President Barack Obama said on Thursday he expected the United States would meet a goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year despite delays and opposition from critics concerned about security implications.
As Europe grappled with Syrians fleeing the country’s civil war last autumn, Obama promised to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of fiscal year 2016. But the State Department reported on March 31, halfway into the fiscal year, that only 1,285 Syrians had been admitted into the United States.
"We're going to keep on pushing," Obama said when asked on Thursday whether the goal would be achieved.
Obama's promise has come under fire from Republicans concerned that violent militants could come into the United States posing as refugees.
More than 30 governors have tried to block refugees from their states, but courts and attorneys general have said it is up to the federal government to screen refugees and settle them.
The president said his administration wanted to assure the public the refugees were being properly screened and vetted. Congress may put up roadblocks to the process, he said.
"Administratively I think now we have the process to speed it up," he told a news conference with student journalists at the White House.
"Our goal is to continue to try to make the case to Congress and the American people (that) this is the right thing to do and we believe that we can hit those marks before the end of the year."
Washington has offered refuge to far fewer of the millions fleeing war in Syria and Iraq than many of its closest allies in Europe and the Middle East.
The agency responsible for processing and admitting refugees, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is under added pressure to make sure none of those admitted have ties to violent extremists.
Requirements for additional screening measures were passed following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris after Obama had laid out his goal of admitting 10,000 Syrians.