WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is again saying it plans to admit more refugees — and presumably more Syrian refugees — which could have a direct impact in Michigan.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry briefed members of Congress on the administration’s plan to admit a total of 110,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1.
That would follow an increase from 70,000 refugees in each of the fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015 to 85,000 in the current year, which included a promise to resettle at least 10,000 Syrians among the millions displaced by civil war in the country.
The Obama administration has surpassed that goal, having resettled 11,598 Syrians with two weeks to go before the end of the fiscal year. Of that number, 1,229 have been resettled in Michigan — more than in any other state except California, which saw 1,337 Syrians resettled.
It’s not yet known how many refugees will be targeted for resettlement from individual countries in the next fiscal year, but it’s likely that the number from Syria — and the number of Syrian refugees to be resettled in Michigan — will increase as member countries of the United Nations try to react to the millions being displaced by the civil war there.
“The United States is deeply committed to assisting some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. As the secretary has said, this is who we are; this is America at its best,” said State Department spokeswoman Julia Mason.
While the number of Syrian refugees to be resettled in Michigan or elsewhere in the U.S. may not be known for weeks, it’s a decision that will be impacted by the presidential campaign.
Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the U.S. should resettle 65,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year; Republican businessman Donald Trump has called for resettlements to be slowed if not stopped until the U.S. can ensure that those being brought into the country do not pose a threat.
Refugees — who often wait more than 1 ½ years in camps before being resettled — undergo strict vetting by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies before being brought into the U.S. but some Republicans have noted that FBI Director James Comey said in some cases Syrians’ backgrounds aren’t fully known because there is no documentation available to the U.S. to research.
"The American people do not support these radical plans, which amount to a complete betrayal from their leaders in Washington," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a key supporter of Trump's who has objected to resettlements absent more proof that potential terrorists aren't allowed into the U.S.
Last year, in the wake of the November attacks in Paris, Gov. Rick Snyder was among several governors who said Homeland Security needed to review its vetting procedures for refugees, though unlike some other governors he never specifically called for resettlements to cease in Michigan.
Resettlement agencies count on Michigan as a destination for refugees from the Middle East because of the close familial ties shared to that region by many in southeast Michigan’s large Arab-American community and an infrastructure ready to help refugees from that part of the world.
(2016 © Detroit Free Press)