The Presidential Candidates and the Syrian Refugees

The only one saying much is Martin O'Malley.


Should the U.S. allow more people escaping the Syrian war into the country? Seems like a significant issue, but it was barely addressed in the Republican debates last night. Jake Tapper did pose the question in the undercard event, where Bobby Jindal basically responded by saying we should plunge deeper into the Syrian war and Lindsey Graham echoed the idea. (Seriously. They think that will help.) In the prime-time debate, the refugee crisis came up only in the context of asking whether the senators onstage shared any responsibility for the mess. 

The would-be presidents probably preferred it that way—in both parties, even the candidates who say they'd let more people in tend to be vague when asked how many they're willing to accept. The one notable exception is a Democrat, Maryland ex-gov Martin O'Malley. I knock O'Malley a lot, but I'll give credit where it's due: On this issue, he's the only one going out of his way to stick up for freedom of movement. For example:

I love the Kinks, you understand, but "To the Bone" is a straight-up "Refugee" ripoff.

What to do about the root cause of this humanitarian crisis may be complex, but helping refugees is not: Americans have a long, proud tradition of providing comfort to the weak and weary….We should begin by taking in at least 65,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, as humanitarian organizations on the front lines of refugee assistance have asked us to do….

Americans are a generous and compassionate people. But our policies are falling short of our values. We have accepted only about 1,500 Syrian refugees since the conflict began. And as of now, we are set to accept no more than 8,000 next year. We are a big enough country in size and treasure and heart to do more. And if our political leadership fails us, I believe the American people, like individuals around the world, can and will step forward to do the right thing. When the government of Iceland proposed to accept only 50 Syrian refugees, the people of Iceland took matters into their own hands. They quickly organized online and 10,000 people volunteered to take in refugees. Now the government is reconsidering its quota. If Germany—a country with one-fourth our population—can accept 800,000 refugees this year, certainly we can do more.

Not the sort of sentiment you were likely to hear last night in Simi Valley, where some of the candidates seemed not to know the difference between immigrants and invaders.

Bonus link: Speaking of mixing up immigrants with invaders, Vice has some solid debunkery worth reading.