The throngs of desperate migrants fleeing Syria and the images of children washing up on European shores have spurred the Obama administration into action, officials said.
The Obama administration is preparing to announce a plan to admit more refugees — from 70,000 this year to 85,000 next year and 100,000 in fiscal 2017 — but at this point the numbers being proposed are too small to relieve the crisis streaming out of Syria.
The problem with the plan, no matter how quickly adopted, is how long it will take to have any effect. Migrants applying for refugee asylum in the United States now will not have their applications considered until at least 2017 because of a long backlog. And once an application begins to be considered, the asylum seekers can face a further 18 to 24 months before they are granted or denied asylum.
Human rights experts said that the United Nations has already referred over 16,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. for vetting, and the 10,000 increase would come almost exclusively from the backlog of Syrians who have already applied, not the people who are fleeing now.
The U.S. has accepted only 1,500 Syrian refugees since the war began.