Approximately 220,000 people have been killed in Syria, and half of the country’s population has been displaced since the start of the country’s civil war. Coupled with the rise of the extremist terrorist group ISIS, the violence has prompted more than 4 million to flee as refugees.
To help, President Obama has planned to settle 10,000 refugees in America over the next year. But in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and Beirut — both of which ISIS claimed responsibility for — that plan is coming under intense fire, particularly by Republican politicians who fear ISIS soldiers will infiltrate the system.
Obama, for his part, has slammed the criticism as unwarranted, based in both fear and racism against Muslims. His security advisers have also hit back, saying the U.S. has the most robust security screening process for refugees in the world.
That being said, here’s what the Republican presidential candidates have said they would do about Syrian refugees if elected. The candidates are listed in order of their most recent national polling numbers (for brevity’s sake, we’ve omitted candidates polling below one percent).
Donald Trump: Deport them.
At a rally on Monday night, Donald Trump said he would not only ban Syrian refugees from coming to America, but deport the ones who are already here, according to ABC News.
To make sure they’re safe, Trump said he would build a “safe zone” in Syria, which is currently one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
“A big beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is so people can live and they’ll be happier,” Trump said. “It’ll cost you tremendously much less, much less, and they’ll be there and the weather’s the same, and all of the different things, and then … then it’s all over, they move back, and they go back into their cities, and they rebuild their cities and they start out and they start over again.”
Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2015
Ben Carson: Stop funding them.
On Monday, neurosurgeon Ben Carson sent a letter to the Senate majority leader asking to cut off federal funding for any program that would help Syrian refugees resettle in the United States.
INBOX: Ben Carson demands end to any federal aid to help Syrian refugees resettle in the US pic.twitter.com/phHI097Hri
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) November 16, 2015
Marco Rubio: Turn them away.
While Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had previously said he was open to allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, he walked that back on Sunday, saying the United States “won’t be able to take more refugees.”
“It’s not that we don’t want to,” Rubio said on ABC’s This Week. “It’s that we can’t.”
Later, he reaffirmed his stance in a Facebook post, saying “there’s no way to background check someone that’s coming from Syria.”
Ted Cruz: Ban them — unless they’re Christian.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday said he plans to introduce legislation banning all Muslim refugees from Syria from entering America. Christian refugees from Syria, however, would be allowed.
“There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror,” he said. “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.”
Jeb Bush: Strengthen screenings, and focus on helping Christians.
When it comes to refugees from Syria, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that America should refocus its efforts on taking in Christians instead of Muslims. Bush said the U.S. should also strengthen its screening process for those refugees.
“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.”
Rand Paul: Block their visas.
It’s “misplaced humanitarianism” to continue accepting refugees into the United States in light of the Paris terror attacks, according to Sen. Rand Paul (RY-K).
On Monday, Paul announced that he would be introducing a bill to block visas for travelers from “countries with a high risk of terrorism.” The bill would also impose a 30-day waiting period for people to want to enter the U.S. to allow for a background check to be completed.
Retweet if you agree with me that the time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door! pic.twitter.com/uCJS1OgTtk
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) November 16, 2015
John Kasich: Ban them — and keep them out of Ohio.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on the Fox Business Network on Monday that Syrian refugees shouldn’t be allowed to resettle in the United States. He said accepting refugees from war-torn Syria is “not just an issue of the heart, it’s also an issue of the head.”
“You ask the question — should anybody come in here before the end of the year? The answer to that should be no,” he said. “We should not jeopardize our people.”
Kasich is also one of many governors who have said they will refuse Syrian refugees from resettling in their states.
Carly Fiorina: No more humanitarian efforts.
Former HP executive Carly Fiorina stopped short of calling for an end to the United States’ refugee program during her Sunday appearance on Face the Nation. She did, however, say that no further efforts would be warranted.
“The United States, I believe, has done its fair share in terms of humanitarian aid,” she said. “Certainly, the United States has not led, as I indicated earlier. I think the United States, honestly, sadly, cannot relax our entrance criteria. 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.”
Mike Huckabee: “Close our borders,” and place refugees in “encampments” abroad.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has been adamantly outspoken about bringing in Syrian refugees for some time, warning that people might be posing as refugees to gain access to America’s health care system. He’s also warned that Syrians would not be able to adapt to America’s non-desert climate.
In response to the attacks in Paris and Beirut, Huckabee recommended “close[ing] our borders instead of Guantanamo” and “institut[ing] an immediate moratorium on admission to those persons from countries where there is strong presence of ISIS or Al Qaeda.”
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) November 17, 2015
At the most recent Republican undercard debate for low-polling candidates, Huckabee said American should instead “build an encampment” for refugees, “but closer to where they live rather then bringing them here when they don’t know the language or the culture.”
Chris Christie: Ban them — even the kids.
If elected, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would not accept Syrian refugees into the United States — not even “orphans under the age of five.”
“The fact is that we need appropriate vetting,” he said. “And I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point. But you know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks?”
Christie is also one of the several governors who say they will not allow any more refugees in their state, either temporarily or permanently.