The State Department is having a “busy day” with Secretary John Kerry meeting with members of the House and Senate judiciary committees to president Barack Obama’s proposal for refugee admissions in Fiscal Year 2016. The meeting is particularly important now that Europe is grappling with the sudden influx of Syrian refugees. The U.S. is doing its part to address the recent refugee crisis in Europe.
According to a senior State Department official, a meeting like this one is actually held annually and is done just before the beginning of the new fiscal year, even before the current surge of Syrian refugees in Europe. According to the official, secretary Kerry had already proposed increasing the number of refugees that will be accepted by the U.S. through the Refugee resettlement Program. The increase is already above the current level of 70,000 that the U.S. had for three year now in Fiscal years 2013-14-15.
However, the senior official noted that when they talk about increasing the number of refugees that U.S. would take in, they are talking about increasing the number of refugees from around the world. “The top three groups we resettle these days are from Burma, Iraq, and Somalia,” the official said. The discussion on U.S. Refugee Admissions Program involved resettlement needs of refugees from close 70 countries. This means that Syria is only one among the any countries being considered for the program.
“If we increase, in addition to bringing more Syrians, which is already in the plan, we would like to admit more African refugees next year,” the official said. He stressed, “that while we are speaking today about the United States Refugee Resettlement Program, our primary goal when speaking about Syrian refugees is to get them home again so that there can be peace in Syria and that they can return home in peace.” And while the government, indeed, intends to welcome an increase number of Syrian refugees, the government is also considering taking in more Congolese refugees, the official further explained.
The official explained that the process of refugee resettlement in U.S. follows careful deliberate procedures. It usually take between 18 to 24 months between a refugee is referred to the government until he or she is approved for resettlement in the country. The procedure involves, among others, being interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security and a comprehensive background check of U.S. Government databases to make sure that the applicant has no “some sort of derogatory information about them.”
“What we’re trying to do is weed out people who are liars, who are criminals, or would-be terrorists. And this is something that slows down the process and it’s taken very seriously by everyone involved in it,” the official said.
The official outlined that even with the government’s strict selection process, U.S. is already the leading donor to the UN Refugee Agency; the International Organization for Migration.
Meanwhile, a petition for the Obama administration to allow the refugees to apply for the citizenship once they finish the 1000 days instead of waiting 5 years is ongoing. The petition needs 100,000 signatures until October 4 for the petition to get through. As of press time, the petition has total signatures of 410.