Humanitarian workers will resettle the next wave of Syrian refugees in Clearwater, Florida, as the Obama Administration struggle to bring at least 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. by the end of September.
Since the Syrian civil war first began, 95 Syrian families have been relocated to Florida. All of whom were resettled in the Miami area until last month, when Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida relocated twenty families to St. Augustine. The families fled Syria in 2013, lived in several refugee camps, and underwent a security screening process before coming to the United States.
“Clearwater has affordable housing, ample job opportunities, and a welcoming community,” said Aamil Bahri, director of refugee and immigration at Lutheran Services Florida. “We expect to resettle many more families in Clearwater, along with many other refugee groups we are proud to serve.”
The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and has displaced millions more. Under pressure to help as the war rages on, President Obama has pledged the U.S. will take in at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30th. Only thirty-five hundred have been relocated thus far.
Bahri and other Clearwater based humanitarian workers say the Obama Administration has told them to expect a much faster pace of resettlement efforts during the next three months. The government has taken steps to help with the president’s goal by dispatching additional workers to Jordan to interview applicants for resettlement, a U.S. State Department spokesman said. The Obama Administration also has resumed interviewing applicants in Mosul, Iraq, and has begun processing refugee resettlement cases in Al-Zabadani, Syria.
Those changes, according to the State Department, “will not curtail any aspects of the process, including its robust security screening. Refugees are the most thoroughly screened travelers to the United States.” Syrian refugees, according to the State Department, are screened to an even higher standard, and those screenings involve multiple agencies to make sure possible terrorists to do not slip through the cracks.
“President Obama is under a lot of pressure,” said Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy for the New York City based Center for Migration Studies. Failing, he said, “would undermine the nation’s credibility with allies and others who need to share the burden of resettling the Syrian people in need. It is difficult for us to instruct the Europeans, or even nations in the region, to accept large numbers of refugees when we can’t even meet our modest goals.”
Theodore Hanson, a former volunteer for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, isn’t at all happy about accepting refugees from countries that breed radical terrorists. “There’s still a tremendous amount of outrage over the refugee resettlement plan among Floridians,” said Hanson. “Even the FBI has admitted we can’t vet these people properly.”
Kyle Erickson, a local activist for Clearwater Conservatives, said he expects the level of anger to rise as the November election draws near. “This will be the end of the United States as we know it,” Erickson said. “Florida has just experienced the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, and the federal government is going about things business as usual. No longer can we pretend that our national security is a non-issue.”
Clearwater Mayor, George Cretekos, declined to comment on the matter until he speaks further with governor Rick Scott. But Pastor Mark Harrold at Clearwater Community Church welcomes the refugees with open arms. “Through God’s almighty grace we shall love our neighbors with all our hearts,” said Pastor Harrold.