The mayor of an eastern Pennsylvania city with one of the nation's largest Syrian populations said his city welcomes Syrian refugees and will help support them as they get settled in the United States.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski spoke Monday in Allentown as debate intensifies nationally over the federal government's plan to accept an additional 10,000 refugees from the war-ravaged nation.

Allentown has accepted nine families since March for a total of 44 people. Dozens more are expected over the next year.

The area's Syrian community dates to the late 1800s and numbers about 5,200. Some Syrian-American Christians in Allentown oppose the placement of Muslim refugees in the city, saying they're worried about extremists.

But Pawlowski says he's confident in the vetting process. He says residents shouldn't succumb to fear.