FactCheck.org is a non-partisan non-profit organization that will hold candidates and key figures accountable during the 2016 presidential campaign. FactCheck.org will check facts of of speeches, advertisements and more for NBC.
Donald Trump falsely claims that Tim Kaine signed a letter recently asking to bring in even more Syrian refugees to the U.S. than Hillary Clinton has proposed. But Kaine recently only asked President Obama to honor his commitment to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Trump made his claim at the VFW National Convention on the night before Kaine is scheduled to accept the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Trump, July 26: Hillary Clinton wants to bring in, if you can believe this, 550 percent more [Syrian refugees] than President Obama. More. And Tim Kaine wrote a letter very recently asking for more than even Hillary wants.
Trump frequently notes that Clinton wants to increase the number of Syrian refugees — above what Obama has authorized — by 550 percent. Clinton has said that she would admit as many as 65,000 refugees from Syria, which is a 550 percent increase from the 10,000 Syrian refugees that Obama said that he would authorize for admission in fiscal year 2016.
But did Kaine recently pen a letter seeking to admit even more Syrian refugees than Clinton called for? We reached out to the Trump campaign for support for the claim, but we did not hear back. And we could find no evidence of a letter that backs up Trump’s claim.
On May 18, Kaine was one of 26 senators who signed a letter to Obama calling on him to honor his pledge to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. this fiscal year. In the first seven months of the fiscal year so far, they noted, only 1,736 Syrians had been admitted to the U.S.
Letter to Obama, May 18: "Last September you announced a plan to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States during fiscal year 2016. We appreciate your recent affirmation that 'we can hit those marks before the end of the year.'
Nonetheless, we are deeply concerned about the slow pace of admissions for Syrian refugees in the first seven months of the fiscal year. During this timeframe only 1,736 Syrian refugees were admitted to the United States. By contrast, more than 6,000 refugees have been admitted from Burma, more than 5,000 refugees have been admitted from both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, and more than 4,000 refugees have been admitted from Iraq. To fulfill the commitment you announced last year, at least 8,264 Syrian refugees would need to be admitted during the remaining five months of the fiscal year. We would appreciate an update on specific measures your Administration plans to take to fulfill its stated commitment to resettle the additional Syrian refugees by the end of September 2016."
Kaine’s figure on the number of Syrian refugees accepted in the first seven months of the fiscal year was correct, but we note that in the two months since then, the U.S. accepted an additional 3,475 refugees from Syria, bringing the total for the first nine months to 5,211 as of the end of June. The letter makes the case for the need for the U.S. to open its doors to Syrian refugees, but does not place a figure on an appropriate number, let alone call for more than Clinton has.
Kaine has long made the case that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to take in more Syrian refugees.
In April 2015, Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Sens. Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, sent a letter calling on Obama to create and enforce humanitarian safe zones to protect Syrian refugees.
The following month, on May 21, 2015, Kaine was among 14 senators who wrote to Obama, urging him to significantly increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the United States.
The letter asks Obama to accept “at least 50 percent of Syrian refugees whom UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is seeking to resettle.” The UNHCR was seeking to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years — so that comes to 65,000 refugees, the same number that Clinton proposed accepting.
Letter to Obama, May 14, 2015: "Indeed, we cannot expect countries hosting Syrian refugees to continue shouldering such a disproportionate burden if the United States and other industrialized countries do not begin resettling many more Syrian refugees. UNHCR is seeking to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years and has thus far submitted more than 12,000 resettlement cases to the United States for consideration. …
Following the international community’s tragic failure to shelter Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi genocide, the United States played a leadership role in establishing the international legal regime for the protection of refugees. Since that time, the American people have generously welcomed millions of refugees fleeing war and totalitarian regimes. In keeping with this history, we urge your Administration to work to accept at least 50 percent of Syrian refugees whom UNHCR is seeking to resettle, consistent with our nation’s traditional practice under both Republican and Democratic Presidents."
After the ISIS attacks in Paris, Kaine also warned that those attacks should not discourage the U.S. from accepting Syrian refugees.
Kaine, Nov. 18, 2015: "And of course we must have the toughest screening process possible in terms of refugees coming here. But I worry that calls to end or pause our refugee resettlement program are misguided. The fact is that refugees are currently subject to the absolute highest level of security checks of any category of traveler coming to the U.S. — with special criteria in place for those coming from Syria on top of the normal procedures. Getting admitted as a refugee generally takes more than a year and a half and involves signoff from numerous agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security, the State Department and the Department of Defense.
Bottom line – it’s not easy to come into our country as a refugee, at all. But the notion of “no Syrian can ever come here” is antithetical to our values – especially when the innocent civilians and families seeking refuge in our country are fleeing the very violence and terror we saw in France and Lebanon that they experience every day in Syria."
So Kaine has a well-documented history of advocating the U.S. take in Syrian refugees. But we couldn’t find any evidence that he supports bringing in more than Clinton has proposed, nor that he wrote a recent letter to that effect.