Religious groups push U.S. to take in 100,000 Syrian refugees

Slovakia ministry says it will take 200 of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, chiefly Muslim, in Turkey and Italy. Picture taken August 10, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osman Orsal
As Syrian refugees  flood toward Europe, humanitarian groups urge the USA to take in 100,000 refugees.  Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osman Orsal

As Syrian refugees flood toward Europe, humanitarian groups urge the USA to take in 100,000 refugees. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osman Orsal

(Reuters) – Religious groups in the United States have urged the White House to step up its response to the Syrian refugee crisis, with one on Tuesday calling Washington’s efforts so far “disappointing.”

Church World Service, a global humanitarian organization that represents 37 Christian denominations, has called on the government to take in 100,000 Syrians over the next year, said Jen Smyers, who works on the group’s immigration and refugee program.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Jewish refugee assistance agency HIAS along with secular groups have also backed that figure.

Since Syria’s war broke out in 2011, Washington has accepted 1,500 refugees, most of them this year, and the State Department expects 300 more by October. Four million people have fled the country since the fighting began, according to U.N. estimates.

“We’ve been disappointed at the current status of U.S. leadership,” Smyers said. “I think we have seen some nodding of heads and people recognizing that something needs to be done, but we’re still waiting to see what that is.”

The Obama administration is taking into account the urgency of the migrant crisis in Europe as it considers further steps the United States can take to alleviate the situation, the White House said on Tuesday.

The United States had provided more than $4 billion in humanitarian aid since the crisis began.

Smyers said Church World Service, one of nine domestic groups that partner with the federal government on resettlements, also supports the Protecting Religious Minorities Persecuted by ISIS Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March.

The bill would streamline how Iraqis and Syrians targeted for their religion, gender or ethnicity apply as refugees.

Some congressional Republicans, including Representative Michael McCaul who chairs the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, have said allowing in Syrian refugees could serve as a pipeline for terrorists and have objected to plans to increase numbers.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service told Congress that month, however, that the government’s definition of terrorism is overly broad and prevents the innocent and vulnerable from relocating.

Europe has taken in waves of migrants fleeing the violence, including Germany which took in some 20,000 people over the weekend and is preparing for 800,000 this year.

About 1,800 Americans have offered to take refugees into their homes, saying in an online petition that the United States needed to let in more of the displaced.

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  • I can take a refugee family. We took tens of thousands of refugees when Saigon fell in 1975 – didn’t put them through reams of red tape – just picked them up in their boats floating in the Pacific. We just did the right thing. Germany’s Chancellor said they’d take half a million refugees. If she’s not worried about terrorists why are we? Doesn’t Obama realize we are creating terrorists by ignoring the plight of these refugees. The real reason Obama won’t agree to take any refugees is that he is an isolationist who just wants to take care of folks at home. Well, he’s not speaking for me or millions more Americans. Let’s all of us call, email, write our representatives and demand that Obama let them in.

  • Take in 100,000 potential terrorists? Give us a break!! Tis a Muslim issue. Let the Saudis and the Iranians take care of it.

  • Bring 500,000 of these people to the USA NOW!

    There is no excuse for letting these highly skilled, awesome people suffer and die where they are. They will be great American citizens. I have room for an extra family in my home and would welcome them just as the Atheist countries are doing: Austria, Germany, Norway….!

    America needs to step up. This bigoted, isolationist, Christian fear-mongering is depraved and unworthy of America.

  • Bernardo,

    No. You are lumping all Muslims together as if they are ISIS.

    These people are running away from Islamic Fundamentalists – that is why they are desperate. That is what is causing the migration.
    And yes, Syrians are particularly well-educated because the Assad Regime insisted on secular education in Syria for several decades.

    Many of these fleeing Islamic countries are professionals from the top tier of secular parts of their societies – I would have no problem having them live in my neighborhood or in my house.

  • I am with you, Yes it seems harsh but do we take a religious war and bring it to our country? These people aren’t going to change their beliefs and we don’t need it here.

  • Let them convert to Christianity (any form) – even nominally – and I’ll take them in. To prove their conversion let them get sprinkled with baptismal water, eat a ham sandwich, drink a glass of wine/beer (adults only) and solemnly curse their Prophet and Holy Book.