White House Raises Refugee Goal to 110,000, Igniting GOP Protest

Syrian refugees sleep on a railway platform in Croatia / AP
September 14, 2016

The Obama administration is aiming to accept 110,000 refugees from around the world in the upcoming fiscal year, marking a 30 percent increase from this year’s target goal of 85,000, the White House confirmed Wednesday.

The figure is 10,000 above President Obama’s initial goal for FY 2017 and will include a substantial number of Syrian refugees, according to the Associated Press. Some Republicans who have opposed resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. due to security concerns immediately protested the announcement.

"We must remain compassionate toward refugees, but we also need to make sure that we use common sense," House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) said in a statement. "Unfortunately, President Obama unilaterally increases the number of refugees resettled in the United States each year and gives little thought as to how it will impact local communities."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) called the plan "reckless and extreme."

"In addition to the very serious national security implications and the initial resettlement costs, admitting 110,000 refugees will result in an enormous long-term financial burden on the taxpayers," said Sessions, a frequent surrogate for Donald Trump.

Advocacy groups say the number falls short of measures needed to address the refugee crisis that displaced millions of people last year. Supporters of the U.S. resettlement program have urged the administration to take in as many as 200,000 refugees.

The decision to increase the number to 110,000 "is consistent with our belief that all countries should do more to help the world’s most vulnerable people," an Obama administration official told Politico.

The White House has maintained that the program does not pose a threat to national security. Officials said refugees who may be resettled in the U.S. are subject to a rigorous vetting process that takes more than a year.

The announcement comes two weeks after the White House announced the U.S. had surpassed Obama’s goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees over the past year.

There are currently some 5 million Syrians registered with the United Nations refugee agency. The majority of them live in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. About one million Syrians have requested asylum to Europe, according to official figures.