Barack Obama has issued a sharp rebuke to Republicans after a number of them mooted refusing asylum to Syrian refugees in response to the recent attacks in Paris.
Since Friday, Republicans in Congress have begun preparing legislation that would suspend a scheme specifically designed to assist Syrian refugees. In a similar vein, fifteen state governors (including one Democrat) have sought to block entry to people fleeing the war-torn state, although their efforts will be hampered by their inability to interfere with federal resettlement schemes. Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, acknowledged as much this week, after saying that he was acting in the interests of his constituents.
The recently elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has told reporters that America “could not let terrorists take advantage of our compassion”. He called his review of the current scheme, “simply prudent”, but it is highly likely that he is under significant political pressure to take action, not least from those of his Congressional colleagues running for the party’s presidential nomination. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump called the administration’s position “lunacy” and “insane” respectively, whilst Marco Rubio expressed concern about the “impossibility” of conducting background checks on incoming Syrians.
The president, who is currently in the Philippines, firmly rebutted such comments, attacking his opponents as essentially playing into the hands of the nation’s enemies by discriminating against Muslims. “I cannot think of a more potent recruiting tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate”, he said. He called the prospect of a religious test for entry to the United States “offensive, before describing the Republican position as weak. He mocked the tough rhetoric as inconsistent with a position that showed Republicans as afraid of widows and “three year old orphans” and said that the comments were “political posturing” that were inconsistent with American values.