As the Obama administration moves to accelerate the processing of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States, Republican presidential candidates have expressed concerns about Syrian refugees being allowed into the U.S. following the Paris terror attacks.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department confirmed plans to open a refugee settlement processing center in Erbil, Iraq, a Kurdish-controlled town that houses thousands of displaced people who were forced from their homes and villages due to the rise of the Islamic State terror group.
With the Obama administration planning on allowing up to 10,000 Syrian refugees to enter the U.S. in the next year, the new refugee processing center will open before the end of 2015, according to State Department spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt. Additionally, the U.S. will continue its refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016.
While the Obama administration gears up to allow five times more Syrian refugees into the U.S. in the next year than it has in total throughout the duration of the Syrian civil war, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued on Sunday that the U.S. should not take any more Syrian refugees.
Although the presidential candidate had previously expressed an openness to relocate Syrians inside the U.S., Rubio backtracked on that stance during an interview with ABC News on Sunday. In the interview, Rubio argued that not only shouldn't the U.S. be accepting Syrian refugees, it "can't" take in Syrian refugees.
As it is likely that Islamic State agents are responsible for the coordinated extremist attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 civilians and wounded over 350, Rubio cited concerns that IS jihadis and other extremists would try to infiltrate the the refugee population to seek entrance into the U.S. and carry out acts of violence.
"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," Rubio continued. "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?"
Although Rubio is adamant that there is "no way" to vet out terrorists trying to disguise themselves as refugees, Stephen Bauman, the president of World Relief, one of nine national agencies authorized by the State Department to resettle refugees in the U.S., disagrees.
During an interview with The Christian Post last week, Bauman explained that the State Department's 18-month refugee vetting process has never allowed a terrorist to seep through into America.
"But if you look at the 35 years of refugee resettlement in our nation, over 3 million since the mid to late '70s, and there has been no one from that group of people that are terrorists or have carried out a terrorist atack," Bauman assured.
Other Republican candidates, like billionaire Donald Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have all issued remarks saying that the U.S. should not be taking in refugees. At least 15 state governors have indicated that they will refuse to have Syrian refugees relocated in their states in order to ensure the safety of their citizens.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters on Sunday that Muslim refugees from Syria should not be permitted into the U.S. Cruz argued, however, that Christian refugees should be let in because "there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror."
"If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation," Cruz said. "But it is precisely the Obama administration's unwillingness to recognize that or ask those questions that makes them so unable to fight this enemy. Because they pretend as if there is no religious aspect to this."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. should prioritize Christian refugees for relocation.
"I think we need to do thorough screening and take in a limited number," Bush said. "There are a lot of Christians in Syria that have no place now. They'll be either executed or imprisoned, either by Assad or by ISIS. We should focus our efforts as it relates to the refugees for the Christians that are being slaughtered."
President Barack Obama slammed both Cruz and Bush at the G20 Summit in Turkey on Monday. When questioned by reporters, Obama argued that having a "religious test" for which refugees can come into the U.S. defies American ideals.
"When I hear folks say that well maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, 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," Obama insisted. "That's not American, that's not who we are."