A top White House adviser said on Sunday that the Obama Administration will still accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S., even as Republicans continue to rail against the president’s plan in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that the commander-in-chief will not give pause to his proposal, which he announced in September as America faced growing pressure to do something about the flood of refugees —displaced by civil war and ISIS related violence — who have been fleeing to Europe and other regions.
Rhodes stressed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the U.S. has “expansive screening procedures” and that “We’re also dealing with people who’ve suffered the horrors of war, women and children, or orphans. We can’t just shut our doors to those people.”
Still, Republican presidential candidates and top lawmakers continued to ring the alarm bell on the plan, especially as concerns linger that at least one of Friday’s attackers may have entered Europe by hiding among a group of migrants. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the massacre, which killed more than 120 people and injured at least 350.
Pointing to the Paris attacks, Florida senator and White House hopeful Marco Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week” that there’s no way the U.S. can admit the refugees.
“We won’t be able to take more refugees. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that we can’t. There’s no way to background check someone’s who is coming from Syria.” He later added, “you can have 1,000 people come in and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence but one of them is an ISIS fighter. If that’s the case, you have a problem and there is no way to vet that out.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes echoed that sentiment on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He said Obama’s refugee plan should be “stopped immediately” because there is no way to screen those who are fleeing. “We feel for these refugees. But the bottom line — if you don’t want refugees then you have to go into Iraq and Syria and defeat ISIS,” he said.
Rep. Michael McCaul, of Texas, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, also expressed concern. “We don’t want to be complicit with a program that could bring in potential terrorists into the United States,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush diverged from his rivals, saying any U.S. assistance should focus on helping Christian Syrian refugees. “We should focus our efforts as it relates to the Christians that are being slaughtered,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” When asked who authorities would know which refugees were Christians, Bush replied, “We do that all the time,” and “I think we need to be obviously very, very cautious.”
On Saturday, several GOP candidates criticized Obama’s refugee plan in wake of the Paris attacks, including former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, real estate mogul Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Their remarks stood in sharp contrast with the Democratic candidates. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley all said at Saturday night’s debate in Iowa that the U.S. should still take in the refugees, while also stressing the need for proper screening. Clinton and O’Malley even reiterated their previous call to increase the number of refugees to 65,000.