The Syrian refugee crisis is rapidly upending the debate over immigration in the 2016 presidential campaign.
For months, the discussion fixated on the unlikely quest by conservative voters and one leading candidate to deport millions of undocumented workers and build a wall—supposedly paid for by Mexico—on the Southern border. But the focus in the last two weeks has shifted from the question of how many people to kick out to the much more pressing imperative of how many refugees to take in.
Hillary Clinton on Sunday joined her rival Martin O’Malley in calling on the U.S. to accept as many as 65,000 refugees out of the estimated 4 million displaced by the chaos in Syria, where they have been caught between the civil war being fought by and against the Assad regime and the brutal crackdowns by the Islamic State as it seeks to hold and expand territory there and in Iraq. Clinton’s comments came in response to the announcement by her successor as secretary of state, John Kerry, that the U.S. would increase its annual cap on refugees to 100,000, although the number specifically from Syria would only go up by 10,000.
“I think the United States has to do more,” Clinton said on CBS’s Face the Nation.
And I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000, and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in, looking to really emphasize some of those who are most vulnerable, a lot of the persecuted religious minorities, including Christians, and some who have been brutalized, like the Yazidi women.
The U.S. has accepted about 1,500 Syrians so far and is under pressure from human-rights groups and global allies to take many more. O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who is lagging well behind in the polls, issued his call for the U.S. to take 65,000 more than a week ago, which matches the request from the United Nations. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, who is generally more skeptical of immigration, has not specified how many refugees the U.S. should accept. “I think it's impossible to give a proper number until we understand the dimensions of the problem,” the Vermont senator said last week on Meet the Press.