Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has stated he believes many of the Syrian refugees hoping to find sanctuary in the U.S. are members of ISIS (video below).
On June 29, Trump appeared on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss the U.S. response to ISIS, the terrorist organization that currently occupies parts of Iraq, Syria and Libya.
Trump insisted President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to destroy ISIS years ago, asserting the organization could have been “wiped out quickly and effectively.”
“Now it’s a very large group of people and it’s only getting bigger and if [Clinton] gets in, it will be massive and we won’t even have a country anymore,” Trump continued. “We will be afraid to walk outside.”
Host Bill O’Reilly corrected Trump that ISIS has only been getting bigger, noting the terrorist organization has been losing large swaths of territory and has become increasingly financially squeezed.
Trump pivoted to the Syrian refugee crisis, criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to accept several thousand refugees within the fiscal year.
“On another thing, they are letting tens of thousands of people come in from Syria and nobody knows who these people are and a lot of those people of ISIS,” Trump said.
O’Reilly appeared skeptical of Trump’s claim but agreed the U.S. should reduce the number of refugees accepted to a trickle.
“I’m not convinced of that but I think there needs to be a slow-down on that,” O’Reilly replied.
This is not the first time Trump has insinuated a large percentage of Syrian refugees are ISIS members trying to infiltrate the U.S. He made the claim on May 23 in an interview with the same program.
“This is a war against people that are vicious, violent people, that we have no idea who they are, where they come from,” Trump told O’Reilly. “We are allowing tens of thousands of them into our country now.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website Politifact examined that claim and rated it “Pants on Fire” false, having found no evidence that the U.S. was admitting individuals with terrorist leanings.
“Donald Trump is conflating the terrorists with those who flee terror,” said CEO Mark Hetfield of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. “We are not letting in terrorists, we are letting in refugees from terror."
Hetfield added that Trump's rhetoric towards the Syrian refugees reminded him of a deeply shameful U.S. immigration policy from World War II.
"His likening refugees to terrorists is not unlike those who said German Jews from Nazi Germany should be denied immigration because they posed a security risk," Hetfield said.
Politifact also investigated Trump's claim that the U.S. does not have a system for vetting refugees. It found that such a system has been in place since 1980 and involves a myriad of agencies and security checks. It rated Trump's claim false, noting that refugees routinely have to undergo two years of vetting before being accepted into the U.S.
Trump has vowed to turn away the Syrian refugees if he is elected president and would even go further. One of his signature policy proposals is a travel ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S., although the business mogul has added caveats in June.
A June 26 poll conducted by the Washington Post-ABC News found that 52 percent of Americans oppose the proposed ban while 43 percent support it.