Duggan: Detroit will ‘step up’ to host Syrian refugees

Christine Ferretti, and Melissa Nann Burke

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan said Thursday Detroit is among the cities willing to “step up” as a host for refugees amid the crisis in war-torn Syria.

Duggan said he met with President Barack Obama during a Michigan visit after Labor Day and has been in talks with federal officials for several weeks about the plan and is “very willing” to accept refugees. The mayor will visit Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks and the refugee crisis will be among the issues covered, he said.

“I expect Detroit to play a role, like other cities do. This is a human issue,” Duggan said.

State legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder have spoken on the issue recently. Tuesday, Snyder said his administration is in talks with federal officials about resettling refugees in Michigan.

But the Republican governor, who has actively sought more visas for legal immigrants to settle in Detroit, has noted there are legal barriers to letting Syrians seek political asylum in Michigan. Michigan accepts an average of 4,400 refugees per year.

About 4,000 refugees from embattled countries in the Middle East and Africa resettled in Michigan last year, according to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. Beside Syria, refugees are coming from Iraq and other regions held by Islamic State.

This month, the Obama administration committed to accepting at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees during the next year. The United States will welcome 85,000 refugees from around the world in 2016, up from 70,000, and the ceiling would rise to 100,000 in 2017.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, wants the Obama administration to triple the number of Syrian refugees it will accept next year.

In a Wednesday letter to Obama, Peters said the U.S. should be prepared to take 30,000 Syrians and persecuted minorities next year and as many as 100,000 refugees in the following years.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, has said she shares Peters’ compassion but urges caution. Officials, she said, lack “credible intelligence” on many refugee applicants, and “many” could be connected to terrorist groups.

Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.