White House on track to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees

White House on track to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees
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The Obama administration is on track to meet its goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States by the end of September, government officials said Friday.

Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said that 8,000 Syrians have been resettled in the U.S. this year. 

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“We are very confident we will welcome at least 10,000 refugees from Syria by the end of this fiscal year," she told reporters on a conference call.

If the U.S. keeps admitting refugees from Syria at its current pace, Richard said “we may exceed 10,000” by the end of the fiscal year. 

Ninety-nine percent of the refugees admitted are Muslim, and more than three quarters are women and people under 18. 

The numbers reflect the administration’s ramped-up effort to meet President Obama’s goal of admitting 10,000 refugees, which he announced last September. 

The initiative got off to a slow start earlier this year, due to the slow pace of processing and security screenings, which can take more than a year. 

Only about 1,200 were admitted the first six months after Obama made his announcement, according to government figures. But State Department numbers show 2,340 Syrian refugees arrived in July, according to the Associated Press.

The flow of Syrian refugees into the U.S. has exacerbated fears that terrorists may be able to slip through the country and carry out attacks. 

At least one person involved in the terrorist attack last November in Paris carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posed as a Syrian refugee.

Republicans have so far unsuccessfully mounted efforts to stop the president through legislation.

GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country. After coming under intense criticism, he later said he wants to block immigrants from countries "compromised" by terrorism.

An AP-GfK poll conducted in early July showed that 69 percent of Republicans favored a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, but that overall, 52 percent of Americans opposed such a ban, while 45 percent backed it.

Administration officials have tried to assure the public that a heightened screening process for Syrian refugees is in place, while more personnel have been dedicated to speeding up refugee processing. The State Department set up a surge center in Jordan this year. Officials said earlier this year that the process remains the same, but the additional personnel have shortened the time between each stage of the process. 

"The process is still a very thorough, time-consuming process for each refugee applicant. On average, it has been 18 to 24 months, and we have not shortcut the process," Johnson said. "In fact, we have added security checks to the process for refugees from certain countries, which I can't really get into publicly."

The administration has denied seven percent of applicants and put a hold on an additional 13 percent, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director León Rodríguez.

President Obama made the pledge to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing violence in Syria's three-way civil war between the Russia-backed regime, moderate anti-regime rebels backed by the West, and ISIS. 

So far, more than 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the country’s civil war and in battles with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. More than 4 million have fled the country, mostly into nearby Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. 

Thousands of refugees have gone into Europe, raising pressure on the U.S. to also accept more. 

The influx of refugees into the U.S. comes just before Obama heads to a United Nations General Assembly summit on refugees and migrants, where he is expected to press countries to accept more refugees as the five-plus year war continues to rage. 

This story was updated at 3:35 p.m.