Senate weighs allowing more Syrian refugees into US

The Senate on Tuesday will examine whether the U.S. should welcome more Syrians as refugees amid growing criticism that the country isn't doing enough.

The Senate judiciary panel on human rights is holding a hearing Tuesday on the “Syrian refugee crisis” as the civil war approaches its third year. Top administration officials handling refugee policy are scheduled to testify.

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The panel is tasked with examining “questions of whether people can get visas based on dangers to themselves back home,” committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told The Hill. “So that's what we'll be doing.”

Leahy added that his committee will decide whether admission standards for Syrians need to be reviewed based on the hearing, which will be chaired by subpanel chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

“That's why we have hearings — to decide what we're going to do,” he said. “I usually have the hearing first, then decide what legislation to have.”

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As of September, the Obama administration had only allowed 90 Syrians to resettle in the United States, according to The Washington Post, out of more than 2 million refugees who have been straining the resources of neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.

The administration says it has done its part by offering $1.4 billion in humanitarian aid — more than any other country — but some human-rights groups say it needs to allow more Syrians into the U.S. by relaxing refugee standards, which require that applicants show that they're being discriminated against based on criteria such as their religion or political beliefs.

Witnesses scheduled to testify include Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard; Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Policy Molly Groom; and Nancy Lindborg, the assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance.

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