Republicans object to more Syrian refugees entering US

Majority of state governors join Republican candidates in proposing restrictions

More than half of America’s states are refusing to accept Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks as Republican presidential contenders propose restrictions on Muslims seeking refuge in the US.

Republican governors from 27 states, from Maine in the northeast to Arizona in the southwest, want to block Syrian refugees entering their states after it emerged that at least one suspect in the French attacks is believed to have entered Europe among the waves of refugees fleeing war in Syria.

The governors include presidential candidates Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, as well as Maggie Hassan, the Democratic governor of New Hampshire, who is challenging a Republican for a Senate seat in 2016.

The US has taken in 2,000 refugees from Syria since the war began in March 2011. The Obama administration has said that it would permit 10,000 refugees from Syria to enter the US next year.

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Radical Islam

Hawkish Republicans, longtime critics of President Barack Obama’s policy towards Syria and his refusal to use the term “radical Islam” to describe Islamic State militants, warned about the risks of accepting refugees.

"American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger," said Texas governor Greg Abbott in a letter to Mr Obama.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate who is also from Texas, said Muslim refugees should be barred from entering the US, but Christians should be granted safe haven.

‘Nothing short of lunacy’

He said it was “nothing short of lunacy” to accept Syrian refugees after Friday’s attacks.

Speaking at the G20 summit on Monday, Mr Obama described proposals for a "religious test" on asylum seekers as "shameful".

“That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” he said.

The attacks in Paris have pushed national security, religion and immigration to the top of the national agenda in the presidential campaign two and a half months before the first candidate-nominating ballots.

The Republican frontrunner, businessman Donald Trump, told Fox News that allowing Syrian refugees into the country could lead to "one of the greatest military coups of all time".

He later told a campaign rally in Tennessee that he would "build a big, beautiful safe zone" inside Syria where people could find refuge.

“You keep ’em in Syria,” Mr Trump said. “You build a tremendous safe zone. It’ll cost you tremendously much less, much less, and they’ll be there and the weather’s the same.”

No public funding

Another Republican candidate, retired surgeon

Ben Carson

, has written to the party’s leaders in

Congress

calling for an end to all public funding for Syrian refugee resettlement programmes.

Mr Carson said the US “cannot, should not and must not accept any Syrian refugees”.

Florida senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban-American immigrants, has said the US wouldn't be able to accept more refugees because it was not possible to carry out background checks on Syrians.

“You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent