Immigration

Donald Trump Says He Wants To Send All Syrian Refugees Back To Their War-Torn Country

CREDIT: Shaam News Network via AP video

This image made from video posted online by the Shaam News Network, a loosely organized group opposed to Bashar Assad, on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows the aftermath of Syrian government airstrikes in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, Syria.

If he becomes the president, Republican presidential candidate frontrunner Donald Trump would send Syrian refugees in the United States back to their country. At a rally in New Hampshire on Wednesday night, Trump told a cheering crowd, “If I win, they’re going back.”

“I hear we want to take in 200,000 Syrians, right?” Trump said. “And they could be — listen, they could be ISIS,” referencing the radical Sunni group Islamic State.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration would increase the number of international refugees permitted to enter the country to 100,000 by 2017 from its current annual cap set at 70,000. The United States has been under pressure to increase its assistance to Syrian refugees as millions of people have been fleeing violence and unrest in that Middle East nation, often making treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea despite the risk of drowning.

But at Wednesday’s event, Trump suggested that Syrian refugees could be using their migration as a “tactical ploy” to build up a large army. “Why are they migrating all over Europe?” he said. “I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they’re going back. They’re going back.”

Sending refugees back to Syria could be deadly. Bombings are a constant in Syria, so much so that the town of Douma — a few miles from Damascus — was declared a disaster zone by international and UN officials after government aircraft bombed a main market and civilian targets. The bombing raid left 100 people dead and 500 more injured.

One Syrian family in Tucson, Arizona recently explained to a CBS affiliate that they fled after the constant threat of bombs and the fear of dying kept them in their homes. Another family told The Nation that they fled after a government helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on a building across the street from their family home in east Aleppo, Syria. They later learned that their own building was likely destroyed months after they left.

Syrian children try to keep warm as they wait with their families to cross the border from the northern Greek village of Idomeni to southern Macedonia, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015.

Syrian children try to keep warm as they wait with their families to cross the borde from the northern Greek village of Idomeni to southern Macedonia, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos

As many as 240,000 Syrians have died since a civil war began in 2011. Since then, the United States has thus far only accepted 1,800 Syrian refugees. In Europe, Turkey has taken in 2 million refugees, but does not allow Syrians to work and permanently settle there. And the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has indicated that it’s strapped for cash in refugee camps located in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Refugees aiming to reach Western Europe with the help of smugglers have met harsh resistance by government officials and sometimes even death, like Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian toddler whose death shocked people to finally mobilize on the issue.

Trump’s hardline stance against Syrian refugees comes mere weeks after he told Fox News that the U.S. should accept Syrian refugees because the situation in Syria was an “unbelievable humanitarian problem.” However, the GOP contender is no stranger to harsh anti-immigrant positions. Trump has also said that he would deport the 11.3 million undocumented population living in the United States, many of whom would also return to dangerous countries where they could be at risk of imminent death.

Meanwhile, at an event less than an hour away on Wednesday night, Jeb Bush — another Republican presidential contender — took a quite difference stance to the Syrian refugee crisis. In response to a question from a Syrian-American who said she had family members who have fled their country, Bush responded, “I think we’re duty bound to provide support. This is normally what we do unbelievably well. We act on our heart, we organize it well, we take care of people. This is typically with support of government, but it’s normally with organizations that do great work.”