Syrian refugees who have fled their war-torn country don't want their next stop to be the United States, according to the top American at the United Nations.
"Out all the refugees I spoke to, in and out of the camps, not one of them said they wanted to come to the United States," Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Thursday during a national security forum on Capitol Hill.
U.S. policy toward refugees has been a hotly contested national debate for years, as Republican lawmakers and ultimately President Trump argued that national security officials can't conduct adequate background checks of incoming refugees. Haley's comments were consistent with that policy, even as she emphasized that Syrians "don't want a handout" and complimented Jordanian and Turkish officials for welcoming millions of Syrians fleeing an ongoing civil war.
"What they said was 'we want to go home, we don't care of we have to start over, we don't care if we have to build it ourselves, we want to go home' and their family members are there," Haley continued. "And they literally look at the mountain where Syria is on the other side and there is such a hope and amazing motivation for them to go home."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime immigration hawk whose former communications director helped write Trump's travel ban, has made a related foreign policy case for keeping refugees near their original homes.
"Our policy should be to keep the refugees as close to home as possible and then we need to be working to try to create the kind of stability [so] they could return to their home as soon as possible," Sessions, then a Republican senator from Alabama, said in 2015. "For the cost of one in the United States, we could probably provide maintenance assistance to 10, maybe more, in their home country or near their home country."
Haley said that Turkey and Jordan have a particularly acute need for help in educating the refugees; their school systems are currently running in "double shifts" to accommodate the influx of new children.
"So what I'm doing is working with the secretary general of the UN to shift how our funds are working with the Syrian crisis so that we can help support the education efforts, because that's where they're feeling the squeeze, and psychological support," Haley said. "That's the ask that the refugees made was that they need more psychosocial support."