A discrepancy in statistics provided by the Department of Homeland Security has led an attorney for a Washington-based legal group to question whether administration officials are waiving Syrians into the United States by other means.
Ian Smith, of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. It shows that U.S. officials as of Jan. 25 had interviewed 9,800 refugee applicants since fiscal year 2014. That is nearly twice as many people as the combined number of approvals (4,774) and denials (417) during that time.
“The discrepancy is very, very large, and they go back quite a ways.”
Smith speculated that the Obama administration is using “humanitarian parole” to admit Syrians who do not meet the eligibility requirements for refugees. That is the same method by which the Obama administration has allowed entry to the unaccompanied minors who have arrived en masse at the U.S.-Mexican border over the past few years.
“I really think that’s the case, because that’s what we’ve been seeing with the Central American Minors programs,” Smith said.
Daniel Cosgrove, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman, told LifeZette that there are other outcomes beyond approval and denial that account for the discrepancy.
“Following the USCIS interview, cases may be approved, denied, placed on hold for a variety of reasons (including national security concerns and concerns related to the applicant’s credibility), or administratively closed,” he wrote in an email. “It frequently occurs that a case that is interviewed by DHS in one fiscal year carries over to a following fiscal year for final resolution.”
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said it takes time review an application for refugee resettlement and make a determination. She said it is plausible that U.S. authorities simply had not made a determination in a large number of cases.
“It can take some time before that’s done,” she said. “That would be a benign explanation.”
Smith said he finds it hard to believe pending cases make up such a high percentage of applicants interviewed.
“The discrepancy is very, very large, and they go back quite a ways,” he said.
President Obama committed last year to resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), up from fewer than 2,000. The total cap on refugees is rising form 70,000 to 85,000. The president maintains that the United States needs to do its part to alleviate a humanitarian crisis sparked by a civil war in Syria that now is in its fifth year.