Syrian refugees admitted to U.S. spike

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  • More Syrian refugees have arrived in the U.S. over the last five weeks than in the previous seven months
  • Donald Trump recently warned that a 9/11-like attack could occur if refugee resettlement continues

(CNN)The number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States increased dramatically in May and early June, marking a significant surge in the pace of resettlement for a program that has become a lightning rod for critics of the Obama administration.

In fact, more Syrian refugees have arrived in the U.S. over the last five weeks than in the previous seven months, according to State Department data. Since May 1, 2,019 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the U.S., while only 1,736 were taken in over the first seven months of the fiscal year.
But critics of the resettlement program -- including Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump -- worry there's potential for ISIS or other terrorist groups to exploit refugee flows to reach the West.
Just last month, Trump warned in a podcast interview that a 9/11-like attack could occur if refugee resettlement continues.
"Our country has enough difficulty right now without letting the Syrians pour in," he said.
Administration officials have long insisted that refugees are among the most scrutinized class of immigrants, citing a range of biometric and biographical information vetting.
The recent spike in admissions follows the commitment of additional resources to the resettlement process over the past several months.
In particular, a State Department spokesperson told CNN the Departments of State and Homeland Security have beefed up staffing in at key processing locations in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, accelerating the interview process for applicants.
The administration is also working through a backlog of referrals from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which only began referring Syrian cases to the U.S. in significant numbers in 2014 and has stepped up referrals in the past year.
The State Department spokesperson insists that the increase in admission "will not curtail any aspects of the process, including its robust security screening."
"Refugees undergo by far the most rigorous level of security checks required of any traveler to the United States," the spokesperson added. "And Syrian refugees are screened to an even higher standard."
But the administration is still behind schedule in meeting President Barack Obama's goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, which began on October 1.
About 3,500 Syrian refugees have been admitted since then, leaving about 6,500 spots open with less than four months to go.
Obama set the goal last September, urging all countries to do more to help alleviate the growing migration crisis plaguing Europe and the Middle East. State Department officials say they remain committed to the goal.