2016 Senate contenders in Ohio differ on Syrian refugees


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Candidates in Ohio’s closely watched 2016 U.S. Senate race favor different approaches to Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland said he supports a short-term pause in accepting Syrian refugees to the U.S. as national security experts review the program, while his Democratic rival favors welcoming them after they are heavily scrutinized. Incumbent Republican Rob Portman has called for an immediate halt to resettlement.

A number of governors, senators and presidential candidates have issued calls to delay or stop accepting Syrian refugees, pointing to indications that one of the perpetrators in Friday’s attacks might have entered France with a Syrian passport amid a wave of migrants fleeing the country’s bloody civil war.

In a campaign statement provided in response to a request Tuesday, Strickland said it’s clear there are “deep concerns” about whether the current vetting process is sufficient to protect individual and national security. He said those are best handled by “Homeland and National Security leadership.”

“They are the people we have entrusted with protecting this nation since 9/11,” he said. “So, while I do not believe we can close our doors in the face of such a large-scale humanitarian crisis, I do believe it is reasonable to have a short-term pause in the program until our security experts can conduct a full-scale review and provide the American people with the assurances that it is safe.”

Strickland seeks to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman next year.

Through his Senate office, Portman issued a statement Monday calling on the administration of President Barack Obama to immediately halt resettlement.

“As a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I have been raising my deep concerns about taking Syrian refugees because of our government’s inability to properly check their backgrounds to know who they are and why they are coming,” he said. “When I raised this issue in a hearing last month and questioned administration witnesses about whether the influx of refugees would subject Americans to risk, the answers I got were deeply troubling.”

Strickland said he didn’t want to see questions surrounding the refugees used to score partisan points.

“We cannot allow this to become a political issue full of the usual fear-mongering and demagoguery,” his statement said.

Strickland’s rival in the Democratic primary, Cincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, said refugees should be welcomed but “subjected to vigorous security screening and vetting, including by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.”

“Shame on Rob Portman and most of the rest of the GOP for playing politics with the tragedy in Paris,” he said.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press

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