GOP 2016 hopefuls on Syrian refugees; from I.D. cards to Christians-only

A Syrian refugee, who agreed to be photographed on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation against family living in Syria, prays on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, at the Muslim Association of Lehigh Valley in Whitehall, Pa.
A Syrian refugee, who agreed to be photographed on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation against family living in Syria, prays on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, at the Muslim Association of Lehigh Valley in Whitehall, Pa. AP

Terrorism is suddenly Topic A in the presidential race.

Fears of Islamic State jihadists hiding among Syrian refugees fleeing the war zone have edged other issues aside.

Let’s recap:

The terrorist attacks in Paris a week ago have further roiled a Republican contest that has consistently defied the usual predictions about how it would play out. The notion that Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with no government experience between them, would suddenly shrink in stature was wrong. They still lead most polls.

Every politician has an opinion about Syrian refugees - from governors declaring they will accept or reject refugees to presidential candidates suggesting religion tests, it's hard to know whose word is law on refugees in America. McClatchy politi

The GOP race has always been a clash over who can appeal to the party’s conservative base by sowing the most fear. Paris has given the candidates another opportunity:

Donald Trump: The real estate tycoon has been the loudest, brashest and most extreme. He would create a database of Muslims in the U.S., perhaps close Mosques and possibly have Muslim wear special I.Ds. Asked how this would be different from the Nazis who forced German Jews to wear gold stars to identify them, Trump replied, “You tell me.”

Ben Carson: The retired neurosurgeon would stop funding for resettlement programs. Of the Syrian refugees, he said, “If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs.”

Ted Cruz: The Texas senator would basically install a religious test for Syrian refugees, with priority given to Christians. “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” He also questioned efforts to allow Syrian Muslims to enter the U.S. when, he says, “the administration cannot determine who is, and who isn't a terrorist."

Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor would also prioritize Christians. “We should focus our efforts as it relates to the refugees for the Christians that are being slaughtered.” He also said the U.S, should create safe havens in Syria for refugees.

Chris Christie: In keeping with his tough-talking persona, the New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor would bar entrance even to the youngest Syrian children. “And I don’t think orphans under five...should be admitted into the United States at this point. But you know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks?”

Marco Rubio: The Florida senator would halt the flow of all Syrian refugees. “The number one obligation of the federal government is to keep us safe. This is not about slamming the door on anybody.”

John Kasich: The Ohio governor would ban Syrian refugees until background checks are improved, saying that it was “not just an issue of the heart, it’s also an issue of the head.”

Carly Fiorina: The former corporate executive also criticized background checks and opposes more Syrian refugees.

Sen. Rand Paul: The Kentucky lawmaker would suspend visas for countries with jihadist movements.

Mike Huckabee: The former governor of Arkansas would close borders to Syrian refugees, offering climate as one justification. “Can you imagine bringing in a bunch of Syrian refugees who’ve lived in the desert their whole lives that are suddenly thrown into an English-speaking community? Where it’s maybe in Minnesota where it is 20 degrees below zero? I mean just I don’t understand what we possibly can be thinking.”

The climate, however, on the Democratic side as far as Syrian refugees is much more temperate. All three 2016 candidates would open U.S. doors.

Hillary Clinton: "Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee; that is just not who we are,” the former secretary of state said. “We are better than that."

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Now is not the time for demagoguery and fear-mongering," the Vermont lawmaker said.

Martin O’Malley: "There are women, there are children dying,” the former Maryland governor said. “They are fleeing the same sort of carnage that was unleashed on the people of France and the violence that brought down that (Russian) airliner. I don't think it's too much to ask of us that we do our part here."

Especially since the attacks in Paris, the opposition against Obama's plan to keep welcoming Syrian refugees into the U.S. has been growing. This 2-minute video provides a look at the numbers behind the people fleeing the Syrian crisis.

David Goldstein: 202-383-6105, @GoldsteinDavidJ