By Julian Hattem - 09/11/15 04:14 PM EDT
Dozens of House Democrats are calling for the Obama administration to dramatically increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the U.S.
In a letter on Friday, 72 lawmakers said that the country could easily support the resettlement of as many as 100,000 refugees — a 10-fold increase from the White House’s plan.
The U.S. should “resettle a minimum of 200,000 refugees by the end of 2016, including 100,000 Syrian refugees,” they wrote to the White House. That would be in line with a recommendation from a coalition of 20 refugee organizations called Refugee Council USA.
The letter was spearheaded by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
The Democrats’ demand would be a dramatic increase from the Obama administration’s pledge this week to let an additional 10,000 refugees into the country over the course of the next year. To this point, the U.S. has accepted roughly 1,500 of the 4 million Syrians who have fled the country since civil war broke out there in 2011.
The change in White House policy came only after intense scrutiny was turned on the relatively low number of refugees the U.S. has allowed, compared to other countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Criticism mounted in recent days on the heels of a heartbreaking photograph of a drowned 3-year-old refugee, Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up to shore in Turkey while attempting to flee to Europe.
“The United States is home to 320 million people,” the lawmakers wrote on Friday. “Allowing an additional 130,000 refugees into our country would make up less than a quarter of one percent of our population.
“How can we tell little Aylan's family that we simply can’t manage to welcome them, that it would be too dangerous, or take away jobs? Surely we can do better.”
The Democrats' call is sure to meet opposition from Republicans, who have been split on the refugee crisis.
While some have criticized the Obama administration for being too slow to accept new migrants, others have worried about security and economic implications of accepting tens of thousands of foreigners.