(by CNN), Washington — Republicans are putting President Barack Obama and his party on the defensive over accepting Syrian refugees, following reports that one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks entered Europe as part of the wave of Syrians fleeing civil war.
Republican governors and lawmakers were quick to announce they wouldn’t allow Syrian refugees into their states and are appealing for stronger control of U.S. borders. …
The rhetoric on the right clearly angered Obama, who argued at a press conference Monday that the United States must remain committed to its values and accepting immigrants.
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism,” Obama said in Antalya, Turkey, at a meeting of the G20. “It is very important … that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”
Republicans, however, are stressing the security concerns posed by the potential influx of people from the war-torn country. They have called on congressional leaders to block the Obama administration from proceeding with plans to resettle thousands of refugees, with some asking House Speaker Paul Ryan to lead the effort.
In a letter to Ryan, Dr. Ben Carson — the retired neurosurgeon and a Republican front-runner — called for Congress to block funding for any programs “that seek to resettle refugees and/or migrants from Syria into the United States, effective immediately.”
“Until we can sort out the bad guys we must not be foolish,” Carson said in a news conference in Nevada.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee similarly heaped pressure on Ryan, saying in a statement: “Speaker Ryan needs to make it clear that if the President won’t stand to protect America from wholesale open borders, then Republicans will.”…
In addition, Govs. John Kasich and Bobby Jindal of Ohio and Louisiana, respectively, said they would work to keep refugees out of their states.
And Sen. Rand Paul, another 2016 contender, introduced legislation that would block the United States from issuing visas to refugees from countries with a high risk of terrorism in an effort to “stop terrorists from walking in our front door.”
Ryan said Monday he has asked the Obama administration to provide a classified briefing for all House members on the situation in Paris. On Tuesday FBI Director James Comey and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson will deliver a classified briefing to lawmakers, at 5:30 p.m. in the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium. Senators will be briefed on Wednesday. …
In a radio interview with Bill Bennett, Ryan also said he has tasked all committees of jurisdiction to come up with recommendations about how to ensure the thousands of Syrian refugees the President wants to settle in the United States won’t be involved in terrorism. Ryan said he was particularly concerned since at least one of the attackers in Paris is believed to have been part of the waves of refugees into Europe from Syria.
“Look, we’ve always been a generous nation taking in refugees. But this is a unique situation. This is a situation where you have single men coming over, which is not women and children,” Ryan said.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re protecting ourselves,” Ryan said. “So that’s what we’re looking at: What is the best option? Not just so we have an issue to talk about, but so we have a result, which is to make sure we are not complicit or even facilitating of having someone come in who would seek to do us harm from Syria.”
…Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made a similar case in South Carolina, saying that “anyone with an ounce of common sense would say ‘no, we shouldn’t be bringing in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.'”
“Instead,” Cruz said, “we should be resettling them humanely in Middle Eastern countries that are majority Muslim. We can help them deal with their refugee status, but the first obligation of the President needs to be as commander in chief to protect the safety of the United States of America.”
As he introduced his legislation, Sen. Paul said he wants enhanced screening measures for refugees.
“The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq…have attempted to commit terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacks in Paris underscore this concern that I have been working to address for the past several years,” he said.
President Obama pushed back against the Republican presidential field Monday and seemed to take particular exception to the sentiments of Cruz — though not by name.
“When I hear folks say that maybe we should just admit the Christians and not the Muslims (refugees), when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted — when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American,” Obama said, whose plans currently call for 10,000 Syrians to be admitted over the coming year.
…Florida Sen. Marco Rubio…said this weekend that the U.S. shouldn’t accept any refugees from Syria. [Rubio cited concerns over the vetting of such refugees, stating there would be no way to conduct background checks in order to keep out potential terrorists. “You can have a thousand people come in and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence,” Rubio said. “But one of them is an Isis fighter – if that’s the case, you have a problem.” “There’s no way to vet that out. There’s 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?”]
The Obama administration wasn’t backing off its plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday the government is “steadfastly committed” to that plan.
He said federal officials are taking “seriously” the states’ concerns, and that he’s not sure whether they have the legal authority to block the resettlements.
One Democratic presidential contender — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — backed Obama’s plans.
“Scapegoating an entire religious community and rejecting those fleeing ISIL’s terrorism and persecution is what the terrorists want,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Governors in at lease 25 states say they are opposed to taking any refugees from Syria. All but one are Republicans.
Democratic governors in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont said they’d continue accepting Syrian refugees.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is the only Democrat to oppose Syrian refugees’ resettlement in the United States — a stance that’s particularly notable since she is challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016. A spokesman said Hassan “believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria.”
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CNN. Visit the website at cnn .com.
1. a) What similar announcement did almost half of all governors make this week after Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris?
b) Why did the governors take this step?
2. How did President Obama respond to this news by mostly Republicans?
3. a) For what reason are these governors opposed to accepting refugees from Syria?
b) What are they calling on Congress to do?
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4. What did Republican presidential front-runner Ben Carson call on Congress to do? – Why did he urge Congress to take this action?
5. Describe the legislation Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul has introduced.
6. a) What did Speaker of the House Paul Ryan do/say regarding President Obama’s plan to take 10,000 Syrian refugees? Be specific.
b) Do you agree with Speaker Ryan? Explain your answer.
7. Do you agree with Republican governors who say they do not want to accept any Syrian refugees because they are concerned with the vetting process? Explain your answer.
8. NY Congressman Peter King (R-LI), former chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said accepting refugees from Syria is dangerous. “There is virtually no vetting because there are no databases in Syria,” he said.“We don’t know who those people are. … They are rolling the dice here, and we know that ISIS wants to bring in terrorists with these refugees.”
Presidential candidate and US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, “The problem is, we can’t background-check them. You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria, and that’s one of the reasons why I said we won’t be able to take more refugees.”
What do you think of these assertions? Explain your answer.
The United States has accepted 2,178 Syrian refugees since the civil war began there in March 2011 — and that number is expected to grow dramatically in the current fiscal year.
The refugees have been admitted to 138 cities and towns in a total of 36 states — with California, Texas, Michigan, Arizona and Illinois taking the most, according to wrapsnet.org, where the U.S. government keeps its official numbers.
Louisiana has seen 14 Syrian refugees located there. Ohio has 76 relocated Syrians, while New Jersey, led by 2016 GOP contender Chris Christie, has 88.
The 14 states that have admitted no refugees are Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia. (from the CNN article above)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday, “I demand the U.S. [not take any Syrian refugees]. Security comes first.”
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Abbott said “American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger,” referring to Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.
In a statement from Georgia’s governor, Republican Nathan Deal, he said Georgia will not accept Syrian refugees “until the federal government and Congress conducts a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks.”