Why Pence’s accusation about Clinton’s plan to let in Syrian refugees is misleading

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine debate how to address the Syrian refugee crisis.


Mike Pence, asked during the vice presidential debate how he would deal with home-grown terrorists, quickly turned to a frequent talking point of his running mate: Donald Trump often says that Hillary Clinton supports a radical 550% increase in Syrian refugees.

Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine pushed back by noting that on Monday, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s order blocking a Pence effort to try to stop Syrian refugees from being resettled in his home sate of Indiana.

While the figure Pence cited is accurate, the assertion is misleading, given the scale of the crisis with Syrians fleeing the country’s bloody civil war that has raged since 2011.


In a September 2015 CBS News interview, Clinton said she believes the U.S. should take in 65,000 Syrian refugees, which would be a 550% increase from the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 refugees this fiscal year.

Hillary Clinton supports a radical 550% increase in Syrian refugees.

— Donald Trump at several rallies this summer

That’s a small fraction of the nearly 11 million Syrians who have left their homes, with many settling in nearby countries. About 470,000 have been killed in the war.

Human rights groups have called for the U.S. to accept higher numbers, as smaller countries have admitted far more refugees. Turkey, which neighbors Syria, has taken in 2.5 million refugees, and hundreds of thousands have fled to Germany, according to Amnesty International.

Trump has called for a ban on Syrian refugees entering the U.S. He’s said, without citing evidence, that there are too many terrorism risks and added this week that the refugees would hurt the “quality of life” in the U.S.

His proposed ban on Muslims entering the country, announced in December after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, eventually morphed into a ban on immigration from so-called “terrorist countries,” which he says includes Syria.

“People are pouring into our country; we have no idea who they are,” he told supporters at a rally in Maine this summer. “This could be the great Trojan horse of our time.”

Trump has pointed to the Paris attacks and others in France as well as Belgium as reason enough to bar Syrians from the U.S. But those perpetrators were mostly Belgian or French. Some had traveled to the Middle East and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group operating in Syria and Iraq.


The Obama administration indicated this month that it would raise its goal of admitted refugees to 110,000 — with a substantial number being displaced Syrians — for the fiscal year beginning Oct.1.

Clinton has remained steadfast in her calls to admit 65,000 refugees and has not indicated support for the new proposal from the White House.

“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II and I think the United States has to do more,” she said last year.

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