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GOP candidates were for Syrian refugees before they were against them

<p>As the aftershocks from last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris continue to reverberate in the U.S., the Republican presidential contenders have taken a sharp right turn in how they are talking about the thousands of Syrian refugees who were due to arrive on American shores in the coming months.</p><p>The talk of compassion — stoked by the image in September of a drowned Syrian boy on a Turkish beach — has shifted to dire warnings of unacceptable security risks after the revelation that at least one of the terrorists arrived with migrants through Greece. </p><p>With more than two dozen governors saying the refugees are now not welcome in their states, and with House GOP leaders drafting legislation to halt President Barack Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 refugees in 2016, a handful of Republican White House hopefuls are falling in line with tougher talk.</p><p>Ted Cruz is one of them, after expressing openness in February 2014, as negotiators met in Geneva for ultimately unsuccessful talks to broker an end to the Syrian civil war. The Texas senator <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-nLXGoSjpg&amp;app=desktop” target=”_blank”>appeared </a>in a Fox News segment reporting on the dilemma of what to do about refugees seeking asylum in the United States, and spoke generally about U.S. values. </p><p>&quot;We have welcomed refugees, the tired huddled masses for centuries,&quot; he said during the two-and-a-half minute package about the broader situation. &quot;That’s been the history of the United States. We should continue to do so,&quot; </p><br><p>But he also had a caveat: “We have to continue to be vigilant to make sure those coming are not affiliated with the terrorists, but we can do that.&quot;</p><p>Fast forward 21 months, with Syria’s bloody civil war still raging and with fears stoked about ISIL fighters slipping into the U.S., Cruz is now saying he <a href=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/11/16/cruz-to-introduce-bill-to-bar-syrian-refugees/” target=”_blank”>plans to introduce</a> legislation that would bar Syrian refugees from entering the country.</p><p>&quot;What Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing is that we bring to this country tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees,&quot; Cruz <a href=”https://twitter.com/NewDay/status/666378096443056128″ target=”_blank”>told</a> CNN. &quot;I have to say, particularly in light of what happened in Paris, that’s nothing short of lunacy.&quot;</p><p>He also talked of taking the hardest line against Muslim Syrian refugees, while still allowing in displaced Christians whom he said do not pose a &quot;meaningful risk&quot; for committing acts of terror.</p><p>Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who had positioned himself as a compassionate conservative on immigration who believes many people come illegally to the U.S. as an &quot;act of love,&quot; has also been shifting his tone since last week’s attacks.</p><p>Speaking before a New Hampshire town hall in September, Bush <a href=”http://www.cbsnews.com/news/in-nh-jeb-bush-talks-syrian-refugees-polls-trump/” target=”_blank”>said</a> about the Syrian refugees: &quot;People are leaving not just because they are immigrants looking for a better life. They are leaving because, if not, they will die. It’s that simple. And we have to play a role in providing support.&quot;</p><p>On Sunday, as talk of the attacks dominated the morning shows, Bush didn’t call for halting the administration’s plans, but said he would prioritize Christians over other refugees.</p><br><p>“I do think we have a responsibility to help with refugees after proper screening, and I think our focus ought to be on the Christians, who have no place in Syria anymore,” he told CNN’s &quot;State of the Union.&quot; “They’re being beheaded, they’re being executed by both sides.” He added, &quot;We should focus our efforts as it relates to refugees on the Christians that are being slaughtered.&quot; </p><p>But after Obama on Monday appeared to lump Bush in with Cruz for imposing an inhumane &quot;religious test,&quot; the former Florida governor <a href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-11-17/bush-splits-with-republicans-over-syrian-refugees” target=”_blank”>clarified in an interview with Bloomberg</a> on Tuesday that he didn’t want to discriminate against Muslim refugees.</p><p>&quot;There’s no discrimination to simply say that you want to protect religious minorities that are being exterminated,&quot; he said.</p><p>The subtlety in Bush’s way of speaking on the issue was nowhere in Chris Christie’s response.</p><p>The New Jersey governor, in the days after the image of the drowned Syrian boy shocked the world, said a solution needed to be found to help the refugees.</p><p>“Well, I’d sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help, because America is a compassionate country. We saw the image of that 4-year-old little boy drowned in Syria, and we can’t have those kinds of things,” Christie said on &quot;Fox and Friends.&quot; “I can’t come up with an exact number. You’d have to sit with our allies and work together.”</p><p>On Monday, as governor, Christie put his foot down, and even took a hard line against young orphans.</p><p>&quot;I do not trust this administration to effectively vet the people who are proposed to be coming in, in order to protect the safety and security of the American people, so I would not permit them in,&quot; he said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program.</p><p>&quot;What if they were orphans under the age of five?&quot; Hewitt asked.</p><p>&quot;You know, Hugh, we can come up with 18 different scenarios. The fact is that we need appropriate vetting, and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point,&quot; he said. &quot;But you know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks? The fact is you can come up with a number of different scenarios, Hugh. But in the end, I don’t trust this administration to effectively vet the people that they’re asking us to take in. We need to put the safety and security of the American people first.&quot;</p><p>On Tuesday, Christie formally notified Obama in <a href=”http://nj.gov/governor/news/news/552015/pdf/20151117_Ltr_to_President_Obama_re_Syrian_Refugees.pdf” target=”_blank”>a letter</a> that he would not accept any Syrian refugees, in New Jersey.</p><br><p>Donald Trump, who has made his strident stances on immigration a central case for his presidency, has also taken a hard line against Syrian refugees. But he wasn’t always talking that way. </p><p>In September, Trump told Bill O’Reilly about taking in the refugees, &quot;I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, you have to.&quot;</p><p>But that tone quickly dissipated, and the billionaire businessman told supporters later that month that the refugees &quot;are going back,&quot; warning that they represent a potential &quot;Trojan horse&quot; for terrorists. Trump has instead advocated the construction of &quot;a big beautiful safe zone&quot; in Syria, as he told supporters in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Monday.</p><p>Another Republican who has changed his tone as the devastating images of refugees have been overtaken by the fallout from the Paris attacks is Marco Rubio.</p><p>While he has battled critics who say his 2013 attempt at immigration reform casts doubt on his conservative credentials, the Florida senator<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/08/politics/refugees-2016-reactions-marco-rubio/” target=”_blank”> in September</a> told a CNN reporter at a South Carolina town hall that his administration would &quot;be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States.&quot; </p><p>But on Sunday, Rubio said the doors must shut to more refugees.</p><p>&quot;The problem is not the background checks. The problem is we can’t background check them. You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria. And that’s one of the reasons why I said we won’t be able to take more refugees,&quot; Rubio said on ABC’s &quot;This Week with George Stephanopoulos.&quot; </p><p>&quot;It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that we can’t,&quot; he explained, adding that there is also a threat of home-grown violent extremists, those &quot;who had been radicalized online.&quot; </p><p>John Kasich, meanwhile, joined on Monday the growing list of governors who said they would no longer accept refugees, an about-face from September.</p><p>Back then, Kasich told Fox News’ &quot;Hannity&quot; that he &quot;wouldn’t say to these people, ‘You can’t come in,’&quot; pointing to it as a place of cooperation between the U.S. and its European allies, whom he said should largely bear that issue.</p><p>&quot;And I think at this point, I would actually welcome the Congress to weigh in and make sure that we have a procedure that can verify who these people are,&quot; Kasich added, in a preview of the Capitol Hill fight to come. &quot;I mean, there’s nobody in this country that would want somebody connected to ISIS to be able could come in here.&quot;</p><p>On Tuesday, speaking in Washington, Kasich said he now believes an influx of Syrian refugees poses an unacceptable risk: “The only thing I’m saying is for right now, until we get a handle on where we are, we need to stop.”</p><br>

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