WASHINGTON (AP) The United States allowed in more than 2,300 Iraqi refugees last month, setting a record and putting the Bush administration on pace to surpass its goal of accepting 12,000 by the end of September.
The State Department said Friday that 2,352 Iraqi refugees had arrived in the country in July, shattering the previous monthly record of 1,721 from June.
July's figure brings to 8,815 the number of Iraqi refugees to have been admitted in the current budget year that ends Sept. 30, giving the administration two months to take in 3,185 to hit the target.
"These are good results and we feel we're on track to reach the 12,000 goal," said James Foley, the department's coordinator for Iraqi refugee issues.
Officials said they expected to admit more than 1,600 Iraqi refugees in both August and September, easily reaching and likely surpassing the mark.
The 12,000 target is still far lower than the number admitted by other countries and only a small slice of the some 2 million Iraqis who have fled to neighboring countries since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Sweden, for example, has granted asylum to about 40,000 since 2003.
Advocacy groups and lawmakers have criticized the U.S. for its poor performance on Iraqi refugees but over the past several months, the administration has rapidly increased the number it has allowed in, breaking admissions records in April, May, June and now July.
Many critics say, and officials have acknowledged, that the administration has a moral obligation to the refugees and must do more.
Last month, a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced a bill that would create an ambassador-level post at the White House to oversee efforts to assist Iraqi refugees. Currently, that policy is handled by the departments of State and Homeland Security.