Detroit News: Sen. Peters: Triple Syrian refugees accepted into U.S.

Washington — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters wants the Obama administration to triple the number of refugees from war-ravaged Syria that it will accept next year and to give higher priority to resettling persecuted minorities from both Syria and Iraq in the United States.

The Bloomfield Township Democrat, who visited the Zaatari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan as part of a five-nation Middle East tour in September, said the refugees’ plight is the “major humanitarian crisis that’s occurring in the world today” and that the United States needs to do more.

“The folks there in the camp are surviving on 50 cents a day for food with limited resources, in trailers, in the middle of the desert,” Peters said in a Wednesday interview.

“Some had been there over three years. This isn’t a temporary situation. This is a long-term situation, and people are feeling they simply have no hope whatsoever.”

In a letter to President Barack Obama sent Wednesday, the freshman senator said the United States should be prepared to take 30,000 Syrians and persecuted minorities next year and as many as 100,000 refugees in the following years.

“An undertaking at this level will demonstrate the United States’ continued commitment to our proud history of welcoming refugees of special humanitarian concern,” Peters wrote. “I stand ready to work with you to provide additional funding or authorizations required.”

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said she shares Peters’ compassion for assisting the Syrian refugees but urges caution. She said officials lack “credible intelligence” on many of those presenting themselves for admission as refugees, and “many” could be connected to “any one of the many terrorist groups operating in the region.”

“Syria is home to the largest convergence of Islamist terror organizations, many of whom are committed to carrying out attacks against the U.S. and its allies,” said Miller, vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“When it comes to accepting refugees from Syria, it is imperative that the U.S. impose the highest level of scrutiny and security to protect our citizens from terrorist looking to exploit our hospitality.”

The U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security already put refugees through a rigorous, multi-layered security screening process, which is preceded by screening by the United Nations.

“We already screen refugees no matter where they’re coming from around the world,” Peters said. “We have to maintain strong checks. I’m all about that. This is about folks who can be legitimately characterized as a refugee, and we have a process in place to do that.”

It is unclear what impact Peters’ request would have on how many more refugees are resettled in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday his administration is in talks with federal officials about resettling refugees from Syria in Michigan.

By:  Melissa Nann Burke
Source: Detroit News