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US not ruling out accepting more Syria refugees

16 Sep

The Obama administration is still weighing proposals for the U.S. to accept thousands more Syrian refugees, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power said on Wednesday, amid increased calls for the country to more proactively respond to the crisis.

“The conversation is just picking up,” Power said at a lunch in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.“In terms of what the right overall number will be next year, we are continuing to reassess that,” she added. “This is, of course, an issue of extreme urgency.”

Power’s remarks came after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — the No. 2 Senate Democrat — called for the Obama administration to accept 100,000 refugees.

The new target of 10,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016 — up from just 1,400 since the civil war in Syria began — is “too modest,” Durbin said on Tuesday.

Dozens of House Democrats have also called for the U.S. to allow 100,000 refugees to enter the country.

“We welcome Sen. Durbin’s proposal and we’ll consider it carefully,” Power said.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, have been more critical of the Obama administration’s decision to allow additional refugees into the country, and have worried about security threats that could arise.

On Wednesday, Power appeared to take a swipe at those critics, especially Republican presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, who has largely based his campaign on opposition to immigration.

“Too often, particularly in the political season, the loudest voices are ones that are very unwelcoming towards people coming from other countries,” Power said. “And yet I think most Americans have had the experience of feeling the great pride that we all feel in terms of those we have managed to shelter in times of great need.”

The refugee crisis has dominated foreign policy circles in recent weeks, and is likely to loom large when world leaders flock to New York for the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Power on Wednesday indicated that President Obama will be calling for other countries and private organizations to shoulder more of the financial burden for responding to the crisis.

The added voice of Pope Francis — who will be in the U.S. next week and has called for a greater response to the refugee crisis — will only help, she said.

“We’ll need more hands on deck, and hopefully the pope can help get us there,” Power said.