On Wednesday, officials announced that the Obama Administration will seek to accept 110,000 refugees from around the world in the 2017 fiscal year. This would amount to a nearly 30 percent increase from the goal of 85,000 allowed in over the previous year.
According to White House Spokesperson John Earnest, of the 110,000, 40,000 will come from the Middle East and South Asia, 35,000 will come from Africa, 12,000 from East Asia, 4,000 from Europe, and 5,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean. The total also includes 14,000 spots that have not been allocated to any specific region that can be given to any one once Congress has been notified.
The goal covers a 12-month period beginning next month. In the 12-month period ending September 30th, the US goal was 85,000, and in the three years prior the goal was 75,000.
The announcement comes on the tails of the US declaring that they had reached Obama’s goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees, despite skepticism that it would not be met.
The White House is emphasizing that the admittance of more refugees will be handled in a safe manner. Officials said that potential refugees would continue to be subject a rigorous screening process that typically lasts more than a year and involves both in-person interviews and examination of biographical and biometric information. Concerns have arisen in the past year due to a slew of global terrorist attacks, some of which had ties to persons that had spent time in Syria.
The US is trying to get other nations onboard for their expansive admittance program. Part of this plan includes a summit hosted by Obama during the U.N. General Assembly gathering in New York that would focus on refugee issues. The summit would highlight the need to increase money for aid agencies, resettle more refugees, and provide them education and job assistance.
Not everyone is happy with the decision to increase the refugee quota. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said that instead of having the White House set goals, discussion should take place on how to reform the admittance process. “For generations, the United States has been a safe haven for people fleeing persecution. We must remain compassionate toward refugees but we also need to make sure that we use common sense,” Goodlatte 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. The president also continues to ignore warnings from his own national security officials and plans to bring in even more Syrian refugees over the next year.”
Many advocacy groups do not think that efforts to admit refugees are substantial enough. Bill O’Keefe, Catholic Relief Service’s vice president for advocacy, said in an interview that while his group and others welcomed the administration’s new resettlement pledge, neither that nor the upcoming U.N. summit was sufficient to address the needs of “the 65 million globally displaced people around the world right now.”
Even so, the White House remains optimistic. Earnest said that the reform “does represent a substantial increase in our commitment to addressing the refugee problem around the world,” adding the U.S. is the world’s largest humanitarian donor when it comes to refugees “But I think what we need to see around the world is a greater commitment to not just shunting this burden off to a handful of countries.”