2016 hopefuls express alarm over refugees after Paris attacks

Updated 5:40 PM EST, Sat November 14, 2015
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Story highlights

Several White House hopefuls are expressing alarm about the Obama administration's plan to allow Syrian refugees into the U.S.

French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that ISIS was responsible for the wave of deadly attacks that killed more than 120 people

(CNN) —  

In the wake of the deadly Paris terror attacks, several White House hopefuls are expressing alarm about the Obama administration’s plan to allow Syrian refugees into the U.S.

French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that ISIS was responsible for the wave of deadly attacks that killed more than 120 people. But the identities of the attackers – as well as key details such as where they came from and how they entered France – were not immediately clear.

Nevertheless, several Republican White House hopefuls blasted President Barack Obama’s call to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States, saying such a move threatens the U.S. homeland.

“We all have heart and we all want people taken care of, but with the problems our country has, to take in 250,000 – some of whom are going to have problems, big problems – is just insane. We have to be insane. Terrible,” Donald Trump said at a rally in Beaumont, Texas.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee echoed those thoughts, telling CNN’s Michael Smerconish that taking in the refugees would be the “craziest thing we could do” and suggested providing humanitarian assistance to them in the Middle East.

“It seems to me the craziest thing we could do is take people who live in a desert who don’t speak our language, who don’t understand our culture, who don’t share a same worldview, and bring them to Minnesota during the winter,” he said.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, speaking at the Sunshine Summit in Florida, a Republican gathering featuring several GOP candidates, said accepting the refugees would “accomplish what ISIS wants to accomplish by accepting them.”

RELATED: ‘People are dying because this president refuses to face the truth,’ Santorum says

“We should be relocating them in the region so they can return (to Syria),” he added.

Also at the summit, Carly Fiorina accused Obama of accepting refugees “unilaterally” and not pledging to verify that they have no ties to terrorism. She also slammed Obama over his comments right before the attack that ISIS had been “contained.”

“I am angry. I am angry that just yesterday morning, our president, against all evidence, declared ISIS contained and took a victory lap,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said. “ISIS is not a ‘JV team,’ Mr. President, they are not contained, they are at our shores and they measure their victory in body count.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told the gathering in Florida he “wouldn’t invite the refugees in the first place.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sent a letter to Obama “demanding” information about the refugees, including how they will be monitored and screened for terror ties.

“Last week, the city of New Orleans began receiving its first wave of Syrian refugees,” Jindal said in the letter. “As with former immigration crises and federal relocation policy, Louisiana has been kept in the dark about those seeking refuge in the state. It is irresponsible and severely disconcerting to place individuals, who may have ties to ISIS, in a state without the state’s knowledge or involvement.”

Several candidates urged Obama to reconsider the move just hours after the Paris attack on Friday.

“If I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, I – that would be almost malpractice,” Ben Carson said at the Sunshine Summit. Former New York Gov. George Pataki said in a statement that “we must put an immediate halt to granting asylum to Syrian refugees.”

Republicans push for more muscular response

The refugee issue aside, several Republicans called for a tougher foreign policy to combat ISIS.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the summit Saturday that Obama’s “inexperience has put America at risk again.”

“He sees the world as he likes to see it: as a fantasy. I see the world as it really is, and it’s time for a president who sees the world as it really is, not how he wishes it would be,” Christie said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the U.S. should urge NATO to invoke Article 5, a provision that says an attack on one NATO ally – such as France – is an attack against all of NATO and its member states.

“We as Americans must assert leadership and we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with France and the French people,” Kasich said. “This is a moment to bring us together.”

On Friday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the attack represented an “escalation” in the fight between western civilization and jihadists.

“We must now face the facts,” Cruz said in a statement. “Between the downing of the Russian jet over Egypt and this massive coordinated attack on Paris, we are seeing an unmistakable escalation of ISIS’ ambitions.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told radio host Hugh Hewitt he was “not surprised” by the attack, calling for the U.S. to bolster its alliances with European nations to share intelligence.

“This is the war of our time, and we have to be serious in engaging and creating a strategy to confront it and take it out,” Bush said.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called on the U.S. to help the French punish the attackers, saying in a statement that “We cannot let those who seek to disrupt our way of life succeed.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, arguably the GOP field’s most hawkish aspirant, said the U.S. should lead the fight to combat terrorism.

“There is a sickness in the world that has to be dealt with, and the civilized world must come together to confront it. America should lead that unity,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Democrats express condolences

The three Democratic presidential candidates had not weighed in on taking Syrian refugees since the Paris attack, but each issued statements and tweets on Friday expressing their condolences.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that America should stand with allies to “wage and win the struggle against terrorism and violent extremism.”

Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement he was “horrified by the cowardly attacks against innocent civilians in Paris.”

And former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley shared: “Heartbreaking news from Paris. Praying for the country and its people. -O’M”

Complete coverage of Paris attacks

CNN’s Joseph Cheatham and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.