With politicians seemingly in an intense competition to see who can take the hardest line against allowing refugees from Syria into the United States, Kentucky senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul moved to separate himself from the crowd Monday.
Currently polling near the middle of the pack in the GOP primary, Paul vaulted to first place in the race to restrict the ability of refugees to find safe haven in the U.S. by pledging to introduce legislation that would bar the State Department from issuing entry visas to anyone fleeing a country with a jihadist movement.
The issue flared into public focus over the weekend, after the Obama administration said that it intended to honor its pledge to resettle 10,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war in the U.S. by the end of next year. The revelation that one of the men implicated in the multiple assaults in Paris on Friday that killed more than 130 people and wounded hundreds more may have gained access to the EU by posing as a Syrian refugee prompted denunciations of the administration’s plan and predictions that it would allow ISIS terrorists into the country.
As governors across the country rushed to announce that they would try to block the resettlement of refugees from Syria, Paul upped the ante: His proposal would cover not just people fleeing a civil war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people but also refugees from as many as 30 different countries, the candidate told supporters.
Paul also proposed creating a waiting period for people traveling to the U.S. from “visa waiver” countries – jurisdictions such as the U.K. and France, whose residents are not required to get special permission to come to the U.S.
Paul told reporters Monday that the best way to prevent attacks like is to “prevent their access to this country,” adding that the Paris attacks “should wake us up to the fact that we can't just let anyone come to this country.”
As of Monday afternoon, 14 Republican governors had issued statements saying that they plan to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. One Democrat, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, said that resettlement should be delayed until the federal government can prove that its process for screening refugees is sufficient to eliminate the possibility of a terrorist being welcomed into the country.
Republicans in Congress are now under pressure to make defunding the federal government’s program to resettle refugees part of a vital government funding bill that must pass in mid-December in order to avert a government shutdown.