Obama Administration Meets Goal Of 10,000 Syrian Refugees

In this July 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this July 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Obama administration announced on Monday that it had met its goal of Syrian refugee resettlement.

“Our 10,000th Syrian refugee will arrive this afternoon,” National Security Advisor Susan said in a statement. “On behalf of the President and his Administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world.”

The announcement comes after months of widespread criticism over the pace of the resettlement from one side of the aisle and the action itself from the other.

Last September, the President Obama promised that the United States would resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 financial year, and 85,000 refugees in total from around the globe. But the plan to resettle Syrians in particular hit a hiccup after right wing politicians used the ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels to ramp up anti-Muslim sentiment.


In February 2016, the Nation reported that only 814 Syrian refugees had been resettled stateside. In April, State Department data showed that only 1,285 new Syrian refugees had been welcomed. As recently as May 31, ThinkProgress wrote about how the Obama administration was falling short, as only 2,500 Syrian refugees had been resettled at the time. And in mid-June, the Huffington Post said the U.S. was unlikely to deliver on Obama’s promise.

One of the main criticisms of refugee resettlement from the right concerned the screening process. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump played on the nation’s anxieties by saying there is “no system to vet” Syrian refugees and a “better, bigger, more horrible version of the legendary Trojan horse.” Politifact checked Trump’s statement and labelled it ‘false’.

In fact, the U.S. has an extremely strenuous screening process for refugees, as shown in this White House infographic. The 10,000 Syrians — 80 percent of whom are women or children, countering the right wing narrative that most Syrian refugees are working age men — were also vetted in this process, which took 18–24 months to complete.

The state with the largest number of resettled Syrians is Michigan, with more than 10 percent of the total. Many of the refugees are expected to settle around Detroit. While Michigan already boasts a thriving Muslim and Arab American community with many Americans from Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, and South Asian background, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) suspended efforts to bring Syrians to his state after the Paris attack.


“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement at the time. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

Later that week, in an interview with NPR, Snyder couldn’t name any particular issue he had with the refugee screening process. A spokesman for Snyder told NBC yesterday that he had never suspended the resettlement program.

The next most popular destinations for refugees are California and, surprisingly, Arizona and Texas — both states who opposed resettling Syrian refugees and claimed they are a security risk.

More than 800,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since 9/11. “In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities — and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in an op-ed last year.