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Republicans push back on Syrian refugee resettlement plan

Republican candidates and lawmakers have expressed concerns about the United States accepting Syrian refugees in the days since Friday’s terror attacks on Paris. More than two dozen governors now say they oppose President Obama's plan to welcome 10,000 more Syrian refugees by next fall. Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, first, in the wake of the Paris attacks, there is a growing concern among Republican candidates, governors and lawmakers about refugees from Syria to the United States.

    Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    On the campaign trail, Republican candidates have seized on the refugee issue.

    Ohio Governor John Kasich, who initially said he might support the resettlement of refugees in his state, is now opposed. He explained his thinking at a national security speech in Washington today.

  • GOV. JOHN KASICH, Republican Presidential Candidate:

    And once we have a rational program and we can determine who it is that's coming, then it's another story. But at this point in time, in light of what we're seeing in the world, it's reasonable to stop.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Last night at a rally in Tennessee, it was Donald Trump.

  • DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate:

    What I like is, build a safe zone in Syria. Build a big, beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is, so people can live and they will be happier.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The U.S. has let in around 2,500 refugees from Syria in the past four years. In September, President Obama unveiled a plan to welcome 10,000 more by next fall. That's just a fraction of the migrants fleeing the region, and officials say they face the toughest vetting of any immigrants to the U.S.

    Typically, that can mean two years of processing or more. But governors do not trust the process, and in the wake of the Paris attacks, more than two dozen say they now oppose Syrian refugees moving to their states.

    Still, governors technically can't stop the federal government from resettling refugees within their borders. That means all eyes are on Congress.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today said he is considering possible action.

  • SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Senate Majority Leader:

    What you're hearing from all the governors around the country, saying they're not interested in taking refugees from Syria for the foreseeable future, the — at the very least, it strikes me that we need a pause or a moratorium.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Paul Ryan, the new speaker of the House, pushed his Republican Conference to come up with a plan, and soon.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, Speaker of the House: We have assembled a task force starting Saturday to consider legislation as quickly as possible.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    As Republicans mustered to block refugees, Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended the current system today before a House panel.

  • LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General:

    There are challenges to that process because of the situation in Syria. But I would note, however, that we do have the benefit of having that significant and robust screening process in place.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    In a blog post late today, the White House said it continues to look for ways to improve the vetting of Syrian refugees.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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