Cruz questions allowing Syrian refugees a path to the U.S. in College of Charleston speech

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks Monday afternoon at the College of Charleston as part of the colleges Bully Pulpit series. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 11/16/15

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told a College of Charleston crowd the Obama administration is wrongly keeping the door open to refugees from Syria, saying there are no safeguards in place to ensure terrorists won’t sneak in with them.

“That terrorist attack that occurred in Paris? ISIS intends for the very same attack, or even worse, to happen here in the United States,” Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, told 300 students and supporters at the school Monday.

Cruz painted a scenario of gunmen in suicide vests trying to kill hundreds, “or if they can, thousands” in the United States.

Cruz’s comments came as President Barack Obama earlier in the day at the G-20 Summit in Turkey said the U.S. will continue to accept more refugees from the Middle East but “only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.”

“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”

Without directly naming GOP presidential candidates, Obama blasted political leaders for suggesting the United States should accept only Christians fleeing Syria. He alluded to the fact that some of these same politicians — namely Cruz, whose father fled Cuba decades ago — had benefited from America’s willingness to accept refugees, The Associated Press reported.

Cruz said staying to the president’s path would be dangerous. “Who in their right mind would want to bring over tens of thousands of refugees when the administration can’t determine who is and isn’t a terrorist?” Cruz said.

The fact that so many young men are joining the refugee stream, “that is a very unusual demographic for refugees,” he added.

Cruz’s comments come as he took part in the college’s “Bully Pulpit” series of invited campus speakers. Earlier in the day he received a major endorsement pickup in Iowa, where Rep. Steve King backed Cruz in the GOP primary race.

King is considered deeply influential with faith-based voters. He called Cruz “the candidate that’s the answer to my prayers ... whom God will use to restore the soul of America.”

A large part of Cruz’s focus in Iowa and South Carolina has been to defend religious freedom as he makes a play for evangelical voters in both early voting states. Cruz, for instance, opposes gay marriage and after his Charleston addressed was shouted at by about three protestors with a gay rights flag.

Beyond his differences over refugees, Cruz mostly stuck to his stump speech, lamenting the runaway spending that has taken control of Washington. For the students, he compared the exploding national debt to their parents spending all the household wealth on a Las Vegas spending spree, but leaving them with the bill.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551

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