U.S. President Barack Obama is criticizing American politicians for opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees, saying their rhetoric is contrary to American values and could become a recruitment tool for the militant Islamic State (IS) group.
Since last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, some Republicans have called for a halt to all resettlement of Syrian refugees, or for only allowing Christian Syrian refugees into the United States, arguing those steps would prevent Syrian terrorists from carrying out similar attacks on the United States.
Speaking to reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila Wednesday, Obama said, “We are not well served when in response to a terrorist attack we descend into fear and panic.” The political posturing "needs to stop," he added.
Republican lawmakers have called for a halt to Obama’s plans to resettle 10,000 Syrians in the United States, in a debate that has mirrored discussions in European countries over whether resettlements endanger security.
Obama said the debate feeds into the “narrative that there is a war between Islam and the West.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, says he plans to offer legislation barring Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the United States. House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for a pause in the U.S. acceptance of Syrian refugees, but said Wednesday the prospective legislation would not include "a religious test, only a security test.”
More than two dozen U.S. governors have signaled they plan to try to block Syrian refugees from settling in their states.
‘Contrary to who we are’
Without naming anyone, Obama suggested some officials were fueling the debate for political purposes.
“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,” the president said.
The Obama administration has defended the current process for refugees entering the United States, saying they must undergo an intense screening that takes 18 to 24 months. Obama welcomed suggestions to improve the process.
The U.S. leader called for an end to the public rhetoric against Syrian refugees because “the world is watching” and “it’s contrary to who we are.”
He also called on Congress to introduce legislation that would authorize military activities to counter IS militants in Syria, saying he has been waiting for more for a year-and-a-half for lawmakers to act.