Several Republican presidential candidates have used the San Bernardino attack as a reason to refuse Syrian refugees. Although none of the attackers in San Bernardino were Syrian refugees — or refugees from anywhere — GOP candidates have implied that attacks similar to the one which left 14 people dead and 21 injured would happen if Syrian refugees were allowed into the country. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul even went so far as to say that immigration from "high-risk" countries where Islam is the predominant religion should be stopped entirely, pending strict background checks. Using San Bernardino as justification to refuse refugees or Muslim immigrants is ill-informed and discriminatory.
The two deceased suspects behind the San Bernardino attack were Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik. Neither of them were Syrian refugees. Farook was born in Illinois, and Malik was born in Pakistan. Before Malik entered the U.S. on a fiancée visa, she lived in Saudi Arabia. In a televised Oval Office address Sunday night, President Barack Obama reminded politicians and citizens that the attack does not call for discrimination against Muslims. (When fundamentalist Christians like Robert Dear attack people, we try to avoid blaming all of Christianity.)
Our success won't depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That's what groups like ISIL are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power.
But GOP candidates have apparently had selective hearing. For whatever reason, they've chosen not to hear the part about how none of the San Bernardino attackers were Syrian refugees. Instead, four of them are using the attack as a reason we should deny refugees.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Paul have all said that refugees should no longer be allowed into the U.S. because of the shooting. Paul proposed an amendment which he said would stop immigrants and refugees from about 30 countries with "large jihadist movements" from entering the U.S. unless they passed strict, difficult-to-implement background checks. The amendment failed 10-89, with Rubio voting against it because it was "too broad." Paul said that it wouldn't have been too broad because it only focused on countries "producing jihadists." For whatever reason, Paul didn't seem to understand that terrorist groups are training extremists — not entire countries in the Middle East.
But just because Rubio voted against Paul's amendment doesn't mean he's being more reasonable about accepting refugees who are fleeing the same people the U.S. fears. He told Fox News Saturday that the U.S.'s extremely intensive refugee screening program doesn't matter:
It’s not going to be enough, because you’re not going to be able to turn up things on people that have been radicalized or never wound up on a database before. You won’t find a lot of the people who are coming here to do terrorism.
Further, all of the Republican candidates were critical of Obama's speech Sunday night, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush saying that the country needs a "wartime" commander-in-chief who is willing to put boots on the ground to fight terrorist organizations. But Bush, along with many of the other GOP candidates, have failed to address how they would actually combat terrorism without costing the country money and lives, or how they would reject refugees without playing directly in the hands of ISIS.
Again, it seems that many of the candidates are ignoring the facts on the issue of refugees and violence. The San Bernardino shooting, along with many of the other recent attacks, were not committed by refugees. They were committed by people acting under ideologies that refugees are fleeing, and GOP candidates are heartlessly ignoring this.