“When candidates say we shouldn’t admit 3-year-old orphans, that’s political posturing,” Obama said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila, referencing GOP presidential hopeful Gov. Chris Christie‘s statement that he wouldn’t allow even refugee “orphans under the age of five” to enter the U.S.
“When people say we should have a religious test, and only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that’s offensive, and contrary to American values,” Obama added in another veiled reference – this time to GOP hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, who has suggested a Christians-only refugee policy.
Obama continued, mocking the GOP candidates for being “scared of widows and 3-year-old orphans” and for their complaints about CNBC moderators at a Republican debate earlier this month.
“These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or staring down ISIL or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there,” he said. “But apparently, they’re scared of widows and 3-year-old orphans.”
He added, “First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about 3-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”
Obama’s plan to resettle a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. next year has been met with outrage from GOP presidential candidates and Republican governors across the country.
Donald Trump on Tuesday released an Instagram video blasting the president’s plan, in which he said, “Refugees are pouring into our great country from Syria – we don’t even know who they are, they could be ISIS, they could be anybody. What’s our president doing? Is he insane?”
And at least 31 governors have said they want to block Syrian refugees from entering their states.
Of course, it’s not up to them.
The White House on Tuesday held a conference call with governors to outline the refugee resettlement process and said in a readout of the meeting: “The administration officials reiterated what the president has made abundantly clear: that his top priority is the safety of the American people. That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees, including Syrians, we do so only after they undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States.”
Obama invited GOP hopefuls to present “concrete, actual suggestions to enhance this extraordinary screening process” in his speech Tuesday, before concluding with one last jab at the candidates:
“They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching.”