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U.S. To Accept 10,000 Syrian Refugees Next Year

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Obama administration says it is now making plans to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. The administration also says it needs money from Congress to do that. But some lawmakers have been encouraging the Obama administration to do much more in the face of the migrant crisis. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: White House spokesman Josh Earnest says it takes time to vet refugees.

JOSH EARNEST: There's biographical and biometric information that is collected about these individuals. They have to submit to in-person interviews to discuss their case, and you know, that process typically takes 12 to 18 months. And the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first.

KELEMEN: UN Refugee Agency has referred to the U.S. more than 18,000 cases. Only about 1,500 Syrians have made it here so far. The U.S. is now preparing to take in 10,000, a goal that may not be reached and one that advocates say is still far too small to make a difference. Senator Patrick Leahy and several other Democrats had been urging the U.S. to take in as many as 65,000 Syrians, arguing the U.S. should be leading the way. White House spokesman Earnest said that would require a lot more officials working on those background checks.

EARNEST: So Congress would need to make a significant financial commitment to ramping up along those lines.

KELEMEN: He says the U.S. is leading the way in humanitarian aid for the millions of Syrians uprooted by war. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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