immigration from Syria, and his vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, halted resettlement of Syrians in his state late last year, joining about two dozen Republican governors who cited concerns the immigrant-vetting process might be inadequate to detect terrorists.

In February, a federal judge blocked Mr. Pence’s action, but the state has appealed and will argue Pence’s case Wednesday before the 7th Circuit Court in Chicago, as The Indianapolis Star reported.

But this anxiety over accepting people from regions scourged by the so-called Islamic State hasn’t been limited to Republicans. Nearly four dozen Democrats in the House of Representatives signed onto a measure last November that would halt resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq until the US overhauls its screening processes.

Regardless, the Obama administration set a goal to accept 10,000 refugees from Syria during the current fiscal year. The benchmark passed last month without much fanfare. While 56 percent of Democrats support the admission of Syrian refugees, only 18 percent of Republicans do, according to a Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll released in August.

Quoting from an 82-page report prepared for Congress by the departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, Politico reported that the White House plans to accept even more Syrian refugees in the coming fiscal year.

“While the vast majority of Syrians would prefer to return home when the conflict ends, it is clear that some remain extremely vulnerable in their countries of asylum and would benefit from resettlement,” the report states, according to Politico.

Next week, Obama will host a “Leaders’ Summit on Refugees” that aims to boost worldwide resettlement of refugees. 

The administration is trying to send a signal to other countries that they should increase the number they settle,” Jennifer Quigley, an advocacy strategist with nonprofit Human Rights First, told The Wall Street Journal.

During the summit, Obama is expected to call on other countries to boost the number of refugees they accept, so advocates have called upon Obama, in turn, to increase America’s commitment and accept 200,000 people, Politico reported, noting that the US upped its refugee quota from 70,000 last year to 85,000 this year.

In 2015, German saw almost 500,000 – of the more than one million refugees that have entered the country – apply for political asylum, reports the BBC.

But funding for the US resettlement isn’t guaranteed, Ms. Quigley noted. The House and Senate indicated earlier this year that they might place an unprecedented cap on refugee resettlement spending.

“Congress could hinder the ability of the US to resettle refugees by limiting the amount of money going to the effort,” Quigley said.

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