The State Department is hoping to bring an average of nearly 1,500 Syrian refugees to the United States per month in order to meet President Obama’s target of settling 10,000 refugees in the country by September.
About 1,300 refugees have already been placed in the United States since Obama first made the commitment in September.
That’s far fewer than those taken in by European countries such as Germany, who has dealt with an unprecedented wave of migrants fleeing Syria’s civil war, as well as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Yet the settlement has provoked a significant backlash, mostly from Republicans, who argue it puts the U.S. at risk from terrorism.
“It’s clear that ISIS wants to, has planned on attempting to infiltrate refugee populations. This is a problem. If one person gets through who is planning a terrorist attack in our country, that’s a problem,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, who recently returned from a trip to the region, said Thursday.
“The administration — whether it’s Homeland Security or the FBI, cannot tell us that they can adequately screen people. There isn’t really a Syrian to talk to on that end of the equation to vet people, so it is a problem,” Ryan told reporters.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has prioritized sending more refugees to the U.S. than other countries, he said.
So far, about 9,500 Syrians have been interviewed in Amman since February 1, and 12,000 interviews should be completed by April 28, according to a State Department spokesperson.
Republican critics argue that speeding up the process to as little as three months will make it easier for terrorists to slip through.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who co-authored a bill to pause and bolster the refugee screening process, called State’s surge operation “unsecure” and said Obama should shut it down immediately.
“This will inevitably put our nation and our citizens at risk for future terrorist attacks,” he said in a recent statement.
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