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Senate Republicans are raising concerns that the Obama administration is preparing to interview a "surge" of Syrian refugees, as part of the vetting process to potentially allow some to be admitted into the United States.
A handful of Senate Republicans said Friday that the Judiciary Committee has learned that the administration is sending officials to Jordan to interview thousands of candidates for the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
"The Administration’s refusal to suspend or even slow the pace of such refugee processing is particularly disturbing when reports abound of [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] terrorists intentionally inserting themselves into the Syrian refugee stream," the senators wrote in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryFormer Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP How dealmaker Trump can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict John Kerry to teach at Yale on global issues MORE.
The senators added that according to what the committee has been told, the administration is sending between 200-300 officials to Jordan for at least 45 days.
The lawmakers say they are concerned that the move, referred to as the "MARKA surge," is being used to quicken the pace of refugee vetting, which on average takes two years to complete.
The senators are asking Kerry and Johnson for a range of details on the trip, including how many employees will be sent to Jordan, when they will travel to Jordan and how long they will be there, how many refugees will be processed and approximately how much the trip will cost.
The administration's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees has earned fierce pushback from congressional Republicans. They argue that members of terrorist groups can use the program to sneak into the United States and carry out attacks similar to those in Paris late last year.
While Democrats blocked the Senate from taking up legislation to crack down on the acceptance of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, Republicans have continued to push the administration to temporarily halt the resettlement program until the vetting process can be strengthened to ensure refugees aren't a national security threat.
The letter, which was released Friday, was spearheaded by Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate A guide to the committees: Senate Republicans at risk in 2018 steering clear of town halls MORE (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee. Republican Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzA guide to the committees: Senate Trump wants to cut red tape? He should start with the CFPB. Why President Trump should choose Maureen Ohlhausen to lead the FTC MORE (Texas), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchA guide to the committees: Senate 7 key players in the GOP's border tax fight Public lands dispute costs Utah a major trade show MORE (Utah), Mike LeeMike LeeCongress must reform civil asset forfeiture laws A guide to the committees: Senate Top antitrust senators call for Sessions to scrutinize AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (Utah), David Perdue (Ga.), Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsObama-era cash for cronies under House fire McConnell: 'Winners make policy, losers go home' DeVos should ‘persist’ despite liberal opposition MORE (Ala.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and David VitterDavid VitterMercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others Lobbying World Bottom Line MORE (La.), who are all members of the committee, signed onto the letter.