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Debating whether the US should be taking in more refugees from Syria




Syrian children, who were displaced with their families from their houses due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, queue up to receive aid food in the rebel side of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 7, 2015
Syrian children, who were displaced with their families from their houses due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, queue up to receive aid food in the rebel side of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 7, 2015
FADI AL-HALABI/AFP/Getty Images

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President Obama is weighing his options as a worldwide debate has opened up over how to deal with the burgeoning refugee crisis.

Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday that "The [Obama] administration is actively considering a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement."

Although no decision has been made, the White House is running out of time -- under federal law, the president must establish the annual refugee ceiling before Oct. 1. For 2015, Syrians will fill an estimated 2,000 of the 70,000 total openings for refugees.

In contrast, that number was only 132 in 2014. The International Rescue Committee called for the United States to open its doors to 65,000 Syrian refugees. An online petition asking the U.S. government to do exactly that has garnered more than 54,000 signatures.

In order to claim refugee status, applicants must typically be displaced from their home country because of "persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

Under current law, the president can make exceptions, allowing people to claim refugee status from within their own country. Obama has done so for refugees from Iraq, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba. Yet so far, the administration has focused more on providing humanitarian aid to the tune of $4 billion rather than on raising the ceiling.

What is the vetting process? How will the administration respond as many ask why they are not doing more? Should the U.S. allow refugee status to people still in Syria? And as approximately four million Syrians have been displaced to neighboring countries, what is the role of the U.S. in this crisis?

Guests:

James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, where he’s been writing about the Syrian refugee crisis

James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute in Washington D.C.-based think tank and author of "Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters"

Anna Green, Director of Policy and Advocacy for U.S. Programs at the International Rescue Committee