President Obama is planning to "scale up" the number of Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. and is informing his administration to make preparations to allow in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The announcement came Thursday from White House spokesperson Josh Earnest during the daily press briefing. Earnest said the U.S. is on track to allow 1,500 Syrians by the end of current the fiscal year.
"The president has directed his team to scale up that number next year. And he's informed his team that he would like to accept – at least make preparations to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next fiscal year."
Earnest acknowledged many of the refugees have been driven from their homes because of violence in Syria and the scale of the problem is significant. But Earnest added it's not feasible for millions of displaced Syrians to come to the United States.
"But what we can do is make sure that we are doing everything we can to try to provide for their basic needs. And that's why the United States has continued to be the largest donor of humanitarian assistance.
"We've offered that assistance to organizations that are serving the needs of Syrians inside of Syria who have been displaced. We're also providing financial assistance to organizations that are — that have set up refugee camps in places like Turkey and Lebanon and in Jordan."
The New York Times reports President Obama had come under increased pressure to show that the U.S. is joining European counterparts in efforts to help resettle refugees.
"Germany has talked about taking upward of 800,000, so by comparison the American effort would be relatively small. 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. Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria more than four years ago the United States has taken only 1,300 refugees."
Earnest said the solution for the United States is to meet the most pressing need for the refugees, which includes providing basic medical care, shelter, food and water. But he also hinted that American assistance can only do so much.
"Ultimately, the situation will not be resolved until we can resolve the political crisis inside of Syria right now. That's what is fomenting the violence, that instability is ultimately the responsibility of President Assad."