The Obama administration seeks to accept at least 110,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal 2017.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry briefed lawmakers Tuesday on the new goal, which is an increase from 85,000 in fiscal 2016 and 70,000 in the previous three years. It represents a 57 percent increase in refugee arrivals since 2015, as ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere have spurred an exodus of migrants seeking asylum in Europe, Canada and other regions.
A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity because the policy is not yet officially announced, “is consistent with our belief that all countries should do more to help the world’s most vulnerable people.”
The official added that Kerry told lawmakers “that if it is possible to do more” in terms of accepting refugees, “we would.”
The increase comes even as the question of refugees has emerged as an issue in this year’s presidential campaign. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump initially called for a halt to Muslims seeking to enter the United States but later modified this goal to say the ban should apply to any applicants coming from a country with a history of terrorism. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has called for the United States to accept more refugees from Syria, which has been embroiled in conflict for more than five years.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) criticized the decision, saying policymakers should focus on reforming the nation’s system for admitting refugees rather than having the White House set goals.
“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.”
CNN first reported the new refugee goal Wednesday morning.
The administration has launched a new effort to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict by brokering a still-fragile cease-fire with Russia that took effect Monday.