President Obama has directed his administration to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians in 2016.
The U.S. has come under increasing pressure from lawmakers and human-rights groups to do more to help European nations in the effort to resettle Syrian refugees and handle the growing migrant crisis.
At a briefing at the White House on Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama has directed his team to drastically increase the number of Syrians allowed to resettle in U.S. in the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.
Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry, said at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill that that the total number of refugees taken in by the United States could rise to more than 100,000, from the current figure of 70,000 that has been as such for the past three years.
State Department officials said that not all of the additional 30,000 would be Syrians, but many would be.
Syria is a stronghold for Islamic militants, with many of them fighting in the country’s long-running civil war.
An estimated 4 million Syrians have fled the multi-faction conflict involving government forces, rebels and ISIS.
The administration plans to resettle 1,800 refugees from Syria this year, whereas Germany has talked about taking upward of 800,000 and Britain has agreed to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
However, Britain will focus on resettling refugees from camps in countries bordering Syria, not those who have already entered Europe.
Not every country is opening their arms. According to CNN, Denmark, for example, paid for ads in Arabic in four Lebanese newspapers to get the word out about its own new, tightened restrictions — including reducing social benefits — to try to prevent refugees from getting into the Scandinavian nation.
“We cannot simply keep up with the present flow,” Immigration and Integration Minister Inger Stojberg, said on Facebook. “In light of the huge influx to Europe these days, there is good reason for us to tighten rules and get that effectively communicated.”
The State Department said yesterday that it usually takes 18 to 24 months for the Department of Homeland Security to determine if a refugee is eligible to be resettled here, after conducting checks of possible criminal or terrorist backgrounds.
White House officials have had frequent meetings on the crisis, and the issue has attracted attention on the campaign trail.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has called on the U.S. to take in as many as 65,000 refugees from Syria by the end of next year. Hillary Clinton has called for the U.S. to take in more refugees and provide more aid.
Republicans running for the White House have mostly rejected taking in the refugees, warning of the security risks.