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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop on Nov. 16 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop on Nov. 16 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop on Nov. 16 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo)

By Fauzeya Rahman December 1, 2015

Donald Trump says President Obama wants the U.S. to take in 250,000 people from Syria

Donald Trump, the hard-charging businessman who had been leading voter polls for the Republican presidential nomination, recently kicked off a rally in Beaumont with a moment of silence for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks that left at least 129 dead.

In the aftermath of the attacks, conflicting reports on the citizenship status of the perpetrators led 30 state governors and most of the Republican presidential candidates, including Trump, to speak out against Syrian refugees entering the United States. Trump began his Nov. 14, 2015, speech at Beaumont’s Ford Park Arena by calling the events in Paris the night before "terrible."

He went on to say, "And when you look at what happened in that case, it’s just reported, one from Syria. And our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria," citing one of the Paris attacker’s alleged Syrian nationality.

While the Syrian passport allegedly found next to the body of one of the attackers is believed to be fake and at least six out of the 10 known assailants are European nationals, Trump and others cited the Paris attacks as good reason to prohibit additional Syrian refugees from entering the United States.

Trump was not alone in claiming President Barack Obama wants to allow hundreds of thousands of Syrians entry to the United States. Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina put the number at 100,000 Syrian refugees and Ben Carson likened bringing 200,000 people "from that region" to malpractice. Trump had used the 250,000 figure before, telling Matt Lauer of NBC News he didn’t want that many Syrians coming to the United States.

The United States has a long history of taking in refugees from war-torn countries, including some from Syria. But has President Obama decided to admit 250,000 Syrian refugees?

Our attempts to learn the basis for Trump’s statement yielded no replies from his campaign.

In October 2015, Fox News commentator Sean Hannity made a claim much like the one Trump offered in Beaumont, though Hannity mentioned another country as well, saying: "The president said he’s going to bring in 250,000 (Syrian and Iraqi) refugees into this country."

Pants on Fire, PolitiFact ruled a week later, finding that Hannity lofted a figure not rooted in Obama administration plans, though there are plans to admit more refugees, including more Syrians, over several years.

Hannity offered as backup for his claim a Sept. 20, 2015, Associated Press news story stating that the U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year, up from 70,000, and that total would rise to 100,000 in 2017, per Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks. Hannity added up the total number of refugees allowed each year from all over the world, to get a total of 255,000 refugees.

That AP story, however, said that those figures reflected refugees to be welcomed from around the world, not just Syria or even the Middle East. On Sept. 10, 2015, the Obama administration announced plans to increase the number of Syrian refugees to at least 10,000, although talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh have claimed figures almost 10 times as high. We reached out to the White House for clarity.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz sent back an email stating that the U.S. is increasing the "number of Syrian and other refugees we admit from around the world on an annual basis," going up to 85,000 next year and 100,000 the following year.

While Hannity further clarified his statement, that he didn’t say all would be Syrian refugees, Trump explicitly labeled all 250,000 as Syrian refugees.

After searching other news stories, checking with the White House and searching some more, we did find that 250,000 figure out there on the Internet -- on a parody site called  Real News Right Now, which stated: "The U.S. Department of State announced today that it will grant upwards of two-hundred and fifty thousand Syrian refugees temporary amnesty in the United States. Over the next four months, State Department officials working in conjunction with FEMA will begin processing and transporting the refugees to sparsely populated parts of Arizona and North Dakota." It went on to quote Cathy Pieper, a spokesperson for the "Department of State," the article said. We called the State Department to see if there was a spokesperson by that name; there isn’t.

Refugee resettlement

In September 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry shared the Obama administration’s plans to increase the total number of refugees coming into the United States from all countries from 70,000 to 85,000 in Fiscal Year 2016, with "10,000 over the next year from Syria specifically," Kerry said. The following year, Kerry said the target would be closer to 100,000 total, again from all countries.

Between Oct. 1, 2011 and Nov. 20, 2015, the U.S. resettled 2,261 Syrian refugees in 36 states, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes migration across the world. Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokesperson for the organization, wrote in an email that between the Obama administration’s announcement of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees in Fiscal Year 2016 (part of the total increase to 85,000 refugees) and the plan to raise the overall refugee admissions ceiling in FY 2017 to 100,000, even if the entirety of the increase between Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 were all Syrian refugees (the allotted number for Syrian refugees hasn’t been specified), that would permit admission of 25,000 Syrian refugees in FY 2017.

"We know of no proposal by the administration to admit 250,000 Syrian refugees," she said.

According to a report submitted to Congress Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. admitted between 1,600 and 1,800 Syrian refugees in FY 2015. The table below, from the Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2016 report to Congress includes the number of actual arrivals for 2014 and 2015 from all areas of the world, and projected numbers for 2016:


Table I

Refugee Admissions in FY 2014 and FY 2015

Proposed Refugee Admissions by Region for FY 2016[3]



FY 2014 Actual arrivals

FY 2015 Ceiling


Revised FY 2015 Ceiling


FY 2015 projected arrivals


Proposed FY2016 Ceiling







East Asia

Featured Fact-check






Europe and Central Asia






Latin America/Caribbean






Near East/South Asia






Regional Subtotal






Unallocated Reserve












Our ruling

Trump said President Obama wants to take in 250,000 people from Syria.

If so, neither the administration or any other authoritative source had said as much before Trump stumped in Beaumont. If current plans hold, Syrian refugees settling here will increase through 2017, but it will be nothing close to the 250,000 figure touted by Trump. The administration has plans to increase refugees admitted from all countries from 70,000 in 2015 to 100,000 in 2017.

Nothing close? We rate his claim Pants on Fire!

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.


Our Sources

Fact Sheet, Migration Policy Institute, Nov. 24, 2015

Email interview, Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications, Migration Policy Institute, Nov. 24, 2015

Email interview, Eric Schultz, principal deputy White House press secretary, Nov. 24, 2015

Video, Trump campaign speech, Nov. 14, 2015

NBC News, Today, Oct. 26, 2015

PolitiFact, Fact-checking Sean Hannity's claim on the U.S. accepting 250,000 refugees, Oct. 26, 2015

Sean Hannity Show, Attempt By Liberal Hack To Smear Sean Hannity Backfires Spectacularly, Oct. 27, 2015

U.S. Department of State, "Refugee Admissions Statistics," accessed Nov. 19, 2015

U.S. Department of State, "Refugee Resettlement Fact Sheet"

U.S. State Department, Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2016, Oct. 1, 2015

Mediate, "Sean Hannity Falls for Parody Site Claiming U.S. Accepting 250,000 Syrian Refugees," Oct. 27, 2015

Real News Right Now, "U.S. to House 250,000 Syrian Refugees at Navajo, Standing Rock Indian Reservations," Sept. 6, 2015

Washington Post, "What we know about the Paris attacks and the hunt for the attackers," Nov. 18, 2015

Washington Post, "Were Syrian refugees involved in the Paris attacks? What we know and don’t know," Nov. 17, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarks, transcript, Sept. 20, 2015

Media Matters, "Fox News' Sean Hannity Feeds Donald Trump Fake Middle Eastern Refugee Claim From Hoax Website," Oct. 27, 2015

FiveThirtyEight, "Governors Who Want To Ban Syrian Refugees Have Something In Common," Nov. 16, 2015

Associated Press, "Kerry: US to accept 85,000 refugees in 2016, 100,000 in 2017," Sept. 20, 2015

ABC News, "Syrian Muslims 'Not Facing Genocide the Way Christians Are,' Ted Cruz Says," Nov. 17, 2015

CBS News, "GOP candidates rip Syrian refugee policy after Paris attacks," Nov. 14, 2015

Rolling Stone, "Ben Carson: Ban Middle Eastern Refugees After Paris Attacks," Nov. 13, 2015


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