A Department of State official could not give Congress an upper limit on the number of Syrian refugees President Barack Obama intends to resettle in the U.S. in the next year, saying only that it would be upwards of 12,500 in a hearing Wednesday.
“What’s the number of Syrian refugees you expect to admit in Fiscal Year 2017?” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley asked Simon Henshaw at the Senate immigration hearing. Henshaw is the principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
“Senator, the administration has still not, the White House has not given us a target next year for Syrians,” Henshaw replied. “We anticipate that it will be above 12,500, but I don’t have a number other than that typically in our program we don’t set nationality numbers, we only set numbers by region.”
Obama made the atypical decision to admit thousands of refugees from an active war zone this year in response to the migrant crisis fueled by the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State. He increased the total number of refugees resettled in the U.S. from about 70,000 to more than 100,000 this year, and ordered the Department of State to admit at least 10,000 of them from Syria.
Grassley pressed Henshaw, asking whether the range might be within about 10,000 to 15,000 refugees.
“I can only say I expect it will be above 12,000,” Henshaw said, refusing to set an upper limit.
“Above 12,000 but you can’t say how much above 12,000?” Grassley continued. “Is that because it’s a hot political item?”
“No,” Henshaw replied. “It’s simply that a number has not been given by the White House. In the past we haven’t been given nationality numbers — the White House hasn’t taken that level of interest — so I don’t want to speak before the White House does in case they want to set a number.”
The president has the power to adjust the number of refugees admitted into the country each year and to stipulate from where they can be admitted, although any changes are supposed to be done in consultation with Congress.
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