The U.S. is failing to fulfill its "modest pledge" to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016, according to the most recent government figures and a damning new report (pdf) from Human Rights First, prompting sharp critique from observers.
"Words can hardly capture the U.S. response to the Syrian refugee crisis, at least any words I can think of."
Only 1,736 Syrians have been resettled within U.S. borders—fewer than one-fifth of the country's stated goal—in the seven months since Secretary of State John Kerry's original announcement in September of last year.
"The United States cannot lead by example unless the administration meets this year's very modest goal and sets a more meaningful and ambitious goal for next year," said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at the human rights non-profit to the New York Times on Tuesday.
Germany, Canada, and Brazil have all resettled far more Syrian refugees than the United States, despite those countries' smaller populations and even though it is U.S. foreign policy that has been characterized by many observers as largely responsible for the flood of global migration in the first place.
And as millions are displaced around the world, U.S. treatment of refugees has been decried and condemned by many—including prominent White House officials, who urged President Obama to increase his Syrian refugee resettlement goal a full tenfold when it was first announced.
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Indeed, the Human Rights First report characterized the administration's resettlement goal as "a modest pledge given the scale of the Syrian refugee crisis and the capacity of the United States."
Prior to the Secretary of State's announcement, the U.S. had resettled a mere 1,500 Syrian refugees since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, as Common Dreams reported.
"The delays, advocates argue, are a result of inefficiencies in the asylum adjudication system, insufficient staffing to vet would-be refugees and the often lengthy security checks that Syrians are required to undergo as part of their application," the Times wrote.
The U.S. refugee resettlement process is plagued by backlogs and can sometimes take years, the Human Rights First report says, prompting widespread despair:
In some cases, one or more members of a family that was waiting for resettlement consideration have decided to risk the dangerous trip to Europe as they believe their family can't survive for another year or two. The complete lack of certainty as to how long the process may take in any particular case in the U.S. resettlement system, and the specter of disappearing into an adjudication delay of indefinite duration even after the interview, contribute to refugees' despairing of the process.
The report also describes the tragic case of an 11-month-old infant who died in a Jordanian refugee camp because U.S. officials did not process his refugee application fast enough for him to have the heart surgery he desperately needed.
Indeed, as more and more European nations adopt policies hostile to migrants and the EU-Turkey deal deports and detains refugees, the consequences of such failures to take in asylum seekers are increasingly dire.
"Words can hardly capture the U.S. response to the Syrian refugee crisis, at least any words I can think of," as Noam Chomsky lamented.