SALT LAKE CITY -- The Obama administration announced Thursday that the U.S. will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees during Fiscal Year 2016.
Thus far, they have accepted roughly 1,500 of the millions of Syrians who have fled the country during the last four years of conflict. The president has received increased pressure to provide more assistance to those seeking aid in recent weeks, as new images from the crisis have given it renewed focus in the U.S.
“We are doing so little, so late,” said Dr. Mohammad Alsolaiman.
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Alsolaiman has lived in Utah for 11 years. Currently, his wife is residing mostly in Turkey with their youngest daughter in order to provide aid and support to Syrian refugees. From the U.S., he has watched the crisis unfolding, wishing they could do more.
“For us, here, we’re just watching and counting dead people and refugees,” Alsolaiman said. “But some people are living it second by second. They’re just looking for an exit anywhere.”
Because of stringent security measures, processing refugees into the U.S. has taken longer than in other countries. There are currently 300 refugees scheduled to be allowed into the country this month, but thousands more are waiting to be cleared.
“We’ve only resettled one family, which is really disappointing to us,” said Danielle Stamos, spokesman for Catholic Community Services.
Over the last few years, there have been only three Syrian families resettled by organizations in Utah. While they have not been notified of any incoming Syrian refugees, Stamos explained they have been preparing for more to arrive in the near future.
“We could take a lot more and we’re really, really advocating for that,” Stamos said. “They left only because they had to. Their family, their friends, everything they know is still there.”
But the potential influx of immigrants does not come without potential security concerns. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican representing Utah's 3rd Congressional District, criticized the announcement from the White House in the following statement:
"While the United States has and will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the crisis, we must not overlook the inherent security risks of this decision by President Obama. Make no mistake, nefarious actors will take advantage of our generosity and abuse our broken immigration system. Our asylum system is badly broken and easily manipulated. I don’t trust this Administration’s ability to vet new arrivals – particularly when their policies have already caused a surge of illegal immigration on our southern border. I am committed to work with the committees of jurisdiction to assess the risks and evaluate solutions.”
The new wave of refugees could begin arrive on October 1, the first day of Fiscal Year 2016.