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Sanders’ Support for Syrian Refugees


Businessman Donald Trump claimed that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he wants to bring 65,000 Syrian refugees to the United States. Trump is wrong. Sanders didn’t say that.

Sanders does support President Obama’s pledge to admit at least 10,000 refugees from Syria in fiscal year 2016. Beyond that, Sanders has not committed to any other number.

Trump, the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, made the claim on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Nov. 29. Trump, who opposes admitting Syrian refugees to the U.S., said that both Hillary Clinton and Sanders, the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination, said during a debate that they would allow 65,000 Syrian refugees.

Trump, Nov. 29: I believe that it’s the Obamas’ intention. They said 10,000 people, Syrians. We don’t want them. Because we don’t know who they are. And I love the idea of building a safe zone someplace in Syria.

But they said 10,000. And yet, the Democratic debate, they said 65,000, to the best of my recollection. Hillary said it, and so did Bernie Sanders. You’re saying Bernie Sanders is so honest. I doubt that very much. But Bernie Sanders said it and Hillary said it. I think they were talking in the Democrat debate. I think they were talking about 65,000.

Trump is right about Clinton, but wrong about Sanders.

Here’s what Clinton said on the subject of Syrian refugees at the second debate in November:

Clinton, Nov. 14: I also said that we should take increased numbers of refugees. The administration originally said 10[thousand]. I said we should go to 65[thousand], but only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes because I do not want us to, in any way, inadvertently allow people who wish us harm to come into our country.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the other Democratic presidential candidate, also said during the debate that he would admit 65,000 Syrian refugees.

“I was the first person on this stage to say that we should accept the 65,000 Syrian refugees that were fleeing the sort of murder of ISIL, and I believe that that needs to be done with proper screening,” O’Malley said, referring to the Islamic State, a terrorist group that is also known as ISIS and ISIL.

The 65,000 figure is based on the recommendations of international aid groups that have called on the U.S. to take up to half of the 130,000 Syrian refugees the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is seeking to resettle over the next two years.

But during the debate, Sanders said that he had no “magic number.”

Sanders, Nov. 14: So, in terms of refugees, I believe that the United States has the moral responsibility with Europe, with Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia to make sure that when people leave countries like Afghanistan and Syria with nothing more than the clothing on their back that, of course, we reach out.

Now, what the magic number is, I don’t know, because we don’t know the extent of the problem. But I certainly think that the United States should take its full responsibility in helping those people.

On Nov. 20, after the debate, the Washington Post reported that Sanders had launched a petition in support of Obama’s plan for 10,000 refugees.

The petition, posted on the Sanders campaign website, says:

In terms of the Syrian refugee situation we are now facing, now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. In this moment, it is particularly important that we not allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant hysteria that Republican presidential candidates are ginning up.

When hundreds of thousands of people have lost everything and have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we should not turn our backs on these refugees escaping violence in the Middle East. Of course we have to investigate the backgrounds of people coming into the country — and we will — but to suggest that we would even turn away orphans is incredible.

Support continuing the refugee program that promises to resettle 10,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, who are escaping violence in their home country.

But Sanders, who has expressed concerns about the impact of immigration on American workers, has not gone beyond the 10,000 figure.

We asked the Sanders campaign if the senator had ever said that he would support accepting as many as 65,000 refugees, and we were referred back to his comments at the last debate.

— D’Angelo Gore, with Chloe Nurik