WASHINGTON — The 10,000th Syrian refugee to resettle in the U.S. this fiscal year arrived on Monday, the White House announced, following through on an ambitious plan by President Barack Obama to welcome more people from the country.
The administration also is set to meet its goal of welcoming 85,000 refugees from around the world by the end of the fiscal year, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement.
It’s the Syrian refugees who have been particularly controversial ever since Obama first announced plans last September to admit 10,000 of them in the 2016 fiscal year ― which ends Sept. 30 ― and especially after terrorist attacks in Paris last November. More than half of the nation’s governors said they didn’t want Syrian refugees in their states in the wake of those attacks, and Republicans in Congress repeatedly voted to make it more difficult for the government to approve them for resettlement.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump frequently talks about his opposition to Syrian refugees, insisting terrorists are among them. He first said he would ban all Muslims from immigrating to the U.S., refugee or otherwise, and later modified the ban to cover people from countries “compromised by terrorism” ― a broad designation that would include Syria.
The administration pressed forward with Syrian refugee resettlement in spite of the opposition. All refugees go through extensive background checks, with additional vetting for those from Syria.
Most refugees resettled in the U.S. are first referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They are vetted by the departments of State and Homeland Security with assistance from the FBI and intelligence agencies, in a process that includes interviews with officers and review of social media accounts.
About 60 percent of the 10,000 Syrian refugees admitted so far this fiscal year were under the age of 18, according to the State Department.
As of the end of July, refugees from Burma and the Democratic Republic of the Congo made up the largest proportions of refugees resettled in the U.S. this fiscal year, followed by those from Syria.
There are more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees worldwide.
“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,” Rice said Monday.
Alice Wells, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, said on Sunday that the U.S. would hit the 10,000-person goal this week, The Associated Press reported.
Two of the Syrian refugee families coming to the U.S. this week will live in San Diego through the International Rescue Committee, one of the agencies that handle resettlement.
David Miliband, the organization’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the White House should consider the 10,000 mark “a floor and not a ceiling.”
“Resettling refugees is right, practical and smart,” he said. “The achievement of the 10,000 target proves what is possible, and there remains an urgent need to further strengthen U.S. leadership in resettling refugee families ― with appropriate vetting ― fleeing violence and war.”
This article has been updated with additional details on the Syrian refugees admitted.