Then and Now: Comments made about drowned boy, Paris attacks

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 6:21 PM
Then and Now: Comments made about drowned boy, Paris attacks

The world met 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi when his body washed up on a beach in Turkey in September.

The photos of the Syrian boy prompted many in the United States to want to do more for the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Two months later, some opinions have shifted after the gun and bomb rampage by militants in Paris.

Here's a look at what some political figures said about refugees after Aylan drowned — and what they're saying now.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham

THEN: In September, the GOP presidential candidate and South Carolina senator said America has long welcomed those who are fleeing oppression. He said national security should be balanced against the country's character.

"I would like to think America's a special place," Graham said during an interview on Fox News. "Go read what's on the Statue of Liberty."

NOW: Earlier this week, Graham said Syrian refugees shouldn't be accepted into U.S. borders for the time being.

"The one thing I've learned from Paris is that we need to have a timeout on bringing refugees into this country until we have a system that we think will work," he said in an interview with Fox News Radio.

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Gov. Chris Christie

THEN: In early September, the New Jersey governor and GOP presidential candidate criticized President Barack Obama for failing to bomb Syria after chemical weapons were found there and cited Aylan's death. He said the U.S. should take in Syrian refugees.

"I'd sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help, because America is a compassionate country," Christie told the Asbury Park Press newspaper.

NOW: On Tuesday, Christie said he didn't trust the Obama administration to effectively vet Syrian refugees, and even orphans under the age of 5 should be barred from entering the country.

"But you know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks?" he asked during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio:

THEN: On Sept. 8, the New York mayor said the United States should be part of any solution to the Syrian refugee crisis, but that it is primarily a European problem.

"And the European community has to own up to this problem, and so far has not done that effectively," he said.

Ten days later, he was among several mayors who signed a letter to Obama saying they are willing to take in more refugees.

NOW: De Blasio criticized Christie on Wednesday over the fate of Syrian refugees. Holding up a photo of Aylan, de Blasio said he'd like to know what Christie thinks about it.

"Is this what he wants to see happen to children? We don't accept that here in New York City," de Blasio said.

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Donald Trump:

THEN: The billionaire and presidential candidate vowed in late September to deport any Syrian refugee taken in by the U.S. Trump said they could be Islamic State militants in disguise.

"If I win, they're going back," he said Sept. 30.

NOW: Trump has said the U.S. should increase surveillance of mosques and consider closing those that are tied to radicals. He also said the country should be prepared to suspend some civil liberties. He also called for a mandatory database to track Muslims in the U.S.

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Sen. John McCain::

THEN: On Sept. 9, McCain displayed a photo of Aylan on the Senate floor, urging stronger leadership from Obama on Syria.

"This image has haunted the world," the Republican senator from Arizona said. "But what should haunt us even more than the horror unfolding before our eyes is the thought that the United States will continue to do nothing meaningful about it.

NOW: McCain has strongly opposed Republican calls to impose a religious test on refugees, banning Muslims while allowing Christians. Still, he said the United States' refugee program should be put on hold until "we have the confidence of the American people that we have the procedures to make sure that no one who is coming into this country will commit an act of terror."

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Hillary Rodham Clinton

THEN: In September, the Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state called for a "concerted global effort" to assist refugees seeking refuge in Europe.

NOW: On Thursday, Clinton said Americans need to rise above personal fear to combat the threat of jihadism worldwide.

"Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee, that is just not who we are. We are better than that," she said.

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Martin O'Malley

THEN: In September, the Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland governor called for the U.S. to accept at least 65,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next year.

"We must do more to support Syrian refugees — and we must certainly welcome more than the proposed 5,000 to 8,000 refugees next year," he said.

NOW: In an interview on CBSN, O'Malley said the current vetting process for refugees is elaborate and that no group is more thoroughly vetted than Syrian refugees.

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Jeb Bush

THEN: On Oct. 1, the Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor said Syrian refugees aren't fleeing their homes to simply seek a better life. He said they're fleeing because if they don't, they will die.

"It's that simple. And we have to play a role in providing support," he said.

NOW: Bush said the U.S. refugee program should give preference to Christians fleeing Syria, but said he's open to letting properly vetted Muslim Syrians into the country as well.

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Ben Carson

THEN: At the start of October, the retired neurosurgeon and GOP presidential candidate said the U.S. should bar refugees from Syria because they are "infiltrated with jihadists," who seek to harm America. Instead, he said the U.S. should help settle Syrian refugees in the Middle East.

NOW: Carson remains skeptical of bringing any new refugees into the U.S. He also said Syrians already in the U.S. should be watched very closely and blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. was akin to handling a rabid dog.

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Sen. Marco Rubio

THEN: The Florida senator and GOP presidential candidate told CNN in early September that he was open to the idea of some Syrian refugees being relocated to the United States.

NOW: Rubio now says the nation can't adequately check the background of a Syrian refugee.

"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," he said during an ABC News interview.