The overflow of Syrian refugees had become a highly contentious political issue long before the Paris attacks; now, it’s more hotly-debated than ever. In the United States, the question of whether or not to accept Syrian refugees has largely broken down along familiar ideological lines; most Democrats support a refugee admittance program, and almost every Republican opposes one. There are exceptions, though: 47 Democrats voted with House Republicans today to ban Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., while some conservatives aren’t against admitting Syrian refugees.
The question isn’t entirely black and white, either. Among Democrats, there’s debate over just how many refugees to admit; the Obama administration announced plans to accept 10,000 refugees, but some, like presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, have demanded even more. Meanwhile, some Republicans support the general policy of accepting refugees but demand a heightened screening process or a temporary moratorium in light of the Paris attacks. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that there are at least a few conservative American politicians who aren’t steadfastly opposed to offering refugees from the four-year-long civil war a place to settle. Here are a couple of conservatives who aren’t drinking the anti-refugee Kool-Aid that the rest of the GOP is dishing out:
At a panel in Alabama earlier this week, George W. Bush’s former secretary of state said that, while “you have to be safety conscious for your people,” America should nonetheless be “open and welcoming” to refugees from Syria and elsewhere.
“I especially encourage my fellow Republicans to recognize that refugees are not the problem — they are the symptom of the problem,” McCain said on Tuesday. The Arizona senator was even more critical of Ted Cruz’s suggestion that only Christian refugees should be admitted: “My belief is that all children are God’s children,” he said, calling Cruz’s proposition “bizarre.” That said, McCain does support a pause in accepting refugees while screening processes “until we are sure that nobody’s going to get into the United States that can do damage to us.”
Christian Advocacy Groups
While evangelical Christian groups and their lobbyists are an enormous pillar of support for the Republican party, many have broken with the GOP over the question of Syrian refugees. An official at World Relief, a Christian aid organization, said that the call to ban Syrian refugees “does not reflect what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country,” while the powerful United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly condemned anti-refugee proposals, saying that “we should continue to welcome those in desperate need.”
Like his longtime buddy McCain, the South Carolina senator wants a “timeout” on accepting Syrian refugees due to the Paris attacks while the federal government beefs up screening measures. However, Graham is largely pro-refugee in general: In October, he co-authored legislation that would authorize $1 billion in funding to handle refugee settlement and potentially allow as many as 100,000 Syrian refugees into the US.
The governor of Alaska, who was a Republican for a long time but now is an Independent, said that the screening process for Syrian refugees must be “the most stringent in the world,” but he doesn’t want to ban them from entering the U.S. entirely, with a spokesman saying that Walker is instead “focused on solving the state’s fiscal challenges.”