President Barack Obama said Tuesday in Manila that those who want to halt the acceptance of Syrian refugees are feeding “the ISIL narrative,” “fearful of widows” and “worried about three-year-old orphans.”
Obama made the remarks standing with Philippine President Benigno Aquino at a press conference.
Since the terrorist attacks on Paris last Friday raised questions about the screening process for Syrian refugees, dozens of governors and lawmakers — mostly Republicans but some Democrats too — have questioned Obama’s plan to take in thousands of refugees.
“We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks. I think the refugee debate is an example of us not being well-served by some of the commentary that’s been taking place by officials back home and in the media,” he said.
Obama went on to say that under current law, the process to clear a refugee to come into the United States is 18 to 24 months. “They are subjected to the most rigorous process conceivable,” he said, noting biometrics are used to determine who the refugees are and whether an individual is a threat.
“When candidates say, we wouldn’t admit three-year-old orphans — that’s political posturing. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians — proven Christians — should be admitted — that’s offensive and contrary to American values,” Obama said.
He went on, “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West. And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop.”
“And I would add, by the way, these are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” he said.
“First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”
Obama said that he was “proud” that following the 2013 Boston bombing, “we did not resort to fear and to panic.”