Trump said of refugees, "I can look at their faces and say, 'Look you can't come here'"
Trump struck a markedly different tone in addressing tough questions from a town hall audience
Donald Trump asserted Monday that as president he could face Syrian refugee children and tell them they cannot come to the United States.
The remark came Monday as Trump took about a dozen questions during a town hall event that drew just over 200 voters – an uncharacteristically intimate setting for Trump – just a day before the New Hampshire primary.
“I can look at their faces and say, ‘Look, you can’t come here,’” Trump said after 30 year-old Darren Ornitz of Greenwich, Connecticut, asked the billionaire businessman – who owns a home there – whether he would be willing to personally bar Syrian children from resettling there.
“Their parents should always stay with them. But we don’t know where their parents come from. We have no documentation whatsoever,” Trump continued. “There’s absolutely no way of saying where these people come from.”
Trump went on, suggesting that Syrian refugees have pictures of ISIS flags “and worse” on their cell phones.
But beyond that, Trump struck a markedly different tone in addressing his questioner.
Trump didn’t castigate the man, instead opting for empathy.
“I know what you’re doing and I fully understand it. And we all have a heart,” Trump said, adding again at the end of his response: “I understand where you’re coming from, but there is a second view to that.”
Trump also argued that the creation of safe zones in Syria to host refugees would be a better solution to address the refugee crisis spawned by the Syrian civil war.
“You look at it and you say we have enough problems,” Trump said. “I have a bigger heart than anybody in this room. We take an area in Syria … and we build a safe zone.”
But Ornitz, who came to New Hampshire to attend different events with different presidential candidates, said in an interview after the event that while Trump’s “human side” emerged, he was “not at all” satisfied with the response.
“The idea of being able to actually look at a child and say, ‘You’re not actually able to come live in my community because of political reasons,’ or whatever, is just very off and it doesn’t make us safer, it doesn’t help anyone else. It just perpetuates issues of division and discrimination and so I wasn’t happy with his answer at all,” said Ornitz, who told CNN he is leaning toward supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
“His policies toward the issue are terrible and I really wish he would connect more with what he really thinks,” he added.
Trump took questions for nearly an hour from voters on a range of other issues – from equal pay for women to corruption in government service to nuclear weapons.
But in characteristic Trump fashion, he give a direct response.
Asked about national service and later student debt, Trump noted the importance of the question before saying “we’re going to look at it very seriously,” and “I’m going to find a way that we’re going to stop it.”
When a 13-year-old told Trump he was concerned about the mounting national debt’s impact on his future, Trump said he would address the issue and then simply sought to reassure the boy.
“Don’t worry about it. Just go to school, get a good education, you’ll be happy when you graduate,” Trump said.