The White House is quietly pushing for an increase in refugees from Syria, despite new concerns raised by state and county officials that federal help is often missing when they arrive.
President Obama’s assistant for immigration policy told a task force set up by the National Association of Counties that the U.S. is eyeing a bigger role to help alleviate the growing crisis.
“We want to make sure that we can increase our numbers of refugees that are able to settle here,” Felicia Escobar said. “The need globally is so, so, so massive right now, given all the displacement and conflict around the world, but we also know that we have to do it in a way that’s smart.”
The issue has become a flashpoint in the presidential race and among governors who are concerned that Washington won’t properly vet the refugees to weed out terrorists.
But locally, it’s an issue of money and support. Sean Conway, a county commissioner from Weld County in Greeley, Colo., said he has had to “fight” with the State Department to get promised services such as healthcare and interpreters. Worse, he added, “Many times we don’t even know that relocation is taking place until it’s going on.”
Violent extremists, criminals and foreign fighters are part of the daily refugee flow into Europe, the top NATO commander in Europe told lawmakers, “masking the movement” of these dangerous elements and heightening the potential for an attack.
In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said the Islamic State is “spreading like a cancer” within this mix, “taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations” and the United States.