Many Senate Democrats frustrated with slow U.S. Syrian refugee admissions

Reuters News
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Posted: May 18, 2016 11:12 AM

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half the Democrats in the Senate, including many of President Barack Obama's strongest supporters, signed a letter to him on Wednesday urging him to move more quickly to admit Syrian refugees into the United States.

Despite Obama's pledge to admit 10,000 of the people fleeing Syria's civil war in the year ending this September, only 1,736 have been allowed into the country so far. In contrast, more than 6,000 have been admitted from Myanmar and more than 5,000 have been admitted from Iraq.

"We urge your Administration to devote the necessary resources to expeditiously and safely resettle refugees from Syria," the 27 senators wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters.

"We are deeply concerned about the slow pace of admissions for Syrian refugees in the first seven months of the fiscal year," the letter said.

The lead signers on the letter included Senator Richard Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, and Senator Amy Klobuchar. The letter was signed by 25 other members of the Democratic caucus, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

It requested an update on specific measures the administration plans to take to fulfill its commitment to resettle the remaining 8,264 Syrians within five months.

Obama said in late April that he expected the United States to meet his goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees before Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.

But Obama's promise sparked a firestorm of criticism in the United States, mostly from Republicans who say that violent militants could enter the country by posing as refugees. More than 30 governors, most of them Republicans, have tried to block refugees from coming to their states.

The United States has offered refuge to far fewer of the millions fleeing war in Syria and Iraq than many of its closest allies. Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands. Canada admitted 26,859 Syrian refugees between Nov. 4, 2015, and May 1, 2016.

"Other nations, including ours, can and should do much more," the senators said in the letter.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)