GOP Candidates Reject Obama's Refugee Plan: 'Lunacy,' 'Huge Mistake,' 'No Way to Vet'

By Patrick Goodenough | November 16, 2015 | 4:30am EST
Refugees cross from Serbia into Hungary, underneath a razor wire border fence on August 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

( – The terror attacks in Paris have focused new attention on the issue of Syrian refugee admissions, with several Republican presidential candidates hardening opposition to President Obama’s decision to allow 10,000 of them to settle in the United States during the current fiscal year.

“Bringing people into this country from that area of the world I think is a huge mistake,” retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said on Fox News Sunday. “Because why wouldn’t they infiltrate them with people who are ideologically opposed to us? It would be foolish for them not to do that.”

Carson said the U.S. should be compassionate, and support Syrian refugees to resettle in their region of origin.

“But to bring them here under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sounded skeptical of the notion that refugee applicants could be properly vetted.

“That’s one of the reasons why I said we won’t be able to take more refugees – it’s not that we don’t want to; it’s that we can’t because there's no way to background check someone that's coming from Syria,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Rubio said out of 1,000 refugees, 999 may be fleeing oppression and violence but one could be an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighter.

“If that’s the case, you have a problem and there is no way to vet that out. There is no background check system in the world that allows us to find that out – because who do you call in Syria to background check them?”

For months, security experts have been voicing concern about the likelihood that terrorists from ISIS or other groups could pose as refugees heading for Western nations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said last September ISIS extremists may well be among the refugees and migrants flooding into Europe. Clapper said it was a “huge concern of ours” although he also said U.S. authorities have a “pretty aggressive” screening system in place for those seeking to enter the U.S.

The discovery of a Syrian passport near the remains of one of the suicide bombers who took part in Friday’s attacks in the French capital has fueled fears about terrorists posing as refugees. A person using that passport entered Europe by landing on a Greek island less than a month ago, then traveled through Croatia before registering for asylum in Serbia, according to European authorities.

In an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointed to Clapper’s earlier warning.

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America, it is nothing less than lunacy,” Cruz said.

“It makes no sense whatsoever for us to be bringing in refugees who our intelligence cannot determine if they are terrorists here to kill us or not. Those who are fleeing persecution should be resettled in the Middle East, in majority Muslim countries,” he said.

“Now on the other hand, Christians who are being targeted, for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them,” Cruz said. “But President Obama refuses to that …”

Also calling for a focus on admitting Christians was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that while most refugees should be sheltered in safe zones in the region, the U.S. also has “a responsibility to help with refugees after proper screening.”

“And I think our focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore,” he added. “'They're being beheaded, they’re being executed by both sides. And I think we have a responsibility to help.”

According to updated State Department Refugee Processing Center statistics, of 2,164 Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. since the civil war erupted in March 2011, only 53 (2.4 percent) are Christians. Ninety-six percent are Muslims, with the remaining handful other minorities including Yazidis and Baha’i. (see figures below)


‘Let’s ask the Saudis to step up’

One of the strongest statements from a GOP candidate opposing Obama’s Syria refugee admission plan came three days before the Paris attack, when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was asked about it during Tuesday’s Fox Business Network/Wall Street Journal debate.

“The idea that we’re just going to open our doors, and we have no idea who these people are – what we do know is that only one out of five of the so-called ‘Syrian refugees’ who went into Europe were actually Syrian. Many of them, we had no idea who they were,” he said.

“Are we going to open the doors so that ISIS people will come on in, and we’ll give them a place to say, a good sandwich, and medical benefits? My gosh, we have $19 trillion dollars in debt, we can’t even afford to take care of Americans.”

Syrians truly in danger should be helped “closer to where they live,” he said.

“Let’s do it where we can best help them. Send them some food. But let’s ask the Saudis to step up. I’m really tired of Americans being the only ones asked to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to charity,” Huckabee said.

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