President Obama is tooling with alternative methods to bring in more Syrian refugees as soon as possible — or better stated, before he leaves office.
Originally, Obama agreed to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees despite warnings from congress, and an array of government officials who said it presented too many risks to national security. Plus, as reported last week, as of last month the State Department did not have the human resources to process back ground checks on so many refugees before the September 30, 2016 deadline.
But President Obama wants the refugees here in America. And so the State Department hired more people and will fast tract the background checks so that the 10,000 person goal is met on time.
It gets worse.
Last month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi called for countries to pursue “alternative avenues” for refugees – such as student and work visas, and expanded family reunification programs. “These pathways can take many forms: not only resettlement, but also more flexible mechanisms for family reunification, including extended family members, [labor] mobility schemes, student visa and scholarships, as well as visa for medical reasons,” Grandi said. This followed an adviser suggesting the U.S. ask universities to offer scholarships to Syrian students, and help Syrian-Americans bring in their extended families outside the “time-consuming” refugee resettlement process.
The State Department immediately issued a media note reaffirming the “commitment to resettle at least 10,000 Syrians in FY 2016 and increase the total number of resettled refugees from around the world to 100,000 by the end of FY 2017.”
Additionally, in a wordy statement, the State Department appeared to agree with many of Grandi’s conclusions.
“The United States joins UNHCR in calling for new ways nations, civil society, the private sector, and individuals can together address the global refugee challenge. The United States encourages other countries to consider expanding resettlement and other forms of admissions for all refugee populations, ensuring that more of those in need have the opportunity to start their lives anew in safety and with dignity,” the note said.
Nayla Rush, senior researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies, said she thinks the administration is “100 percent” behind the idea. “My fear is they aren’t really going to let anyone know about it,” Rush said.
Rush believes this is a sign the Obama administration is already expanding the family reunification program.
“Why create a family reunification program for Syrian refugees when refugees in the U.S. are already entitled to ask for their spouse and unmarried children under 21 to join them? Unless of course, the aim is to widen family circles to include aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers,” Rush said in a blog post.