Republican frontrunner says as leader he would send any refugees back, in contrast to rival Jeb Bush’s comment that the US is ‘duty bound’ to help
Donald Trump has warned that Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the US could be a fifth column sent by Isis.
In a speech in Keene, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, Trump expressed his revulsion at the idea that the US would take in 200,000 Syrian refugees, warning that “they could be Isis. They are all men and they are all strong.” In the opinion of the Republican frontrunner, the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East could be “one of the great tactical ploys of all time”. Trump pledged that if elected, he would send any refugees admitted to the US back to their homeland. “If I win, they’re going back,” he proclaimed.
The Republican frontrunner’s comment to an audience of thousands stood in bold contrast to remarks made by the former Florida governor Jeb Bush at a much smaller event held simultaneously an hour away in Bedford.
There, among an audience of roughly 150 people, Bush took a question from a woman who stood up and identified herself as Syrian-American. Choking back tears, she said she had 10 family members who had been forced to flee the country. She asked what could be done.
“I think we’re duty bound to provide support,” Bush said. “This is normally what we do unbelievably well. We act on our heart, we organize it well, we take care of people. This is typically with support of government, but it’s normally with organizations that do great work.
The former Florida governor made an indirect reference to his brother George W. Bush’s presidency, saying: “I have a personal connection to this. I’m not going to go through the litany of why this refugee crisis has taken place. Simply put – put aside our role, or our lack of role.”
He added: “And people are leaving not because they’re immigrants looking for a better life. They’re leaving because if not, they’ll die. It’s that simple. And we have to play a role in providing support.”
The former Florida governor said he was cognizant, however, of a potential security risk from refugees. “It’s hard to do this far away, in terms of screening and all those things,” Bush said. “We need to make sure that we don’t have people that hate America in our midst.”
Bush’s comment came as Trump criticized both the former Florida governor and fellow GOP candidate Florida senator Marco Rubio, who Trump recently called “a clown”. The New York billionaire said Rubio and Bush’s compliments for each other were “political bullshit” and the two deeply hated each other.
Trump didn’t just criticize refugees and his political rivals though. The Republican frontrunner also went after American military personnel. In a discussion of Bowe Bergdahl, the solider who went awol and was then held hostage by the Taliban for years, Trump suggested the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment.
The Republican frontrunner asked the crowd: “In the old days, what did we do with deserters?” The response came back: “Shoot them.”
He also suggested that some American soldiers charged with distributing money to fund the Afghan and Iraqi government embezzled it instead. “I want to know who are the soldiers carrying suitcases with $50m?” asked Trump. “How stupid are we? I wouldn’t be surprised if those soldiers, if the cash didn’t get there.”
The Republican frontrunner spent surprisingly little time on illegal immigration,the issue that spurred his rise to front of the GOP field. He did praise a programme from the Eisenhower administration in which more than a million undocumented aliens were deported. Trump didn’t mention the programme’s name, which is the now politically incorrect Operation Wetback.
The Republican frontrunner did say of the 1950s: “That’s when we had a country. That’s when we had a country.”