Post-Paris Attack, Rubio Twists, Turns on Refugee Admissions

Washington, DC

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is standing by his support for bringing Syrian refugees into the United States of America, even after the Paris murder-rampage by some of the many Muslims migrating into Europe.

In September, Rubio told CNN that “we would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these [refugee] individuals at some point in time to the United States.”

On Saturday, Breitbart asked Rubio’s campaign if he still stands by this statement. In response, Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant referred Breitbart News to two other previous interviews Rubio has done on the matter—essentially confirming that Rubio still supports, at this time, bringing Syrian refugees into America.

Conant insisted the Senator believes refugees need to be vetted. But there are increasing concerns about whether the Barack Obama administration will be able to effectively vet such refugees.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, said recently he believes there is no way to accurately vet the Syrian refugees. “We do not have access to any Syrian government database to learn the backgrounds of these refugee applicants,” Sessions said in a recent statement.

Several more bullet points from Sessions’ statement raised more concerns about the ability to vet the refugees.

“We have no capacity to determine the likelihood that Islamist refugees, once admitted to the United States, will become involved with terrorist activity,” Sessions said.

“We are already struggling with a huge problem of prior Islamist refugees seeking to take up arms with terrorists, and we have every expectation that the Administration’s current refugee plans will exacerbate that problem,” Sessions added.

“It is not a probability, but a certainty, that among the more than 1 million migrants from Muslim countries we will admit over the next decade, a number will already be radicalized or radicalize after their entrance into the U.S.,” he said.

Rubio’s continued support for Syrian refugees come after refugees have been initially connected to what’s happening in Paris.

“Greek police on Saturday said at least one man with a possible connection to the Paris attacks had registered as a refugee with Greek authorities earlier this year,” the Agence-France Presse wire wrote from Athens, Greece. “French authorities had asked their Greek counterparts to check the fingerprints of one man who died in the attacks, with a Syrian passport found next to him, in addition to the fingerprints of another man. There were efforts to establish whether both had registered in Greece, the main entry point into Europe for Syrian refugees. The Greek minister for citizen protection, Nikos Toskas, said one of the men had been registered on the Greek island of Leros in October.”

Of course, ISIS took credit for the attack—and so now that there are questions about refugee connections to terrorist attacks in ISIS’ name, there’s likely to be a whole new level of concern in America over any politician who supports bringing Syrian refugees to this country.

“People are not leaving because of Climate Change—they’re leaving because there is war is breaking out, because terror groups are taking over territories and committing atrocities and imposing Sharia Law and driving people from the region,” Rubio told the Boston Herald’s radio program in one September interview that Conant cited.

“We knew that in Syria, we see that in the Middle East, we see that in parts of Africa as well. It’s the instability created by the rapid growth and expansion of different terrorist groups throughout Africa and the Middle East that’s driving this new surge of migration into Europe,” Rubio said.

Had American troops stayed in Iraq rather than seeing a rapid massive withdrawal led by President Obama, “you would have had a more stable Iraq and therefore less likely a place for ISIS to be able to cross back over from Syria,” he said.

Because the Obama administration didn’t help “non-Islamists” in their fight against Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, Rubio argued, “the only groups that were able to emerge from that vacuum and that chaos were radical jihadist groups not just like the Islamist State but also like Al-Nusra, Jabhat Al-Nusra. Those groups are now the predominant fighting force on the ground. They of course have established a base of operations in Syria but they’ve taken over entire cities in areas and created this sort of humanitarian crisis that ultimately has led to this refugee crisis both in Syria and now in Iraq and increasingly other parts of the world as well.”

When asked by the Herald’s radio show about how Democratic presidential candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley had been pushing for the United States to bring in 57,000 Syrian refugees—and whether he would support bringing in “tens of thousands” of refugees from Syria himself—Rubio signaled he would.

“Well, we’ve always been a country willing to accept people who have been displaced,” Rubio said.

“I would be open to that if it can be done in a way that would allow us to ensure that among them are not infiltrated people who are part of a terrorist organization that are using this crisis. I think overwhelmingly, the vast and overwhelming majority of people who are seeking refuge are not terrorists, of course. But you always are concerned by that. But the bigger issue is some of these communities, especially Christians have a longstanding ancient tradition in that region. They would prefer to stay in that region. So I think the better outcome—obviously we have to provide for their short term needs, but long term we have to have a regional strategy that allows especially Christians to be able to go back to their ancient cities and their ancient population centers where they’ve been for almost 2,000 years up until recent events.”

The other interview Conant shared was one from Fox News in which Rubio called for a “safe zone” to be created inside Syria for refugees in their own country.

“Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio called for the U.S. and its allies to established a ‘safe zone’ inside Syria Monday night in the wake of Russian airstrikes to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” Fox News wrote of the early October interview that Megyn Kelly had with Rubio. “The Florida senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly the safe zone would alleviate three effects of Syria’s bloody civil war. “

“Number one, [it would allow] a non-radical jihadist group to organize and prepare themselves,” Rubio said, according to Fox News. “Number two [it would] stem some of this flow of migrants that are leaving [Syria] and going into Europe. If they had a place they could stay safely, they wouldn’t make that journey. Number three, [it would] ultimately have something in place for a future without Assad.”

This is not the first time Rubio has signaled support for expansion of refugee programs from the Middle East.

In 2013, Rubio backed a refugee-increase into the United States when he was drafted the “Gang Of Eight” amnesty bill with future Senate Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democrats and fellow establishment Republicans.

The bill, a senior Senate aide intricately involved in the process a couple years ago told Breitbart News, would have permitted the President—in consultation with the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security—to unilaterally increase migration into the United States.

The allowed the president to “classify not just individuals as refugees, but entire groups of aliens ‘whose resettlement in the United States is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest’ and ‘who share common characteristics that identify them as targets of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,;” the Senate aide said.

“While this provision may seem to be relatively innocuous, it is not… Under current immigration law and longstanding immigration practice, each individual case is weighed on its own unique merits or problems, and individuals do not automatically get approved as part of a class or group,” the aide said.

In effect, the aide said, Rubio’s bill would have turned “this longstanding tradition on its head and institutionalized what can only be called rubber-stamping and assumptions of eligibility that encourage fraud and deceit.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an pro-American reform group that opposed the Rubio-Schumer “Gang of Eight” collaboration, raised serious concerns with the bill’s refugee elements.

“Title III Subtitle D of S. 744 undermines current asylum and refugee law by eliminating preexisting requirements aliens apply for asylum within a certain time frame of entering the U.S., allowing asylum officers to bypass immigration judges before granting asylum to unlawful aliens, and giving broad authority to the Administration to create new categories of refugees and stateless persons to be admitted into the country,” FAIR wrote in its analysis.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning, while defending himself from a criticism from rival candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rubio seemed to go back the other way on this issue and sort of oppose bringing “more” refugees into the U.S. from Syria—even though several hundreds, maybe thousands, are already here.

This Week host George Stephanopoulos played video of Paul criticizing Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” bill for its refugee policies, and blocking an amendment during the 2013 debate that would have fixed loopholes.

 “Two or three years ago, I introduced a bill or an amendment to the immigration bill that would have provided for more scrutiny for people coming into our country — refugees, immigrants, students,” Paul said in a speech criticizing Rubio. “Mine was a national security amendment, as well as an immigration amendment and Marco blocked it.”

 Rubio’s response on ABC ducked the core of Paul’s criticism. “Well, look, Rand just uses this sort of rhetoric to distract from his very weak record on national security issues. I mean, he’s been one of the leading figures trying to gut the American intelligence programs. Think about the metadata program for a moment. Imagine if one of those strikes had occurred here in the United States,” Rubio said.

“The first thing we would want to know is, what are the cell phones records of these people? Let’s say that, God forbid, what happened in Paris happened in Washington. We would want to know — we would want access to these people’s phone records, because it would give us clues as to who they were working with, who probably may be involved in plots themselves later on down the road. Rand Paul wants to get rid of that program. In fact, he’s advocated and he’s one of the leading figures behind part of that program being gutted now—“

 Stephanopoulos cut him off there to press him again. “But did you in fact block an amendment that would have required more background checks?” the ABC host asked. “No,” Rubio replied.

“Listen, the background checks are required now,” Rubio said.

“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. It’s not that we don’t want to; it’s that we can’t because there’s no way to background check someone that’s coming from Syria. Who do you call and do a background check on them? The bottom line is that this is not just a threat coming from abroad. What we need to open up to and realize is that we have a threat here at home, homegrown violent extremists, individuals who perhaps have not even traveled abroad, who have been radicalized online. This has become a multi-faceted threat. In the case of what’s happening in Europe, this is a swarm of refugees. And as I’ve said repeatedly over the last few months, you can have 1,000 people come in and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence but one of them is an ISIS fighter. If that’s the case, you have a problem and there is no way to vet that out.

“There is no background check system in the world that allows us to find that out,” he said, ” because who do you call in Syria to background check them?”

After Rubio’s appearance, Conant has not responded when asked whether Rubio stands by what he said on Boston Herald’s radio show or stands by what he said on CNN over the past couple months.

Conant also has not answered whether Rubio believes the refugees brought into the U.S. from Syria already should be allowed to stay or should be returned to their homelands.