President Barack Obama attended a United Nations conference on refugees and migrants, and hosted a summit on refugees, where he pushed attending nations to expand resettlement and financial commitments. Obama touted his plans to increase U.S. resettlement, which are faring better on the world stage than at home.
In his U.N. speech Obama said resettlement would make the world more secure and warned against “alternative visions” that reject global integration. He was in part talking about the Brexit vote although, with increasing public resistance to resettlement in the European Union, other leaders face political risks for making new commitments. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, who took in more than 1 million refugees last year alone, did not even attend the conference after her political party suffered significant election losses due to her refugee policy. In the end, the U.N. conference produced an agreement that sets broad goals but is non-binding and avoids new commitments.
Obama was more influential in the special summit on refugees he hosted. The 52 participating nations agreed to: increase humanitarian assistance funding by $4.5 billion; double the global number of refugees resettled and provide other legal admission channels; and increase the number of refugees schooled by one million and the number lawfully allowed to work by one million. Against this backdrop George Soros pledged $500 million and 51 U.S. corporations pledged $650 million to aid migrants and refugees, although the focus is primarily on those in Europe.
Addressing participants, Obama touted the U.S. private sector pledge and discussed recent U.S. resettlement increases. The number of refugees resettled annually in the United States increased from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 this year, and Obama recently announced a FY 17 admissions target of 110,000. The United States also increased other admission alternatives, providing special immigrant visas to more than 11,000 from Iraq and Afghanistan in FY16, an increase of more than 4,000 from FY 2015.
But a new Rasmussen poll suggests that U.S. voters strongly oppose Obama’s plan to bring in more refugees. Nearly half (48%) of likely voters polled said the United States should take in no additional refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Sixty-two percent said increasing the number of Middle Eastern and African refugees next year poses an increased national security risk to the United States.
And Obama’s international push comes just days after terrorist attacks in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota that revived concerns about the screening of refugees and immigrants. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke Monday about national security threats facing the U.S. from terrorists who have entered the country. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., called for indefinitely suspending all forms of immigration from countries classified as terrorist safe havens. Such concerns were exacerbated by the announcement that 858 people from “countries of concern” with pending deportation orders were mistakenly granted U.S. citizenship.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., slammed the Obama Administration for refusing to send officials to testify at a hearing today on his FY17 resettlement target. He said, "Despite having sufficient notice of a statutorily required hearing regarding its plans for the Refugee Admissions Program in Fiscal Year 2017, the Obama administration has once again elected to subordinate both its relationship with Congress and the legitimate concerns of the American people to advance the agenda of the United Nations…The American people deserve explanations about the administration's reckless plans to admit 110,000 refugees beginning on October 1, 2016. They demand that their leaders end the lawlessness and abuses in the Refugee Admissions Program, and that their leaders place the safety and security of this country first."
Updated: Wed, Nov 2nd 2016 @ 9:05am EDT