POLITICS

Here's What The 2016 Candidates Think About The Refugee Crisis

President Obama plans to welcome 10,000 more Syrian refugees to the U.S.

As hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria seek refuge across Europe, U.S. leadership has begun considering what role it can play in mitigating the crisis.

More than 7 million Syrian refugees have been displaced by the war that began in 2011. President Barack Obama has asked his administration to prepare for the arrival of 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year. So far, the U.S. has accepted about 1,500 refugees from Syria, and 300 more are slated to arrive by the end of September.

As election season kicks into high gear, the civil war in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis are inescapable policy topics.

Here's where some of the 2016 presidential candidates stand on whether the U.S. should be responsible for taking in more people from Syria:

Hillary Clinton (D): "We should do our part."

"It should not be just one or two countries, or not just Europe and the United States," Clinton told MSNBC. "We should do our part, as should the Europeans."

But she also stressed the need to address the conflict itself. Clinton's stance on the issue is slightly unique: she was U.S. secretary of state when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.

"I advocated for, as I say, a more robust policy," she said. "So we know that this is not just a problem that the United States can solve. We have to do what I did with the Iranian sanctions. I had to get the Russians on board. I had to get the Chinese on board. It was not easy. But that's the kind of intensive diplomacy that is going to be required in order to stop the flow of refugees and to try to bring some peace and security back to the region."

 

Donald Trump (R): The U.S. should "possibly" accept refugees.

"We have so many problems to solve ... We have to fix our own country," Trump said to MSNBC.

Trump also commended Germany's outreach. "Now, Europe is handling it. Germany has been very generous so far, which is very surprising to me, to be honest with you," he said. "But there's a huge problem, and we should help as much as possible, but we do have to fix our own country."

Jeb Bush (R): "This is not a game."

"We have an obligation to do that in support of the displaced people that right now are suffering," the former Florida governor told CNN. "These tragic pictures are real. This is not a made-up game," he continued.

While he did broaden the conversation to U.S. policy in Syria, he refrained from lambasting Obama administration policies. "The other thing we need to do is have a strategy that relates to Syria," he added. "You cannot do this without a political settlement that creates more stability. This is a humanitarian problem of epic proportions."

Martin O'Malley (D): 65,000 refugees by the end of 2016

The former Maryland governor was a little more specific. He released a statement calling for the acceptance of at least 65,000 refugees from Syria before 2017.

"We must do more to support Syrian refugees -- and we must certainly welcome more than the proposed 5,000 to 8,000 refugees next year."

O'Malley even started a petition to push his agenda forward.

Lindsey Graham (R): "We should take down the State of Liberty."

The South Carolina senator made an impassioned plea for the U.S. to "take our fair share" of people fleeing Syria, although he skirted around any concrete figures. "We should take down the Statue of Liberty and tear it down," he told an audience at the National Press Club. "This is our response as a nation, just tear it down. We don't mean it anymore."

He also told Europe to "up your game." 

Bernie Sanders (I): Vaguely committed to helping

The Vermont senator, who is vying for the Democratic nomination for president, insists that the U.S. must play a role in the global response to the Syrian crisis, but “it’s impossible to give a proper number until we understand the dimensions of the problem,” he told NBC News.

John Kasich (R): Leave it to the Europeans

The Ohio governor wouldn't commit to a specific number of refugees to admit.

"This is fundamentally a European issue," he said to CBS News. "America needs to lead in the world and be clear about what we're all about," he added.

Marco Rubio (R): Open to taking in refugees as long as they're not "infiltrated"

"I would be open to that if it can be done in a way that allows us to ensure that among them are not infiltrated -- people who were, you know, part of a terrorist organization that are using this crisis," the Florida senator told Boston Herald Radio.

Rand Paul (R): "There are some limits."

The Kentucky senator said that past efforts to welcome refugees have not gone smoothly. "We did this with Iraq, where we won the war, but then we accepted 60,000 Iraqi refugees into our country, some of which wish us harm and tried to attack us. Same way with Somalia," he told CNN. "We've received so many immigrants and refugees from Somalia, that many of them are from the faction going back to Syria to fight against us." 

Chris Christie (R): Let's cooperate with our allies

The New Jersey governor wants everyone to work together. "I would sit down with allies and figure out how we can help," he told Fox News.

He did, however, take the opportunity to shower criticism on Obama's "failed foreign policy" in Syria. "I frankly can't imagine as president of the United States how you could permit this to happen on this scale, and now we're seeing those results. And it's much different when you read about it, and when you see it -- it becomes even more powerful," he said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

Carly Fiorina (R): We've done our "fair share"

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO is less pro-refugee than some of her Republican counterparts. The U.S. has already "done its fair share in terms of humanitarian aid," she told CBS News.

Her primary concern is an influx of terrorists. "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," she said.

She also blamed Europe for insufficient humanitarian assistance. "I think the Europeans need to continue to step up here ... in terms of the amount of money they provide for humanitarian relief. They have not done as much as the United States has done on that front," she added.

Scott Walker (R): The "core problem" is Obama's failed foreign policy

Wisconsin's governor also took an opportunity to pivot the conversation toward Obama's foreign policy. "The core problem is the Obama-Clinton doctrine ... that has empowered ISIS to take the territory they have in Iraq and continue to have the pretense they have in Syria," he said while on the campaign trail.

Bobby Jindal (R): Taking in more refugees would be "ridiculous"

The Louisiana governor staunchly opposes an increase in the number of refugees the U.S. lets in. "No, the answer is not for America to increase the number of refugees we take in. We are already the most compassionate and generous country in the world and it is not even close,” he said in a statement to The Guardian.

He also lambasted Obama's foreign policy in Syria. “Let’s call this Syrian disaster exactly what it is -- the result of President Obama’s leading from behind strategy -- he drew the red line and then backed down,” Jindal said.

Ted Cruz (R): Taking in refugees "doesn't make sense" 

"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 Texas senator said in a statement.

He recommended instead that the U.S. focus on working with "regional allies" to bolster international organizations. He also echoed calls to "address the cause of this crisis."

Ben Carson (R): Refugees are a security risk

The retired neurosurgeon believes that accepting Syrians would place U.S. security at risk.

“Bringing in people from the Middle East right now carries extra danger,” he told ABC. “And we need to be extra cautious. We cannot put our nation at risk because we want to be politically correct.”

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