Republican lawmakers are reportedly drawing up legislation to prohibit some 10,000 Syrian refugees from entering the country.
On Nov. 17, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he and colleagues wanted to halt the program until the U.S. can be sure no terrorists would be among the refugees from war-torn Syria, the New York Daily News reports.
“We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” he said. “This is a moment that it’s better to be safe than to be sorry so we think the prudent responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”
The news conference came as at least 31 governors announced that refugees are not welcome in their states, the Daily News reports.
At the same time, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, has said that the U.S. should consider only allowing Christian refugees into the country.
“At the end of the day it's not that complicated,” Cruz told ABC News, defending his position. “There's no history of ISIS terrorists embedding in the Christian community and pretending to be Christian.”
“We should not be allowing Muslim refugees from countries where ISIS and al Qaeda have control of significant amounts of territory because of the inability of this administration, the inability of our intelligence sources to distinguish between who is and is not an ISIS terrorist,” he added.
President Barack Obama, speaking from a regional summit in the Philippines on Nov. 17, lashed out at Republicans.
“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” he said, according to The Guardian. “We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”
“When individuals say we should have a religious test and that only Christians, proven Christians should be admitted, that’s offensive,” he added.
The president went on to say that much of the rhetoric surrounding the refugee debate could be used as a “potent recruitment tool” for terrorists.
“ISIL [ISIS] seeks to exploit the idea that there’s war between Islam and the West, and when you see individuals in positions of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative,” he said. “It’s counter-productive. And it needs to stop.”