While Democrats have, to a man (and woman) been monolithic in response, the Syrian refugee crisis has divided Republican presidential candidates into two camps, “Yes, maybe, with conditions” and “Over my dead body!”
The issue has become political fodder since the Obama administration’s announcement last week to allow 10,000 people from the war-torn country into America. Although Obama snoozed his own self-imposed “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the GOP candidates are also using the crisis to weigh in on what should be done there.
Among Republicans running for president, here is a look at where the candidates stand:
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Willing (or Open) to Taking More
Donald Trump: “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to,” the billionaire real estate developer told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. He wiggled out a bit later on MSNBC: “The answer is possibly yes, possibly yes. So horrible on a humanitarian basis when you see that. It’s incredible what’s going on.” He rejiggered again later, he told CNN: “I think we should help, but I think we should be very careful because frankly, we have very big problems. We’re not going to have a country if we don’t start getting smart. We cannot help everybody through the world. Europe should help. Russia should help. China, they’re not doing anything. The (Persian) Gulf states are doing nothing. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, any of the gulf states, they’re doing nothing. They should all help. And then maybe we could do something.”
Jeb Bush: “We should accept it. We’re a country that has a noble tradition of accepting refugees. We need to make sure that they’re not part of ISIS or something like that. But the bigger strategy, I think, is how to take out ISIS and how to deal with (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad. The red line was a complete disaster,” the former Florida governor told late night host Stephen Colbert.
John Kasich: “I think we do have a responsibility in terms of taking some more folks in, making sure they assimilate, and at the same time helping people to actually be safe as they move. That’s logistical support,” the Ohio governor said on ABC.
Marco Rubio: “We would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States,” the Florida senator told CNN. He did not propose a number to admit.
Chris Christie: “I’d sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help,” the New Jersey governor said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” “I’d sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help.” But like Kasich, he didn’t offer a number but said other nations should pitch in, too.
Lindsey Graham: “We should take our fair share. We are good people,” the senator from South Carolina told USA Today. “I don’t think the average American has any idea what it’s like to live in the Mideast right now … I don’t see how you can lead the free world and turn your back on people who are seeking it. We should take the Statue of Liberty and tear it down if this is our response as a nation.”
Opposed to Taking More
Ben Carson: “I would recognize that bringing in people from the Middle East right now carries extra danger,” the retired neurosurgeon, who has been surging in the polls, said on ABC’s “This Week.” Raising the specter of the Boston marathon bombing, he said: “We have to be extra cautious. You know, the typical mechanisms that we use for screening people, perhaps, have to be enhanced.”
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Ted Cruz: “In terms of settling the migrants, if the ultimate goal is to return them to their homes, which I believe it should be, it doesn’t make sense from a logistical or a security standpoint to move large numbers of them to far-off countries like the United States,” the senator from Texas said on his campaign website. “Ultimately, we need to address the cause of this crisis or we will just have more and more migrants displaced … Until we recognize the threat from this savage, twisted totalitarian ideology and develop a coherent strategy to combat it, we will at best be putting a Band-Aid onto a life-threatening wound.”
Scott Walker: “No, we shouldn’t be taking on any more Syrian refugees right now,” the Wisconsin governor told Wisconsin Public Radio. “In the last year, America has received almost 70,000 refugees, of which nearly 2,000 are from Syria. We’ve spent something like $4 billion in humanitarian relief in terms of helping the situation in Syria.”
Carly Fiorina: “The United States honestly, sadly, cannot relax our entrance criteria,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said on “Face the Nation.” “We are having to be very careful about who we let enter this country from these war-torn regions to ensure that terrorists are not coming here. I think the Europeans need to continue to step up here both in terms of the amount of money they provide for humanitarian relief.”
Mike Huckabee: “I read that Saudi Arabia has offered to build 600 mosques for all of the Muslims that will come to the U.S. or to Europe. I’ve got a better idea: Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia host them, and we will send some assistance through our charitable organizations for some hospitals and schools? We will design the curriculum for those schools. They won’t be madrassas to teach terrorism,” the former Arkansas governor said at a forum hosted by the Eagle Forum in St. Louis.
Rand Paul: “This is a terrible humanitarian crisis. It’s also a recipe for disaster if tens of thousands of people want to attack us,” the senator from Kentucky told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “Even of the 60,000 Iraqis that came over after the war, some of them, even in my little town, Bowling Green, Kentucky, have tried to attack us.”
Rick Santorum: “We already take in 70 percent of U.N. refugees in the world today. The best thing we can do is to resettle them close to their homes. And that is in neighboring countries and camps and places so when the violence has abated, they can go back home,” the former senator from Pennsylvania said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.
Bobby Jindal: “The reason I say that we shouldn’t be taking in more people today … because that’s trying to put a Band-Aid on a very, very serious problem,” the Louisiana governor said during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club.
Democrats, for their part, all said, “Let ’em in.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley last week called for the country to welcome at least 65,000 Syrian refugee by the end of next year. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, said on “Meet the Press” that the United States “should be part of the response,” but did not specify a number. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the Washington-based Brookings Institution that, “I obviously want the United States to do our part,” but likewise did not endorse a specific figure.