Ken Dilanian, Yahoo! News, September 20, 2015
Scrambling to address a growing Syrian refugee crisis, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday that the United States would significantly increase the number of worldwide migrants it takes in over the next two years, though not by nearly the amount many activists and former officials have urged.
The U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year, up from 70,000, and that total would rise to 100,000 in 2017, Kerry said at news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after they discussed the mass migration of Syrians fleeing their civil war.
Many, though not all, of the additional refugees would be Syrian, American officials have said. Others would come from strife-torn areas of Africa. The White House had previously announced it intended to take in 10,000 additional Syrian refugees over the next year.
Asked why the U.S. couldn’t take more, Kerry cited post-Sept. 11 screening requirements and a lack of money made available by Congress.
A letter made public last week and signed by several former Obama administration officials urged the U.S. government to accept 100,000 Syrian migrants, and to put in place special rules to speed the resettlement process. Germany says it will accept as many as a million Syrians this year.
“Current (American) efforts are not adequate,” according to the letter, signed by Michelle Flournoy, a former senior U.S. defense official who once was Obama’s choice for Pentagon chief, and Harold Koh, the former State Department legal adviser. “Humanitarian aid has fallen short in the face of unspeakable suffering.”
Congressional approval is not required for the Obama administration to expand resettlement slots, though Congress would have to appropriate money to pay for the additional effort, Kerry pointed out. Intelligence officials and Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns that Islamic State militants could seek to slip into Europe or the U.S. posing as migrants.
Even if the U.S. took in 30,000 Syrians over the next two years–an unlikely outcome, given that only 1,500 have been admitted since the start of the war–that number would pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that Germany is expected to accept, or the 800,000 Vietnamese that the U.S. resettled in the years after the Vietnam war.