- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2016

After a massive surge of effort, the administration is on pace to blow past President Obama’s goal of 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, and could end up taking in more than 12,000 if the pace continues — locking the next president into an even bigger 2017.

In July alone, 2,478 Syrian refugees were admitted. Another 453 were approved during the first week of August, and officials said that pace will continue beyond October, the beginning of fiscal year 2017.

At that rate, nearly 30,000 Syrians could be admitted in the next year.

“We can now say that we’ve welcomed 8,000 Syrian refugees so far this year and we are very confident we will welcome at least 10,000,” Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard told reporters Friday, saying they plan to keep up the pace for the foreseeable future.

The increase in Syrian refugees has been controversial, particularly after some refugees were implicated in terrorist attacks in Europe. In addition, one man admitted as an Iraqi refugee, but who came from Syria, was charged in the U.S. this year with supporting terrorists.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, warned that as the Islamic State loses ground in the Middle East, it is likely to send more operatives to carry out attacks in Europe and the U.S.

He said the U.S. should shut down its Syrian refugee pipeline as a result.

“We need to stop accepting Syrian refugees as a matter of national security,” he said in a letter last week to Mr. Obama.

The U.S. is relying on the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to screen and recommend refugees who might be appropriate for resettlement in the U.S. American officials then begin their own screenings.

Nearly 5 million Syrians have registered with the UNHCR as displaced, though only a small fraction of those are deemed appropriate for resettlement in the U.S. The UNHCR didn’t respond to several attempts to find out how many refugees have been approved as likely candidates.

Once refugees clear the UNHCR process, they are screened by the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those who are approved are admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez insisted that his officers are able to spot bogus applications and dangerous refugees. He said they are trained, are up to date on conditions in the countries and have access to a plethora of American databases.


He said that of the applications where they’ve reached a decision, they’ve approved some 92 percent and rejected 8 percent.

But Mr. Rodriguez failed to address the holes that other security analysts have identified: that the U.S. doesn’t have access to Syrian databases or to on-the-ground information in many cases, which could spot red flags in their home countries.


With those warnings in mind, Republicans in Congress last year tried to add protections by writing legislation that would have required the chiefs of the FBI, the intelligence service and the Homeland Security Department to sign off on each refugee. The goal was to elevate decisions to the highest level and bring more accountability to the process.

Mr. Obama threatened to veto the legislation, and Senate Democrats doomed the bill in January with a filibuster.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has called for a massive increase in the number of Syrian refugees in the U.S., and Republican nominee Donald Trump has called for a halt until the security situation is settled.

More than 99 percent of the Syrian refugees admitted so far are Muslim — a fact that has drawn criticism from some in Congress who say the Christian minority in Syria deserves more protection from the violence encircling them.

Of the 8,004 total refugees admitted, nearly half are children younger than 14. But 876 of them are males ages 14 to 30 — the prime demographic for radicalization.

Arizona has taken more than 400 in the past two months, and the Phoenix suburb of Glendale has become a major destination, with 309 Syrian refugees since Oct. 1.

Refugees from majority-Muslim countries have surged in recent years. The number from Afghanistan has hit 1,900 this fiscal year, more than twice the number from 2015, and Pakistan has more than doubled to 390 so far.

Meanwhile, some countries that had been sending more refugees, such as Myanmar, Bhutan and Cuba, have dropped off dramatically.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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