The Obama administration has met its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country a month ahead of schedule, a controversial U.S. policy responding to the humanitarian crisis caused by millions of Syrians fleeing the war-torn country.
The 10,000 refugees represents a six-fold increase in the number of Syrian refugees admitted from the prior year, the administration said in a statement issued Monday.
President Obama has pressed ahead with the Syrian refugee goal in the face of widespread GOP complaints about the rising risks that Islamic State terrorist might be posing as refugees in order to enter the country. Donald Trump and others have demanded a halt on admitting all Syrian refugees, as well as all Muslims, into the country.
Those calls increased after news that one of the terrorists who carried out the attack on Paris was a Syrian refugee, and three refugees from Islamic countries attacked people in Germany in late July.
After a slow start, the State Department hired more employees to provide screenings and began admitting refugees at a more rapid pace this summer.
"Today, I am pleased to announce that we will meet this goal more than a month ahead of schedule," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a statement Monday. "Our 10,000th Syrian refugee will arrive this afternoon.
"On behalf of the president and his administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world," she added.
Rice said the Departments of State and Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies worked hard to meet the 10,000 goal while strengthening the "integrity" of the refugee program, including "stringent security screening protocols."
"Above all, we thank the many generous communities throughout our country that have continued to open their arms to these new neighbors, demonstrating the values that have made our nation great," she said in a possible dig at Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again."
Even though the administration has met its admission goal for the year, Rice said there is far more to do to strengthen the international response to the refugee crisis and the more than 21 million refugees displaced around the globe.
Obama will hold a summit on refugees at this year's United Nation's General Assembly meeting in New York in late September to highlight the "continued leadership of the United States on humanitarian issues and the significant contributions partner countries have made this year."
"The United States has committed to work with the international community to significantly increase humanitarian assistance funding, double the global number of refugees afforded opportunities for resettlement or other humanitarian admissions and help empower refugees in countries of asylum," she said.
Human rights activists are urging Obama to at least double the number of Syrian refugees the U.S. takes in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
A picture of Omran Daqneesh, a blood and dust-covered Syrian boy rescued after an airstrike in Syria, went viral on the Internet this month, spurring a renewed push by human rights advocates for more refugee admissions before Obama leaves office.