There already may be a rigorous screening process for admitting refugees into the United States, but that’s not stopping governors, presidential candidates and lawmakers – the majority of whom are Republican—from pushing the panic button in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Citing security concerns, more than half of the nation’s governors have moved to at least temporarily ban Syrian refugees in their states. The GOP-led House of Representatives has passed legislation aimed to strengthen screenings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The party’s presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, wants to “strongly consider” closing mosques. His fellow White House hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have suggested the effort to resettle refugees should focus on Christians.
Critics say such rhetoric is fear mongering at its worst and the Obama Administration maintains it will continue to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees within the next year.
Here’s a look at some of the most controversial remarks U.S. politicians have said in the past few days about the ongoing refugee crisis:
1. Invoking Japanese-American internment camps:
David A. Bowers, the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, cited the example of the much-maligned internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II to justify his call to ban Syrian refugees in his city. Bowers, a Democrat, said in a statement, “I’m reminded that Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.” Critics, including actor and activist George Takei (a Japanese-American who was sent to an internment camp as a young child), tore apart Bowers’ argument.
2. Hold the Syrian refugees in camps:
Speaking of internment camps, Republican Missouri State Rep. Mike Moon suggested the refugees should be held in such enclosures. In a letter to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon (who said he would not ban Syrian refugees in his state), Moon wrote, “If my information is correct, Afghan refugees sent to Pakistani and Iranian refugee camps returned to their homeland when it was safe to do so. I see no reason not to following that example because one they’re on U.S. soil they’d have no reason to leave. Our preference, as a nation, should be to place the refugees in camps so that they can be properly cared for and returned safely home when the time is right.”
3. Call in the National Guard:
Republican state Rep. Glen Casada of Tennessee wants the National Guard to round up any Syrian refugees in his state and send them to immigration centers, in addition to stopping any additional refugees from coming in. “We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can,” Casada reportedly said.
4. Fear-mongering about a missing Syrian refugee:
Republican Sen. David Vitter, who is in a heated governor’s race in Louisiana, has argued Obama’s resettlement plan will turn the state into a “dangerous refugee zone.” And while only 14 Syrian refugees have come to the state since the beginning of the year, the Louisiana GOP sent an email to supporters raising concerns about a potentially missing Syrian refugee in the state. “Just yesterday, David Vitter had to notify the Obama Administration that a Syrian refugee who had been living in Baton Rouge has gone missing. What kind of accountability is that? There is an unmonitored Syrian refugee who is walking around freely, and no one knows where he is,” the memo read.
5. Ban welfare for refugees:
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is running for president, has introduced legislation that would ban welfare for refugees. He’s been arguing that there are more people in the United States, like veterans, who need such benefits even more. He’s even willing to hold up a transportation and housing spending bill until the issue is voted on.
6. Comparing some Syrian refugees to rabid dogs:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson compared concerns about Syrian refugees in the United States to a parent trying to protect his or her children from a rabid dog. During a stop in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday, the retired neurosurgeon said, “If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog and you’re probably going to put your children out of the way,” said Carson. “[It] doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs.”